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Rimbaud Me Fecit

Isabelle Rimbaud (Jean-Jacques Lefrère/Flammarion)
Recently discovered photographs, drawings, paintings, and other things made by Arthur Rimbaud (and some of them now proven to have been passed off as Rimbaud's by his family) will soon be published by Jean-Jacques ­Lefrère, the author of a biography of the French poet and editor of his correspondence, in a new book called Les Dessins d'Arthur Rimbaud, coming out next month from Flammarion. Mohammed Aïssaoui wrote a preview (Rimbaud inédit, September 24) for Le Figaro (my translation and links added):
The legend that Arthur Rimbaud was a terrible sketch artist is unshakable -- his talents lay elsewhere. Unlike his friends Verlaine and Delahaye, his pencil drawing was far from excellent: one could even call it basic, even childish, judging by the little stick men, the scenes of daily life, the animals or objects that he tried to reproduce, in his youth, in school notebooks, on the back of atlas maps, or in letters sent to some of his correspondents. That has not stopped us from attributing several illustrations to him, some of them fairly good, that were not perhaps actually made by him.

[This book] brings to light some documents never before seen: drawings, yes, but also photographs and an iconography that is rich and completely unknown. [...] Among the most moving pieces is a photograph of Isabelle Rimbaud, the poet's younger sister who supported him in his final days. This photograph is so intense, so expressive that it almost seems to be in color. And what an extraordinary physical resemblance to her brother! What is also striking, in this piece, are her hands, all out of proportion, those "assassin's hands" that her brother Arthur must have had, too, if we believe the reports of the poets who met him during his stay in Paris in September 1871. [...]

Another strong section of the book is the new testimony from a woman who lived in Roche and knew Isabelle Rimbaud and her mother and paints them in contrasting ways: "Her features were hard, a little like an old owl, rather surly, in spite of having very blue eyes, of a blue that was a little mauve, such as I have rarely seen." The album also includes some photos, drawings, and paintings of the Rimbaud house, in the hamlet of Roche, and one can distinctly see the grain loft where Rimbaud, wracked with fever, wrote Une saison en enfer (trans. A Season in Hell). It is one of the most striking views, and also the most tragic, in this book.
You can see a few images in a slide show published by Le Figaro.

1 comment:

Mohamed Mekkawi said...

The 2 watercolors in the slide show (Beit Mery, Lebanon), erronously ascribed to Arthur Rimbaud, are the work of Antoine Rimbaud, my painting teacher at the Lycée français de Beyrouth in the early fifties. One would think that a respectable publisher like Flammarion would have researched the provenance and authorship of these artworks before including them in their forthcoming book as the work of Arthur Rimbaud. Indeed I own a watercolor by Antoine Rimbaud, honestly acquired of his living ca 1955, see
Mod Mekkawi, Arlington, Virginia/USA