Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Genius of Grandville, Avant La Lettre Surrealist

J.J. Grandville was born in Nancy in 1803 in a family of artists. His father, Jean-Baptiste Gérard, a miniature painter, took him under his wing. A precocious learner, Grandville devoured Jacques Callot's "Miseries of War" and the political caricatures of the periodical Le Nain jaune (1814-1815) and by the age of 21, he was headed to Paris

Grandville caricatured by Benjamin Roubaud in his "Panthéon Charivarique", 1842, Lithograph, 
13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (34.3 x 26.7 cm)
Caption: Grandville’s chin is pointed 
just like the skillful crayon he sharpens
A crayon full of humor when guided by his fingers to paint and mock
His chin does not even compare with the sharpness of his mind

No better place than the streets, the theaters, dance halls and cafés to observe the mores of the Parisian society in the Romantic Period. Five years later, he published Les Métamorphoses du Jour, a book where every character has a human body and the face of an animal. Seventy three drawings and their sharp-tongued captions left no room for the animal to hide behind the man.

         To Each His Own by Grandville, Les Métamorphoses du Jour, Chap. LXVII, Paris, Chez Bulla, 1829   "Lust, gluttony, anger, and the other deadly sins are stigmatized, now with the blow of a hammer, now with the thrust of a stiletto; while the foibles and humors of mankind also receive due attention."N. Ray Gordon

The last two plates of Les Métamorphoses du Jour were considered so subversive against Church and State that they were officially banned from publication in France. Here are the two drawings few of his contemporaries ever saw.

 The Scarab Family,

"Famille de Scarabées"

and A Ferocious Beast or A Friend of the Gazette

"Une Bête Féroce ou un Ami de la Gazette"

He was a driving force, with Honoré Daumier and Charles Philipon, behind two satirical periodicals (gazettes), La Caricature and Le Charivari. His sharp pen and wit soon made him a favorite of the readers. 

After Louis Philippe anointed himself Citizen King, political satirists sharpened their pencils and used the innocent image of a pear to criticize his corrupt and repressive policies. Croquades faites à l'audience du 14 novembre (Cour d'Assises), Philippon, Grandville, La Caricature, volume 3, numéro 56, 21 novembre 1831

In 1835, in response to the government-issued ban on political satire, Grandville refocused his attention on the Parisian society. The two plates below capture a pipe smoking frenzy that cut across social classes at the time.

Variété de Pipes et de leurs Fumeurs, Types Modernes, Observations Critiques - Le Dedans de l'Homme Expliqué par le Dehors, Grandville, 1835

Detail, Variété des Pipes et de leurs Fumeurs, Grandville, 1835

Detail, Variété des Pipes et de leurs Fumeurs, Grandville, 1835

In 1838 Grandville illustrated a translation of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels

The Lilliputians are a society of people around six inches in average height. Gulliver sits a Lilliputian on top of the wind cover of his pipe bowl for examination. Another Lilliputian is trying to escape from Gulliver's left pocket.
(Part of this caption was written with our Lilliputian readers in mind)
One of Grandville's many accomplishments was Les Fleurs Animées, a series of images that are both poetic and satirical.

Les Fleurs Animées, Grandville, 1847
Grandville favored the new techniques of end-cut wood engraving and the steam-powered printing press over traditional lithography. These engravings permitted illustrations to appear on the page with text allowing the artist more creative and contextual expression. 

Tobacco, Les Fleurs Animées, Grandville, 1847
On the globe, a tobacco plant grows its roots in AMERIQUE surrounded by its means of consumption: cheroots, cigars, clay, meerschaum and wood pipes, a hookah, tobacco pouches, a match box and la carotte, symbol of the distribution monopoly in France and emblem of all authorized tobacco shops.

But perhaps his most significant contribution was Un Autre Monde, an illustrated fiction filled with creatures born from the land of dreams or from his exalted imagination, a precursor of (much) later surrealist works. 

Printed text illustrated with 36 hors-texte wood-engraved plates all with additional coloring by hand, 146 wood-engravings and 292 pages. 
A  ratio of engravings to pages significantly higher than the prevailing norm.
The full title of the work reads like a manifesto, boldly breaking the strict rules of "Proper Editing and Publishing" : Transformations, Visions, Incarnations, Ascensions, Locomotions, Explorations, Peregrinations, Excursions, Vacations, Caprices, Cosmogonies, Reveries, Whimsies, Phantasmagories, Apotheoses, Zoomorphoses, Lithomorphoses, Metamorphoses, Metempsychoses, and Other Things.

In prose and illustrations best described as rabelaisian,

From a 1565 publication by François Rabelais called 'Les Songes Drolatiques de Pantagruel, ou sont contenues plusieurs figures de l’invention de maistre François Rabelais : & derniere oeuvre d’iceluy, pour la recreation des bons esprits'.
with help from Plume and Crayon

The dialogue between the Plume (the Writer) and the Crayon (the Artist), the Crayon demands “You will allow my wings to move freely through space; you will not impede in any way my flight towards the new spheres that I wish to explore.” The Pen responds humbly: “So you want me to serve purely and simply as a secretary?” — to which the Crayon answers, “Precisely”. The Penknife stays out of the commotion but threatens to use his blade to settle the disagreement.

