Lespugue : poème

Year: 1966

Author: Robert Ganzo (1898 - 1995)

Artists: Ossip Zadkine (1888 - 1967)

Publisher: Marcel Sautier

Lespugue : poème, title page

In all the poems of Robert Ganzo, the Venezuela of his childhood sounds through. Not that his poems are as impenetrable as the jungle. On the contrary: they are clear and precise. Ganzo conjures the bright colours and intense smells of his early childhood in classical lines.

By 1910 he had already moved with his parents from Caracas to Brussels, where he wrote poems and short plays as a 19-year-old for the Théâtre des Galeries. He wound up in Paris in 1920, performing as a dancer of Latin-American dance and in classical ballet to music by Sibelius and Chopin. His main strength apparently residing elsewhere, he relocated his activities to the Seine shores, along which the famed bouquinistes had plied their trade for centuries. He would later work as a book dealer for Au vice impuni (Valery Larbaud wrotean introduction to that firm's first catalogue). During World War II he wound up in the circles of surrealism and the resistance. In 1990 he was awarded the Grand Prix des Poètes Français.

Ganzo's poems don't deal with stories, but with suggestions; they don't quote mythologies, but sensations; they aren't based on a philosophy, but on an atmosphere or a landscape. The love poem Lespugue, dedicated to Léona Jeanne, is made up of 18 stanzas of 8 lines, two of which diverge typographically due to the last two lines being split across two pages; this first happens at the moment when the poet sees words light up around him and his lover, and he pushes her knees apart, 'trembling with tenderness'. The second occurrence is when he wonders where his lover ends: she converges with the landscape, the din of the mountains and the blooming limes.

Où finis-tu? Je t'ai laissée

dans la chaleur de notre abri;

mais tu marches dans ma pensée
(p. 35)

[Where do you end up? I left you in the warmth of our shelter; but you walk in my mind.]

Curves and snakes, light and mother-of-pearl, shadows and earth: Ganzo's world always sparkles. This edition from 1966 is not the first one: Lespugue originally appeared in 1940.

Statue in Rotterdam

Many of Ganzo's poems were published privately, which doesn't mean that they weren't appreciated: his poetry was illustrated by some prominent artists. Lespugue was illustrated in 1942 by Jean Fautrier and in 1966 by Ossip Zadkine, among others, and it was also included in the collected works that were provided with illustrations by Jacques Villon in 1957. Editions also appeared with drawings by Jean Thomas and by the author himself. Fautrier's illustrations are lithographs printed by the Mourlot brothers, both figurative and sculptural in design. The six etchings by Ossip Zadkine from 1966 – the year in which he had his 76th birthday – were signed in the plate and printed by hand-press by Jacques David in Paris. One of the six etchings takes up two sheets. Embraces, entanglement, unification, passion and hugs are subjects that express a certain intensity through the use of hatching. Only the contours and the shading of the figures have been indicated, as though they were statues. The style of Zadkine, who is best known in the Netherlands for his statue of the destruction of Rotterdam, is clearly recognizable in this: expressive and cubist, with a lyrical touch.

Zadkine once stated that his calling as a sculptor was the result of a sweet tooth and a fall. He remembered spontaneously copying an image of a Cossack from the newspaper one evening, which was rewarded with a piece of pastry. A second memory took place by the river Dnyepr, where he stumbled and noticed his footprint in the clay. According to him, it was a platonic demon that first made him sculpt a figure out of the loam with an sense of delight he would never feel so strongly again.

The edition was set in the font face 'Ile-de-France' and printed in November 1966 at by printer Jean Paul Vibert in Paris. The copy that was sent to the Dépot légal, as was mandatory in France, contained the six copper plates, but they were made useless by scratches, so the number of prints could never be enlarged. The total edition consists of 200 copies, 25 of which on Japanese paper. This is number 92, one of the copies on handcrafted Grand Papier d'Auvergne from the paper mill of Richard de Bas. All copies were signed by Robert Ganzo and Ossip Zadkine. The publisher, Marcel Sautier, published a number of editions from World War II onwards that could be considered bibliophile works, including the collected poems of Ganzo, illustrated by Villon.

Bibliographical description

Description: Lespugue: poème / de Robert Ganzo ; ill. par Ossip Zadkine. - Paris : Marcel Sautier, 1966. - 61 p. : ill. ; 28 cm

1st edition: 1940

Printer: Jean Paul Vibert (text), Jacques David (Paris) (etchings)

Edition: 200 copies

This copy: Number 92 of 177 on Auvergne of Richard de Bas

Typeface: Ile-de-France

Note: Signed by the author and the artist

Bibliography: Bénézit 14-830 ; Monod-5114

Shelfmark: KW Koopm K 296


  • Robert Goffin, Entrer en poésie. Paris, Poésie, 1948
  • Ionel Jianou, Zadkine. Paris, Arted, 1964
  • Maarten Jager, Ossip Zadkine, het onbekende oeuvre: Gouaches en aquarellen 1920-1966. Zwolle, Waanders; Deurne, Museum de Wieger, 2000
  • Hans Knap, Valentine Prax & Ossip Zadkine: Portret van een kunstenaarshuwelijk. Rotterdam, Donker, 2001
  • Ossip Zadkine, Le maillet et le ciseua: Souvenirs de ma vie. Paris, Michel, 1968
  • O. Zadkine, Comment je suis devenu sculpteur. Brussel, Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België, 1951