Oct. 9 Art Minute: Henri Laurens, Les Idylles (Idylls)

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Henri Laurens (French, 1885–1954), Les Idylles (Idylls). Written by Théocrite (Greek, active 300–260 BCE), translated by Emily Chambry. 38 wood engravings after drawings by Laurens, cut by Theo Schmied. Published by Tériade (Editions Verve), Paris, 1945. Edition of 200. Gift of Molly and Walter Bareiss, 1984.655. In the exhibition Drawn from Classicism: Modern Artists’ Books. Wolfe Gallery mezzanine.

One of the first sculptors to translate the innovations of Cubist painting in sculpture, Henri Laurens also collaborated on nine books over the course of his career. Les Idylles, a masterpiece of modern book illustration, represents the first of three collaborations with Tériade, one of the most influential and inventive publishers of livres d’artistes (artist-illustrated books) in the 20th century. This book is a French translation of idylls or ‘little poems’ written by the 3rd-century BCE Greek poet and ‘father’ of pastoral poetry, Theocritus, whose eloquent style influenced Virgil’s Eclogues, Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe, and much Renaissance poetry.

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