The Tales of Perrault illustrated by art brut
Introductions by Bernadette Bricout and Céline Delavaux
Diane de Selliers, 372 p., 230 €
The tales of Charles Perrault (1628-1703) were first written for an adult audience, but we have somewhat forgotten, through truncated and watered down versions, the power of these tales, where it is a question of difficult beginnings. , mistreating parents and shameful designs, where the characters move forward, desire slung across the shadows of forests and in the maze of castles. History ends up offering them what the heart desires: a long life, sincere love, the simple happiness of peace.
Éditions Diane de Selliers – which each year offers the illustrated edition of a classic (1) in large format – this time chose to accompany the march of the heroes of Perrault’s eleven tales with art brut. By this daring choice, this work returns this heritage to an older audience, and the surprise is there. The encounter between these stories and plastic works by the mentally ill, spiritualist mediums and other marginal creators, is simply breathtaking. This remarkable comparison reveals and enhances the phantasmal potential, the emotional charge and the existential power of these stories so often told.
“It is the way, in which something is invented, which much more than the material, of any story makes beauty”, writes Perrault, in Ridiculous Wishes. Here, invention, difference, elsewhere, throb on every page. The ogre of Puss in Boots has his face puffed up by the meticulous and obsessive variations of a pen stroke. Riquet with the tassel, “So ugly and so badly done” to which the fairy had promised “That he would not stop being kind, because he would have a lot of spirit”, presents a deformed face but inhabited by a penetrating jet-black eye. The love of Griselidis, the faithful wife, finds its perfect form in a simple scarlet heart, circled in green.
The intensity of these visions, and sometimes their violence, weigh down Perrault’s stories. Their crossing no longer risks cursory reading or entertainment. Because these poignant compositions also betray the ills of their authors. The closed fence, drawn by ESG in graphite, encloses a wooded world which is fading away, as if the subject were losing ground in the depression. The geometric castle of Marcel Storr represents the confinement of The Sleeping Beauty as much as that of its author. Heinrich Anton Müller’s frail prince threatens to disappear, like foliage nibbled by insects … At the end of the book, a short biography pays tribute to each of these 84 anonymous creators.
The “raw” artist converses easily with the world of the tale. Not only because it feeds on its images, but because it reproduces its freedom. “Art brut is a concept which calls into question the categories of art history, its values, its criteria – a pea under Princess Art’s mattress, one might say”, writes Céline Delavaux, specialist in brut art and scientific director of iconography. The Tales of Perrault came from popular stories, ancestral memories scorned by scholars. Art brut emerges from the shadows of the asylum, the psychiatric hospital, the disease. What was regarded as without nobility and without distinction, reaches, by the magic of art, to the recognition.