The Deluxe Edition of one of Dufy's Best Illustrated Books, In a Memorably Playful Binding by George Cretté

LA BELLE-ENFANT OU L'AMOUR À QUARANTE ANS.

(Paris: Ambroise Vollard, 1930). 330 x 250 mm. (13 x 10"). 2 p.l., 249, [1] pp., [6] leaves. No. 22 OF 30 COPIES on japon ancien and with an extra suite of plates on Montval paper, from a total edition of 340.

PLAYFUL DARK BLUE CRUSHED MOROCCO TOOLED IN GILT AND BLIND BY GEORGES CRETTÉ (stamp-signed in gilt on front turn-in), covers and spine with all-over design inspired by the book illustrations, consisting of blind-tooled waves, some touched with gilt, scattered gilt breakers and small sail boats, smooth spine with gilt lettering, gilt-ruled turn-ins, navy blue watered silk endleaves, all edges gilt, original paper wrapper illustrated by Dufy bound in. Housed in the original matching morocco-trimmed chemise lined with kidskin and its morocco-lipped slipcase. WITH 94 ETCHINGS BY DUFY, including a pictorial wrapper, 16 plates, 24 full-page illustrations, 15 full borders, and an illustrated table for the binder, along with numerous vignettes. With an additional complete suite of the illustrations on bright Montval paper, many signed in the etching "R D" or "Raoul Dufy." The Artist and the Book in France, pp. 59, 331; From Manet to Hockney 85. A couple of faint marginal smudges (from printing press) otherwise a superb copy--clean, fresh, and bright internally--in an immaculate binding.

This is the splendid deluxe edition of one of Dufy's most formidable ventures into book illustration, in a binding directly inspired by the artwork. "The Step-child, or Love at Forty" by naturist writer Eugéne Montfort (1877-1936) is set in Marseilles, and Dufy's kinetic etchings convey the atmosphere of that bustling port city. According to "The Artist & the Book in France," these etchings "have an exquisite sketchy quality . . . informed by a characteristic wit and detachment. The subject is essentially Marseilles, its harbour, markets and seaport life, which Dufy took great trouble to study at first-hand, travelling back there hundreds of miles when he felt impelled to re-draw one of his compositions for the book which did not satisfy him." Dufy (1877-1953) began his career as a painter in the Fauves ("wild beasts") movement, noted for its bright, bold colors, and he combined this exuberance with the structural quality of Cubism to forge his own distinctive style. According to Britannica, he excelled in creating "scenes of recreation and spectacle, including horse races, regattas, parades, and concerts," often set along the French Riviera. Marseilles is a grittier setting than Nice, and these black & white etchings are effective in conveying that quality, while still retaining the sense of movement and energy that characterizes Dufy's paintings.

Georges Cretté (1893-1969) was an inspired choice as a binder for this work. He was the foremost gilder for Marius-Michel, and took over the master's workshop in 1925, gradually moving away from his predecessor's floral Art Nouveau style to his own geometric designs built around compositions of fillets. According to Duncan & De Bartha, "his virtuosity as a gilder . . . earned him the sobriquet, 'maître des filets.' . . . By 1930, he was well established as a modern binder with classical roots," whose designs were "crisp and in harmony with the text, composed of repeating symmetrical punched decoration, such as overlapping circles, letters, and angled or parallel lines." Here, his expert gilding recreates the sailboats and waves from the opening decoration for Chapter 15, a motif that manages to be both modern and whimsical. It is particularly fortunate that the inner and outer beauties of this volume have been so perfectly preserved.
(ST16990)