Résurrection de l'oiseau

Year: 1958

Author: Frank Elgar (1899 - 1978)

Artist: Georges Braque (1882 - 1963)

Publisher: Maeght éditeur

Résurrection de l'oiseau, front cover with lithograph by Georges Braque

This is a tribute to Braque, Résurrection de l'oiseau. In the second, more general part of the text, Frank Elgar describes the bird as a cultural symbol. He demonstrates that the bird has functioned as a spiritual symbol since primeval times. The bird is often presented as the soul's guide to the realm of the dead, and therefore acts as an embodiment of immortality. The most diverse cultures have cults centred on the bird, and in some cases specific birds, like the bird of paradise or the crow.

The return of the bird

The author argues that until the Renaissance the bird took up a central place in the religious imagination, appearing in religious sculptures and manuscript illuminations. The bird subsequently lost its position as a vaunted symbol; not until Georges Braque would 'the Bird as principle, as highest value' return. According to Elgar, Braque freed the bird and returned it to its central place in his visual language.

Frank Elgar is the pseudonym of art historian Roger Lesbats. He is mainly known for his art reviews in Le carrefour and Le Parisien libéré. He was also editor of film magazine L'objectif. Elgar wrote essays about contemporary painters (Beaudin, Estève and others) and published studies on the masters of modern painting: Braque, Van Gogh, Ingres, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso.

Bird's flight

The edition Résurrection de l'oiseau contains four colour lithographs and three lithographic decorations (two opening vignettes and a closing vignette) with images of birds. The upper board of the slipcase also bears a lithographic decoration: an arabesque with bird motifs. The lithograph on the cover is closely related to the painting 'Les oiseaux' from 1960. At first, birds only appeared sporadically as a theme in Braque's work. From 1949 onwards, one encounter them amongst objects in the still-lifes from the so-called 'Atelier' cycle, in which Braque pictured objects from his painting studio. Following that series, the bird took up a far more prominent position in his work.

When Braque was commissioned to paint one of the ceilings of the Louvre in 1952, he dedicated it entirely to birds. He grew increasingly fascinated by birds' movement, birds' flight – and their wing spread. The paintings from around 1958 (the year in which this edition appeared) are less complex than the 'Atelier' series. They place the bird, reduced to a simple basic V-shape, on centre stage. The bird silhouettes take up a large space and are contrasted with the monochrome colour panels. This also happens in the book's lithographs: white birds against a blue and red background, black birds against white clouds and a blue sky, white birds against a light and dark blue background, in which the bird shapes have been made abstract and sometimes nearly resemble waves.

Bibliographical description

Description: Résurrection de l'oiseau / Frank Elgar ; [lithographies originales de] Georges Braque. – Paris: Maeght éditeur, 1958. - 136 p. : ill. ; 40 cm

Printer: Fequet et Baudier (Paris) (text), Mourlot frères (Paris) (lithograph)

Edition: 225 copies

This copy: Number 80 of 200 on vélin de Rives

Typeface: Baskerville

Note: Signed by the author and the artist, with handwritten dedication by the author to Jeanne and Jean Piaubert, with handwritten dedication by Marguerite Maeght

Bibliography: Bénézit 2-745 ; Monod 4187

Shelfmark: KW Koopm K 365


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