Grandville chronicles the adventures of a snake-oil salesman and self-anointed God who goes by the name of Doctor Puff.  

Puff introduces himself to the reader with the self-importance expected of a man of his stature: "My name is Puff; enough said." 

God Puff creates two neo-gods in his image, one-armed captain and swim coach Krackq and composer Hahblle. "He forbids them neither the pipe nor the jacket. He even allows them to grow a beard and wear medals". In his position as God In Chief he calls a meeting of the neo-divine triplicity to divide the universe: to Habble the Skies, to Krackq the Seas and Puff stays on Earth.

Krackq's Pipe with a turned wood stem from Saint-Claude of course

 The God in Chief presides over a strangely connected World of worlds...

Smoking a Pipe on The Bridge to the Heavens
 A bridge whose ends a human eye could not embrace and whose main piers were supported by planets leading from one world to another on a perfectly polished asphalt. The 300,000th pile was leaning on Saturn. Habble, who ventured on the bridge smoking his pipe, could confirm that the ring around Saturn is nothing other than a circular balcony where Saturnians come out for a refreshing evening.

As soon as Habble rises to the Heavens his view of the world changes 

I see under me this column surmounted by Fame. Coachmen, water carriers, duchesses, vendors, great lords, common people, the whole world circulates around the monument; I don't see any difference; all seem to me to have the same level. From my point of view Fame is equal to Nothingness.

On Earth, fascinating worlds unfold where Fine Arts are held in high esteem,

The Master straddles his Raphaëlian horse with a long line of disciples hanging on to his every stroke.

man, animal and machine welcomed.

A world where demonstrations against authority appear futile ☹

Smiley😀's Ancestors
a world where some behaviors endure

It’s Venus in Person!

Through the distorsions of Grandville's imaginary worlds there is one familiar object that retains its integrity and it is the Pipe.

In this not so typical Parisian scene women wear men's costumes and smoke pipes and cigars while men stand by their side wearing colorful garments.  
"Our fashionistas will not go out for a stroll without a clay or meerschaum pipe."

At the Spring Ball where the Everlasting is banished (for obvious reasons)

Making his entrance, Fanfan la Tulipe, the eternal jokester, ladies man, free spirit, who makes fun of self-indulging authority and gets away with his wit and a quick draw.
Flowers and Fruits are holding the annual ball to celebrate the return of Spring.
The Pomegranates and the Snapdragons keep guard upfront.

But not everything is well in the Plant World. Dr. Puff stumbles upon the early signs of a Revolution. Flowers AND Vegetables are plotting an uprising.

Up in Arms, Children of the Plant Race. In the Battle of the Refined a Civil War started with a vicious fight between Sugar Cane and Beetroot, dispute that ended only with the intervention (late, alas) of the Carrot. In the background, Tobacco alone maintained an indifferent attitude; he did not stop smoking his pipe throughout the harangue by the Thistle.

In his submarine exploration, Krackq encounters mermaids frolicking under the watchful eye of fantasmagoric creatures. What better ice breaker than this object of much wonder, his pipe?

Illustration from Another World, 1844

Back on solid ground Puff is pleased to discover a world where people are solely defined by their clothing — leather boots, canes and toppers and even a pipe for men, parasols and hats for women. “Why do we even need the rest of the person?” Puff the huckster asks.

Illustration from Another World, 1844

After all this is the world where Clothes Make the Man or the Woman.

An Easel, a Paint Box, a Palette, a Brush and a Pipe make the Painter. The painter is waiting for brooms to bloom.

In the Skies, the Lightning Rods in charge of Preparing Summer Storms do Smoke a Pipe,

Lightning Rods preparing Summer storms from Obese Clouds

Puff stumbles upon a horse race between top ranked equestrienne Duchesse d'Alezan, the inventor of a Double Pressure Machine to Make Grooms Lose Weight and her groom.

Duchesse D'Alezan rides Pichenette, daughter of Chip of the Old Block and Magic Lantern while smoking her pipe; her groom is riding Marionette. No better horses in the stud-book.

In one of his most mind bending experiences Dr. Puff explores an enchanted forest and comes across Fish going Fishing.

April Fools Fish
The water was filled with men and women who swam quickly towards the bait they were offered:
medals, epaulets, purses filled with gold coins and pipes. They swallowed everything with deplorable voracity. A quarter of an hour later the fish were done fishing; they packed their baskets, threw their rods over their shoulders and walked away.
When Grandville passed away in 1847, he had already written his own epitaph:

"Here lies J. J. Grandville. He could bring anything to life and, like God, he made it live, talk and walk. Alone, he could not find his path."

John Tenniel the illustrator of Lewis Caroll's Alice's Adventure in Wonderland (1864) and Through the looking glass and what Alice found there (1871) was inspired by Grandville's work.

André Breton who co-founded Surrealism in 1924

recognised in Grandville a precursor and inspiration for the movement.

Great Tournament between Spades and Hearts in the presence of their respective Kings 
Another World, 1844.

So did Max Ernst who said: "A New World is Born; May Grandville be Praised".

                                    😈 😑 😇                          

Lightning Rod Waiting for an Obese Cloud to Prepare a Storm

                                                     🇫🇷   😷  🇺🇸


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