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BARRÈS, Maurice

La Mort de Venise

[Lyon], Cercle lyonnais du livre, 1936

VENICE AT THE AGE OF ART DECO.

A UNIQUE PIECE : RARE AND MONUMENTAL BINDING ENTIRELY COVERED IN LAQUER BY ÉDOUARD DEGAINE.

COPY WITH AN ADDITIONAL SUITE OF ETCHINGS AND TWO ORIGINAL WATERCOLORS BY HENRY DE WAROQUIER

First illustrated edition. Text printed in red and black

In-folio (354 x 279mm).
TIRAGE à 160 exemplaires sur papier vélin de Vidalon, celui-ci numéroté 83, “imprimé pour Monsieur Robert Zunz”
ILLUSTRATION : 28 original etchings by Henry de Waroquier

ILLUSTRATION ADDED : suite of 28 original etchings by Henry de Waroquier printed on cream Arches vellum. This suite had been printed in twenty-five copies.
ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATION ADDED : two original watercolors signed bu Henry de Waroquier placed in the frontispiece (141 x 115mm et 270 x 210mm)
RELIURE DE L’ÉPOQUE SIGNÉE SUR LA SECONDE DOUBLURE PAR BERNASCONI ET GOIX, ET ENTIÈREMENT RECOUVERTE D’UN LAQUE DE DEGAINE, SIGNÉ ET DATÉ DE 1939. Laque à décor d’inspiration aquatique, fond en nuances grises, vertes et brunes, surmonté de coraux, étoiles et plantes sous-marines en relief, de couleurs rouges, oranges, vertes ou dorées, dos à la bradel orné du même décor, doublure de feutrine beige ornée d’un laque représentant une tête khmère, rehauts d’éclats de nacre sur les gardes de tissu grège, secondes gardes de feutrine violette à la couleur en partie estompée, tranches dorées.
PROVENANCE : Robert Zunz (1880-1944), banker, MP for the Côtes-du-Nord region, patron of Max Jacob and bibliophile, one of the first patrons of Louise-Denise Germain and here of Édouard Degaine. The second doublure in fabric bears the following inscription printed in red letters : “la reliure de ce livre, décidée par Robert Zunz, a été faite à Paris, de mars 1938 à janvier 1939, par Édouard Degaine, peintre, Bernasconi et Goix, relieurs. G. Courville, éditeur” (the binding of this book, dedicated by Robert Zunz, was made in Paris from March 1938 to January 1939, by Edouard Degaine, painter, Bernasconi and Goix, binders. G. Courville, publisher) Wrapper with original flaps made for this book by the gainier Dufour, 99 rue du Faubourg du Temple

La Mort de Venise by Maurice Barrès (1862-1923) was published for the first time in 1902 in the Amori et dolori sacrum collection. an illustrated edition of his text by the painter and engraver Henry de Waroquier came out more than ten years after the death of Barrès. Begun in 1931, this work would last five years. Against the conventions of his time, Henry de Waroquier (1881-1970) had a solid artistic training, snubbing the École des Beaux-Arts in favor of the Arts Décoratifs which was more open to novelty. His taste was shaped with the Vollard and Durand-Ruel galleries which exhibited the works of Matisse and Picasso. In 1898 at the age of 17, he went to work in an atelier in Montparnasse, painting alongside Modigliani and began to forge his own personal style. At the age of twenty-four, he became a professor of decorative composition at the École Estienne, and began traveling along the Mediterranean and Brittany coasts.

Édouard Degaine (1887-1967) was a painter and lacquerer, born in Gentioux in the Creuse region, a few kilometers south of Aubusson. He trained at the Arts Décoratifs, from 1902 to 1905, and quickly became master in the art of drawing both in lines (graphite, charcoal, engraving) and color (pastel, watercolor and wash drawing) and at the same time, took up the techniques of lacquer and varnish. In 1910, Édouard Degaine took an interest in the revival of Aubusson tapestry. During the Great War, he drew tapestry cartoons for the Pierre Andraud workshop in Aubusson. At the end of the war, he created his first lacquer panels for furniture - screens, chests of drawers, bookshelves and tables - inspired by the Far East. The couturier and collector Jacques Doucet placed a first order with him which included a Khmer head. We note that a Khmer head decorates the doublure of this binding of La Mort de Venise. We know that Édouard Degaine did some lacquered bindings with Pierre Legrain (1889-1929). But today we only know of those that they did on a copy of Histoires naturelles by Jules Renard illustrated by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (having successively belonged to Pierre Berès and Marc Litzler).

Until 1925, Legrain’s atelier where Édouard Degaine worked occasionally was located in a separate room of the gallery of Adrien Robert and Théophile Briant. The little gallery was very prominent : there were paintings by Derain, Sigrist, Coubine, Pascin, Bonnard, Signac, Vlaminck. Books were not absent from this gallery. A Cocteau exhibition look place in June 1925 ; deluxe editions like La Loi d'Accommodation chez les Borgnes (1928), written and illustrated by Francis Picabia, were presented there. In 1925, the gallery owners published a portfolio Divertissements (1925) collecting twenty drawings by Édouard Degaine in a wrapper designed by Legrain. The same year, Jacques Doucet commissioned a meuble d’appui (support cabinet), preserved today at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Édouard Degaine drew the lacquers of the birds that frame the lock (visible on http://aestheticusrex.blogspot.com/2011/04/jacques-doucets-studio-st-james-at.html). He had become a specialist of lacquers and had produced a famous “eagle panel” in brown and gold lacquer that Jacques Doucet had acquired in 1919 (sold by Sotheby’s in Monaco in 1991).

Robert Zunz (1880-1944) was one of the great patrons of Art Déco. We know his habit of reviewing the bindings he had made for him from other books that had belonged to him, like for example Au temps de Jésus-Christ illustrated by Josef Sima and decorated by him with painted endpapers. The role of Robert Zunz in accompanying the work of Louise-Denise Germain was recently underlined by an exhibition at the BnF. Thus, Fabienne Le Bars wrote :

“Robert Zunz (1880-1944) was the privileged witness of the birth of the vocation of L.D. Germain, he who had to work for a time at Arthur Lévy’s, the leather goods maker (1847-1931). That is where in fact around 1902 he made the acquaintance of L.D. Germain who was working there as well. Their friendship never wavered and Robert Zunz also became one of her clients” (F. Le Bars, op. cit., pp. 10-11).

The BnF exhibition devoted to Louise-Denise Germain presented in a separate section six bindings executed for Robert Zunz, one of the artist’s first patrons along with Gabriel Thomas and Louis Barthou.

From archival sources we know that Jacques Doucet imposed Degaine on Pierre Legrain. In this book, the sponsor’s intervention is underlined by what could be called the colophon of the binding : “the binding of this book, decided by Robert Zunz, was made in Paris from March 1938 to January 1939, by Édouard Degaine, painter, Bernasconi and Goix, bookbinders. G. Courville, publisher”. The use of such a colophon eloquently shows what a committed patron owes to a rare artistic experience in the history of bookbinding. This original creation of a true objet d’art also recalls the existence of formal and experimental breaks in the history of an art - bookbinding – that is too often considered as linear : Pierre Legrain precedes Paul Bonet who precedes Jean de Gonet, etc.

BIBLIOGRAPHY : Fabienne Le Bars, Bibliothèques de bibliophiles. Louise-Denise Germain (1870-1936). Reliures. Cat. Expo, Paris, BnF, 2017 -- Élie Chich, Édouard Degaine, Mémoire de Master I, Université d’Aix en Provence, 2016