Friday, June 15, 2012

Just Say Da: Unique Rare Books With Original Russian Watercolors At Auction

By Stephen J. Gertz

Original watercolor by Georges Kars Kralupy for David Golder.

Lot 192 is a singleton. a richly illustrated first edition copy of Iréne Némirovsky's (1903-1942) David Golder (Paris: 1929) featuring sixty-seven original watercolors by artist Georges Kars Kralupy (1882-1945).

Némirovsky is primarily known as the author of Suite Française, duet novels portraying life in France between June 4, 1940 and July 1, 1941, the period in which the Nazis occupied Paris.

After the author's death in Auschwitz the manuscript of  Suite Française was kept by her eldest daughter for fifty years until it was donated to a French archive that had it published: it became a bestseller in 2004. The present copy is no. 56 of a limited edition of 100 copies and is inscribed  by the artist to Robert Ellissen.

Original watercolor by Hermine David for Gourmont's Oeuvres.

Next up, lot 193 is a unique copy of the limited edition of Remy de Gourmont's (1858-1915) Oeuvres (Paris: 1930) elegantly illustrated with ninety-eight original watercolors by Hermine David (1886-1970). It, too, is inscribed to Robert Ellissen by the artist.

A trend is developing...

Is it the woman or the moon? It's both, lot 194, another unique and superbly illustrated book, no. 12 of a limited edition of only eighteen copies of Gil Robin's (1893-1967) novel Le Femme et la Lune (Paris: 1925).

It features sixty-eight original watercolors by Sonia Lewitska (1874-1937). 

Yet again, it is inscribed, here to Mme. Robert Ellissen by Lewitska.

Original watercolor by Alice Halicka for Tragédies de Ghetto.

Finally, artist Alice Halicka (1895-1975) illustrated lot 195, a copy of Israel Zangwill's (1864-1926) Tragédies du Ghetto (Paris: 1928), with fifty-seven original watercolors.

You guessed it: inscribed by the artist to Robert Ellissen.

Who were the Ellissens and how did they manage to get the artists to devote their time and talent to illustrate these books for them?

Robert Ellissen was the author of Le Gaz dans la vie moderne (1933); Les villes et l'Etat contre l'industrie privée (1908); Le Concours Sartine 1763-1766 (1922), and a translator. He and his wife were art patrons who befriended and aided the Russian and Eastern European artist-exiles who had emigrated to Paris to escape the anti-Semitism in their homelands, settled in Montparnasse, and established the 1918-1939 Judaic aspect of the Ecole de Paris, its heyday the 'Twenties.

Images courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

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