Le visionnaire

Year: 1950

Author: Julien Green (1900 - 1998)

Typography: Marcel Manequin

Artist: André Marchand (1907 - 1997)

Publisher: Éditions du Grenier à sel

Cover for Julien Green, Le visionnaire (1950)

The Koopman Collection contains almost all works by Julien Green that appeared during the lifetime of the collector Louis Koopman (1887-1968). Julien Green's father, Edward Green, emigrated from the United States and settled in Paris in 1897. Julien Green was born there in 1900. His mother, who came from Georgia, remained homesick and always spoke English with him. This is probably the source of all fantasy worlds in Green's books. In his stories, the protagonists often long for an unattainable world.

Dream and reality in Green's work

This goes for Le visionnaire as well. The protagonist, Manuel, flees his sad life and his unrequited love for his young niece (Marie-Thérèse) for a sombre fantasy world. The dark tone and flight to a dream world are typical of Green's work. Apart from that, religion plays an important role in the story. It is a source of attraction for Marie-Thérèse (who wants to be a nun), until the church finds out that Manual has tried to seduce her, and makes life difficult for them and for Marie-Thérèse's mother.

Julien Green grew up with Protestant Bible stories read to him by his mother; later on, he converted to Catholicism. His entire life, he struggled with the strong attraction of a church that went less than well with his homosexual nature. The theme of impossible love, like Manuel's in Le visionnaire, was probably based on this.

  • Titelpagina en frontispice van Julien Green, Le visionnaire (1950)

Portraits with imagination

Marie-Thérèse is portrayed in different ways. The first portraits are detailed, with a lot of difference between the dark and light hues, but further on in the book there are portraits that seem to have been drawn in one stroke. Marchand probably felt the need both to enliven the characters and to represent their spiritual state, which resulted in these two different ways of portrayal.

In the spaces he draws, André Marchand shows himself a contemporary of the Cubists: he does not abide by the rules of perspective, which makes the spaces look unreal. Apart from this, there are abstract illustrations in which Marchand combines sinuous lines and suggested diagonals within the framework of a simple figure such as a rectangle or a circle.

Initially, Marchand had made the lithographies on transfer paper, but, disappointed with the result, he made them again together with 27 new illustrations, this time directly on the lithographic stone. That explains the thick chalk lines and the difference in texture. The lithographies were printed on the hand presses of Marcel Manequin.

The red decorative initials were designed by André Marchand and cut in wood by Gilbert Poillot. They were drawn individually, which caused small differences between them: the lower serif of the P on page 25 differs from the that of the P on page 133 (more differences may be observed in the several J's on pages 9, 75, and 136). There are both letters with abstract decorations and letters with an image of a castle, an eye, or a church yard. They provide a colourful alternation with the dark text.

  • Litho en initiaal P door André Marchand (p. 132-133)

Bibliographical description

Description: Le visionnaire / Julien Green ; lithogr. originales et lettrines par André Marchand. - [Éd. nouv. / retouchée par l'auteur]. - Paris : Éditions du Grenier à sel, 1950. - 321 p. : ill. ; 35 cm

1st edition: 1934

Printer: Bishop & Fils (typography and initials); Marcel Manequin (lithographies)

Edition: 186 copies

This copy: Number 68 of 186 on Lana. Signed by the artists

Bibliography: Monod-5678

Shelfmark: KW Koopm K 112


  • Annie Brudo, Rêve et fantastique chez Julien Green. Paris, PUF, 1995
  • Wolfgang Matz, Julien Green. Paris, Gallimard, 1998
  • Jacques Petit, 'Notice' in: Julien Green, Œuvres complètes; II Épaves. Paris, Gallimard, 1973, p. 1383-1423
  • W. J. Strachan, 'The book illustrations of André Marchand' in: Image; 6 (1951), p. 4-13
  • Jules-René Thomé, 'André Marchand' in : Le courrier graphique, 46 (1950), p. 17-24