Jean Lurçat (1892-1966): a singular surrealist


The exhibition catalogue stands at S950.a.201.4730

In 2016, I was lucky enough to visit an exhibition presenting some of the most striking works of art I had ever seen: monumental pieces, several square metres each, all bursting with incredibly vivid colours. What surprised me the most was that these masterpieces were by an artist I had only vaguely heard of before, his talent apparently eclipsed by that of his more famous contemporaries. Perhaps this was due to the nature of most of his works: they were not paintings, but tapestries.

Tapestry in France was at its highest point in the late medieval period, with famous examples such as La Dame à la licorne and the Tenture de l’Apocalypse but was more or less a forgotten art by the beginning of the 20th century. A great admirer of this medieval tradition, Jean Lurçat, the artist whose works I was admiring, sought to revive it by borrowing many of its themes for his tapestries. The “mille-fleurs” for example, a style that consists in weaving hundreds of flowers, all different, around the main subject of a work, features heavily in his art. Fantastic creatures were a recurring theme in medieval tapestry and Lurçat created an entire bestiary in his main works. But he also enriched this medieval tradition by the addition of a surrealist twist, many of his tapestries presenting a disconcerting, oneiric, highly symbolical landscape. Continue reading

Fruits, flowers and fantastical figures

The book Fleurs, fruits et légumes du jour / par Alfred Le Petit ; légendes de H. Briollet (8001.b.156), published in 1871, recently crossed my desk. A book of whimsical political caricatures, it is composed of 32 plates issued in a portfolio; each plate comprises a title, cartoon (in colour) and a brief satirical rhyme or poem. The subjects are generals, intellectuals and politicians (all men, this being 19th century France), with a specific focus on the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune of 1871.

Fleurs, fruits & légumes du jour (8001.b.156) - Title page

Fleurs, fruits & légumes du jour (8001.b.156) – Title page

When adding books to the Cambridge University Library catalogue, we are usually able to copy records from other library catalogues. In the case of the record for this book, a previous cataloguing librarian (possibly in UNC Chapel Hill) added the information that “Many plates appear to be based on the anthropomorphized flowers of J.J. Grandville (Les fleurs animées, originally published 1847)”. This is the kind of information that can be useful for people searching the library catalogue (it means that both books will turn up in a keyword search), and it is also an interesting and hopefully worthwhile piece of information for anyone interested in either of these two works. Not only does copying records from other libraries save us valuable time, it also allows our catalogue to reflect other peoples’ research and knowledge. Continue reading

Charlie Hebdo, an update

When previously we wrote about the events at Charlie Hebdo, we expressed our amazement about how quickly the first issue following the attacks on their offices was printed, and how rapidly we were able to get a copy. This confirmed views expressed in a previous post as to the speed with which we try to purchase books relating to newsworthy events (in that case, the kidnapping and subsequent assassination of monks at Tibhirine).



Now, approximately six months after the shootings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, it is worth giving a brief update on the state of publishing about the events, and the additional books that we’ve acquired since the attacks from the sizeable number printed. These include:

Avant, pendant, après le 11 janvier : pour une nouvelle écriture collective de notre roman national / Edgar Morin, Patrick Singaïny (C204.d.594), which is aptly placed in a series entitled L’urgence de comprendre.  Continue reading

Charlie hebdo

Plus de Charlie -  NRJ Avignon 98.2 on Twitter (@NRJAvignon)

Plus de Charlie – NRJ Avignon 98.2 on Twitter (@NRJAvignon)

The University Library does not have a subscription to Charlie hebdo, although we do have a history of the magazine from 1969-1982 which stands at 735:45.c.200.287. We also have a few items with cartoons by Wolinski and/or Cabu, who both lost their lives in the terrorist attack on January 7th (2007.8.5590, 2011.10.645, 2013.9.2346). We were of course keen to get hold of a copy of the so-called “survivors” edition published on Wednesday January 14th. A former member of the European Collections and Cataloguing team, now resident in Paris, volunteered straightaway to get hold of a copy for me, but then discovered that this was by no means straightforward. On Wednesday morning she could find no copies in central Paris. She then phoned her local newsagent in the Paris suburbs, hoping she might have more success. He laughed and told her that he had had 100 people waiting outside at 6.30 am that morning, and that he had only managed to secure 40 copies. Continue reading