Portrait de Rimbaud, 1949
[Portrait of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud]
Lithograph printed in black on chine paper
12-3/4 in. x 9-5/8 in.
Frame: 19 in. x 17 in.
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) was a child prodigy who found his voice through writing at an early age, producing virtually all his poetic works while still in his late teens. He is often considered the father of modern poetry encompassing every style and from of writing from formal to free. At the age of seventeen he moved to Paris and took up residence with the symbolist poet Paul Verlaine with whom he had maintained a romantic relationship that ended in disaster.
Rimbaud soon gave up all creative writing, moved to east Africa and worked for a French coffee trading company. A decade later he fell ill and decided to return to France for medical treatment. In 1891 he died of cancer at the age of thirty-seven.
The poems of Rimbaud were published in 1886 under the title Les Illuminations, proposed by Verlaine after the poet’s death. In the preface, Verlaine explained that the title was based on the English word Illuminations, in the sense of colored plates, and a sub-title that Rimbaud had already given the work. The Swiss publisher Grosclaude, Éditions des Gaules, Lausanne offered the commission to Léger, in 1948 to create fifteen lithographs with pochoir opaque gouache coloring. Because stencils and freehand application of the color was used on all 395 prints in the edition, each set of prints differs slightly from one another, making the works highly desirable for collectors of limited edition prints.