Illustrated Art Books
Livres dŽArtiste

Illustrated Art Books also known as Livres d'Artiste (Artists´ Books) are works of art realized in the form of a book. The definition of Illustrated Art Books encompasses various forms including scrolls, fold–outs, concertinas or loose items contained in a box as well as bound printed sheets. Generally Artists´ Books include a text by a poet or writer and a number of limited edition original prints by Master Artists of the 20th Century including: Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Fernand Leger, Georges Braque, Jean Cocteau, Georges Rouault, and
Max Ernst.

Primarily developed in France at the begging of 20th Century, Illustrated Art Books were often published in limited editions, though sometimes they were produced as one–of–a–kind art objects referred to as "uniques". While "deluxe editions" were not unusual at the time, the idea of merging them with the fine arts to created Livres d´Artiste was a new concept.

As Europe plunged headlong towards World War I, various groups of avant–garde artists across Europe started to focus on Original Prints, Lithography Posters and Illustrated Art Books. Most of the earliest Illustrated Art Books were created by the artists, poets and writers of the Montparnasse Group in Paris. Encourage by publishers such as Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard, whose first productions appeared in the mid–1890s, and Henry Kahnweiler who began publishing slightly more than a decade later, the Livre d´Artiste came into being as a printing enterprise between an artist and poet with literally hundreds of meaningful artistic collaborations. Among the best known publishers of Illustrated Art Books were Ambroise Vollard, Henry Kahnweiler, Albert Skira, Eleftheriades Teriade, Fernand Mourlot and Amie Maeght.

The Livre d´Artiste took advantage of the expanded market for original art and in particular original prints, which had grown in the 19th century, along with other luxury markets, the accumulation of capital, and an educated upper middle class with an appetite for fine consumer goods. The market for these limited edition Illustrated Art Books was developed as an extension of the market for Paintings, Drawings, and Original Prints. But if for editors these Illustrated Art Books were attractive in part as a new luxury commodity, for artists they often offered the possibility to produce work which they wouldn't or couldn't produce themselves.

The artist's contribution to the Illustrated Art Books was not merely an illustration, but should be regarded as the artist´s free interpretation and rendering of the text in visual terms. In Pablo Picasso´s Illustrated Art Book known as "The Gongora Suite," Picasso was inspired by the compositions of illuminated manuscripts, and he copied the 20 sonnets by Luis de Gongora y Argote, and personally transferred them to copperplates, and then decorated them richly with remarques to visually enhance each sonnet.

In many instances the Livres d´Artiste was an Illustrated Art Book with text and illustrations completely generated by the artist alone. Joan Miro´s Illustrated Art Book "Le Lezard aux Plumes d´or" consists of 18 original color lithographs to accompany Miro´s poem "The Lizard with the Golden Feathers."

In addition to Livres d´Artiste, many Master Artists of the 20th Century took part in collaborative group Illustrated Art Books that were more like Art Journals or Art Magazines that included Original Prints by the popular artists of the time. Among the most well known Illustrated Art Journals of 20th Century are Verve
and Derriere le Miroir.

Although artists have been active in printmaking and book production for centuries, the Livres d´Artiste is primarily a 20th century form of art. In many ways it could be argued that the Illustrated Art Book is the quintessential 20th century art form. Artists' books appear in every major movement in art and literature and have provided a unique means of realizing works within all of the many avant–garde, experimental, and independent groups whose contributions have defined the shape of 20th century artistic activity.

Some of the most beautiful and well–known Livres d´Artiste include Henri Matisse´s "Jazz" (1947), Pablo Picasso's "Los Toros Avec Picasso" (1942), Marc Chagall's "The Story of Exodus" (1966), Georges Rouault "Cirque de L'Etoile Filante" (1935), Georges Braques's "Si je mourais la–bas" (1962), Joan Miro's "Parler seul" (1950), and Fernand Leger's "Cirque" (1950).

Home Artists Posters Ceramics Street Art Contact
Illustrated Books Appraisals Art Terms