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Artist Books

Blaise Cendrars &
Fernand Léger

 

La Fin du Monde, Filmée par L’Ange N.-D.
(The End of the World, Filmed by the Angel N.-D.)

Library Information and Colophon

Title

La Fin du Monde, Filmée par l'Ange N.-D. (The End of the World, Filmed by the Angel N.-D.) View record in Reed Digital Collections

Publication

Paris: Éditions de la Sirène, 1919

Library Call #

PN1997 .F465 View Reed library catalog record

Description

[59] p.: col. ill.; 32 cm

Notes

Fernand Léger (artist) and Blaise Cendrars (author). Published by Jean Cocteau’s Editions de la Sirène.

Colophon

Justification du triage. Il a été tiré de cet ouvrage 25 exemplaires numérotés sur papier de Rives à la forme, et 1200 exemplaires in-quarto raisin sur papier Registre vélin Lafuma. La composition en Moreland corps 24, et le tirage ont été faits dans les ateliers de l’Imprimerie FRAZIER-SOYE, 168, boulevard de Montparnasse, à Paris. Le coloriage a été exécuté dans les ateliers de RICHARD, coloriste, 45, rue Linné, à Paris.
Achevé d’imprimer le XV octobre MCMXIX. 1042.

Biographies

Blaise Cendrars

(1887-1961)
Swiss French

Blaise Cendrars was a 20th century Parisian poet who was connected to and collaborated with many modernist artists. His book La Fin du Monde Filmée par L'Ange de N.-D., written as a film script that was never realized, in Reed’s Special Collections was illustrated by his friend Fernand Léger to create a colorfully illustrated fantastic story of the end of the world that’s become too modern.

Blaise Cendrars was born as Frédéric Louis Sauser in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel, Switzerland in 1887.1 Though traveling extensively he spent the majority of his life in France after moving to Paris in 1910 where he worked closely with other artists and writers such as Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Cocteau, and Fernand Léger2 to become a key figure in the Parisian avant-garde. He is known for his fantastical fiction though “his work is bewilderingly varied in subject-matter and form, reflecting his encyclopedic knowledge and the universality of his interests that ranged from African literatures and folklore to the California Gold Rush.”3

Even the name he gave himself, Blaise Cendrars was a work of his imagination, it was “a bastardization of ‘braise’ (embers) and ‘cendres’ (ashes) with ‘ars’ (art) thrown in for good measure,”4 a reflection of themes in his work and life, “fire is a repeated image throughout his work and it is this insouciance and dismissal of all that came before him that is elementary to his own philosophy: be different and forge the new.”5

Cendrars fought with the French foreign legion in the First World War and returned in 1915 missing the lower half of his right arm,6 almost certainly influencing his cynical narrative of the end of the world in La Fin du Monde Filmée par L'Ange de N.-D. in which he wove “his past experience of revolutions, wars, spiritual and physical agony and struggle, together with a prescience of global destruction.”7 In 1918 and 1919 while he worked as a literary adviser for publisher A la Sirène, he assisted the innovative French filmmaker Abel Gance,8 from which he took inspiration to write La Fin du Monde in the form of a movie script.

La Fin du Monde was not the first artist's book he had worked on; in 1913 he had collaborated with Sonia Delaunay on the book La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France (View MOMA website) (Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France). The accordion-style book folded out to create a long vertical composition of his poetry and her art, with the length of the whole edition originally intended to equal the height of the Eiffel Tower, though not enough copies ended up being printed to reach that goal.9

Footnotes


1 Blaise Cendrars. Trans. and Intro. By Monique Chefdor. Complete Postcards from the Americas: Poems of Road and Sea. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976; 3.

2 “La Fin du Monde, Filmée par l’Ange N.D.” Koninklijke Bibliotheek: National Library of the Netherlands. Web. 17 October 2008. View website

3 Chris Michaelides. “Cendrars/Delaunay’s Prose du Transsibérien.” Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900 – 1937. Transcript of lecture. The British Library. View website

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 “Blaise Cendrars.” Peter Owen Publishers. Web. 26 March 2007. View website

7 Blaise. 15.

8 “La Fin du Monde, Filmée par l’Ange N.D.” Koninklijke Bibliotheek: National Library of the Netherlands. Web. 17 October 2008. View website

9 Ibid.

 

Fernand Léger

(1881-1955)
French

Fernand Léger was a 20th century Parisian modernist who “took modernity as his subject.”1 His interest in the hurried and hectic flow of mechanized life led him to create illustrations for La Fin du Monde Filmée par L'Ange de N.-D. that mixed images with typography to sometimes create lurching and chaotic urban scenes.

Joseph Fernand Henri Léger was born in 1881 in Argentan, France. Trained as an architect Léger settled in Paris in 1900 working as an architectural draftsman.2 In 1903, despite being refused entrance, he took classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and studied at the Académie Julian as a painter. He began working in an impressionist style but after seeing a Paul Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1907, his work returned to a drawing and geometric style similar to his draftsman training.3 Combined with his contact with the works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Léger developed his own form of Cubism, which his critiques called “Tubism” based on its use of cylindrical forms.4

Léger, like Cendrars, also fought in the First World War and returned in 1917 after being gassed.5 He returned deeply impressed by his experience fighting to begin his “mechanical” period “in which figures and objects are characterized by tubular, machine-like forms.”6 Like Cendrars, Léger was fascinated by film and in 1924 he completed his first film Ballet Mécanique (part one: View film part two:View film), a strange combination of human and mechanical images, which is considered to be one of the first avant-garde films.7

In 1919 Léger collaborated with poet Blaise Cendrars to create the book La Fin du Monde Filmée par L'Ange de N.-D. The chapter book reads like a film script following the main character: God. The story begins with “God in his American office smoking a cigar; his chiefs of staff: the Pope, the Great Rabbi, the head of the Holy Synod, the Dalai Lama, and Rasputin.”8

In the book Léger designed the front and back cover as well as “seven full-page illustrations, four emblems, five illustrations for the chapter titles and three illustrations spread across two pages,”9 in a cubist style. Text, images, numbers, advertising slogans and quotations are all woven together in the illustrations to create a scene of chaotic urban life. Léger designed the typography for the book using both handwritten and stenciled lettering, active to the point that they “both interrupt and define the compositions,” creating “a fully simultaneous alliance between the verbal and the visual.10

Footnotes

1 Jodi Hauptman. “Imagining Cities.” Fernand Léger. New York: Museum of Modern Art: Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, 1998; 15.

2 “Fernand Léger: Biography.” Guggenheim Museum. Web. 17 August 2007. View website

3 Ibid.

4 Haputman. 263.

5 Felicia Miller Frank. “L’Inhumaine, La Fin du Monde: Modernist Utopias and Film-Making Angels.” MLN. The John Hopkins University Press. Vol. 123, Num. 3. April 2008. View website

6 “Fernand Léger: Biography.” Guggenheim Museum. Web. 17 August 2007. View website

7 Ibid.

8 Frank.

9 “La Fin du Monde, Filmée par l’Ange N.D.” Koninklijke Bibliotheek: National Library of the Netherlands. Web. 17 October 2008. View website

10 Hauptman. 80.

Other Books in Special Collections by these authors

Title

Paris Ma Ville (Paris My City) View Reed library catalog record

Publication

München: Hirmer, 1987

Library Call #

PQ2605.E55 P4 1987

Description

127 p.; col. ill.; 35 cm. + 1 booklet (22 p.: ill.; 34 cm.)

Notes/Colophon

Fernand Léger (artist) and Blaise Cendrars (author).