Sang et lumières

Year: 1962

Author: Joseph Peyré (1892 - 1968)

Artist: Hans Erni (1909 - 2015)

Publisher: Pierre de Tartas

Title page of Joseph Peyré, Sang et lumières (1962)

In the Koopman Collection are nearly all the works of Joseph Peyré, including three post cards and a letter from his wife. In 1935, Peyré received the Prix Goncourt for Sang et lumières, but has sunk into oblivion since. Pierre de Tartas reissued the text in a luxury edition in 1962, including energetic sketches and original lithos by Hans Erni.

Pierre de Tartas as publisher

It is unclear when Pierre de Tartas started working on Sang et lumières. It is known, however, that he made a selection from the original of 322 pages. Encouraged by Sacha Guitry, Tartas started his own publishing firm in 1947, initially as a printer on an old hand press. He preferred to cooperate closely with figurative artists such as Raoul Dufy, Kees van Dongen, Foujita and Hans Erni. They were house friends in the Moulin de Vauboyen, his (working) residence in the French village of Bièvres, which functioned as a cultural and artistic centre and housed writers such as Jean Giono.

Jean Giono and bull fighting

Joseph Peyré, who was considerably less well known than Giono, encountered bull fighting when he was sent to Spain as a journalist by the magazine Excelsior in 1934. In no time he worked his impressions into Sang et lumières. Actually, Peyré was born close to a bull fighting area: he grew up in Aydie, close to the French Basque country, which provided the most important themes in his passionate stories: the desert and bull fighting. Sang et lumières describes the exciting, bloody struggle between the matador Manuel and the bull.

Energetic sketches by Hans Erni

The Swiss murals painter, writer, sculptor and lithographer Hans Erni had a passion for the mythical figure of the Minotaur, the part man and part bull from Greek antiquity. Between 1935 and 2000, Erni created more than a hundred artist's books, and he embellished Peyré's story with sketches that suggest the impetuous movements of the bulls. Erni's bull's heads, however, all have a meek, almost human look. According to him, it is not the matador but the bull to whom the characteristics of courage and willpower should be assigned, although the bull is usually associated with anger.

  • Joseph Peyré, Sang et lumières (1962): lithograph by Hans Erni

Erni is the son of a mechanic and comes from Luzern. In Paris, he encountered the abstract art by Picasso, Arp, Mondriaan, Brancusi and Kandinsky. He was strongly influenced by them in his work, but Erni's book illustrations are figurative. The additional litho shows the culmination of the bull fight: the tense looks of the bull, the matador and the female public are in one frame.

The en profile perspective and the dynamic lines remind one of the drawings of Cocteau and Bellmer. In his early work, traces of Picasso and Dalí can be found as well. However, Erni's drawings and original lithos in Sang et lumière have no surrealist characteristics, and their lines are coarser and wilder. The blood red cassette shows a hand reaching for a bull's tail. On opening, the box shows a white cover: a relief print of a bull with two spears in its back.

  • Joseph Peyré, Sang et lumières (1962): second lithograph by Hans Erni (from a set of supplementary plates)

Bibliographical description

Description: Sang et lumières / [lignes de Joseph Peyré ; ill. de dessins en noir et de cinq lithographies orig. en couleurs de Hans Erni]. – [Bièvres] : [Pierre de Tartas], 1962 .- 84 p. : ill. ; 40 cm

Printer: R. Michel (typography) ; R. Guillard en de Moulin de Vauboyen (lithographs)

Edition: 263 copies

This copy: Number 86 of 90 on handmade Auvergne, with a supplementary set of refused plates on Japon Impérial and two extra plates in colour on 'grand Rives'. Signed by the author and the artist

Bibliography: Bénézit 5-162 ; Johnson 10-465; Monod 9051 ; Saur Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon 34-437

Shelfmark: KW KOOPM E 39


  • Carl J. Burckhardt, Hans Erni. Zürich, Scheidegger, 1964
  • Carl J. Burckhardt, Hans Erni. [S.l.], Editions Rencontre, 1970
  • Hans Erni, Hans Erni, Kunstwerk Buch. Solothurn, Zentralbibliothek Solothurn, 1982