Friday, December 28, 2012

I have long interested in the formative years of modernism in the opening years of the last century.  One significant figure in the modernist pantheon has been the Frenchman Max Jacob (1876-1944).  A poet, artist, and visionary, as well as Pablo PIcasso’s closest friend in his early years, Max Jacob remains the great absent.

That situation may be changing now, with the appearance from Gallimard in Paris of a splendid new edition of his works (Oeuvres, 2012).  This stout volume of some 1800 pages embraces only about half of his production. but that seems enough.  I am looking forward to exploring its contents more fully.

I had previously been familiar with Jacob’s first poetry collection, Le Cornet à dés (or Dice Cup).  At first sight, these pieces disconcert because of their kaleidoscopic shifts from realism, via a kind of jocular humor, to episodes that are clearly visionary.  But now they seem more familiar and accessible.

Max Jacob was also active as an artist.  One can see some good reproductions of his work in the handsome exhibition catalog Max Jacob et Picasso (Paris, 1994).

Of Jewish origin, Max Jacob died tragically in 1944 at the concentration camp of Drancy.


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