Drawing on Poetry: Alfred Pellan and Paul Eluard’s Capitale de la Douleur

Auteur / Author: 
Dianne SEARS (University of Massachusetts Amherst, États-Unis)
Vendredi 26 Août 2011 - 10:45

Quebecois artist Alfred Pellan’s forty-four drawings of 1948, inspired by Eluard’s Capitale de la douleur of 1926, offer especially fertile ground for exploring interactions between text and image, particularly since some of the works Pellan illustrated are themselves poems Eluard wrote on painters such as de Chirico, Braque, Picasso, Mirò, Masson, Klee, and Arp. In Reesa Greenberg’s work on these drawings, she contends that Pellan integrates these painters’ styles and motifs in his drawings (Reesa Greenberg, The Drawings of Alfred Pellan, 1980). Building on Greenberg’s invaluable research, I study this triple level of intersemiotic interchange — from painting to poem to drawing — in Eluard’s poems on painters, which later became the inspiration for Poulenc’s song cycle, Le Travail du peintre of 1956. 
I also examine the following questions in the relationship between Pellan’s drawings and Capitale de la douleur as a whole: representations of women’s bodies; motifs figuring the relationship between the visual and the verbal, such as the eye and ear connected in Question d’optique, Pellan’s drawing inspired by Eluard’s poem “Œil de sourd”; and verbal elements in Pellan’s drawings, such as the three letters A, R, and P in Trois Lettres which not only spell out Arp’s name but also represent Pellan’s initials. Finally, I argue that Pellan’s style here is influenced by that of Man Ray in the latter’s drawings which inspired Eluard’s poems in Les Mains Libres of 1937.