Le retour de Hollande, suivi de Fragment d'un Descartes

Year: 1946

Author: Paul Valéry (1871 - 1945)

Artist: Jean Eugène Bersier (1885 - 1978)

Publisher: Compagnie française des arts graphiques

Le retour de Hollande, suivi de Fragment d'un Descartes, title page

Le retour de Hollande begins with a famous passage about a train, Paul Valéry's favourite means of transport. According to him, it is the ideal place for a Cartesian meditation.

The philosophy of Descartes and Paul Válery

'As far as I am concerned, from the moment that the waggons start moving, I rock myself on simple metaphysics that are mixed with myth'. The train devours everything that comes in its way, just like time; it perforates and transforms the landscape. The mood of the traveller is sensitive to these changes: past, present and future become mixed up. But 'the pure logician that lives within us' resists this transitoriness. According to Valéry, Descartes was at home in Amsterdam, his refuge.

Although he did not like the crowds, the bustle and liveliness of the trade port gave him food for thought and inspired his philosophical and scientfic research. From Descartes, Valéry went to the Dutch painters Rembrandt and Hals, who portrayed the philosopher. Valéry admired their art and the indirect effect that it caused with its play of light and shadow.

The rational art of Jean Eugène Bersier

With a cautious sense of detail Jean Eugène Bersier illustrated the well-known Dutch landscape in fifteen black-and-white etchings described by Valéry in Le retour de Hollande: mills, canals, boats, fishermen, horses and seagulls. Bersier was an authority in the field of the technique of etching. He wrote a number of manuals on the subject, including La gravure: Les procédés, l'histoire (1947). In 1928, he was co-founder of the association La Jeune Gravure Contemporaine. In his view, an etching was the result of a struggle between the intention of the artist and the unruliness of the material. That is why the artist must have a clear plan in advance: the etching is a 'reasoned' artform.

Bibliographical description

Description: Le retour de Hollande, suivi de Fragment d’un Descartes / Paul Valéry ; eaux-fortes par Jean-Eugène Bersier. – Paris : Compagnie française des arts graphiques, 1946. - 46 p. : ill. ; 26 cm

Printer: R. Girard (text); Thirot pour la Compagnie des Arts Graphiques (etchings)

Edition: 333 copies

This copy: Number 244 of 291 on pur fil Lana

Bibliography: Bénézit 2-203 ; Dugnat et Sanchez I-236 ; Saur Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon 10-32

Shelfmark: KW KOOPM K 140


  • Jean E. Bersier, La gravure: Les procédés, l'histoire. Paris, Berger-Levrault, 1963
  • Denis Bertholet, Paul Valéry. Paris, Plon, 1995
  • Paul Gifford, Paul Valéry à tous les points de vue. Paris, L'Harmattan, 2003
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  • Paul Valéry, De terugreis uit Holland. (Vertaling A.A.M. Stols). Maastricht, A.A.M. Stols, 1926