EXTER, Alexandra (1882-1949, artist) and Anatole FRANCE (1844-1924). [?] Autograph illustrated manuscript of France's Le Mystère du Sang. Paris: 24 December, 1941.
2° (328 x 254mm). Pp. . Calligraphy in black ink on Arches paper, three-line initials in gold within purple outline, capitals in red, decorative line endings in purple, full stops in blue. Three full-page and one half-page original signed gouaches by Exter, with three tissue guards. (Faint scattered foxing to edges and first and last few leaves). Loose in original wrappers, hand-lettered in black and red ink, glassine dust-wrapper. (Short closed tear without loss to spine-head, light wear to edges, glassine with a few chips to extremities and spine, and light soiling to lower flap).
A RARE MANUSCRIPT ILLUSTRATED WITH FOUR ORIGINAL GOUACHES AND CALLIGRAPHY BY ALEXANDRA EXTER, one of the pioneering artists of the Russian Avant-Garde. A recent travelling exhibition originating at the Guggenheim Museum in New York reinforced Exter's position, along with Goncharova, Stepanova, Popova, Rozanova, and Udaltsova, as one of the six most influential women artists of the Russian Avant-Garde. The gouaches are bold and fluid colour constructions, showing Saint Catherine, and Sienna, the setting of Anatole France's short story. Exter first collaborated with Anatole France on the movie adaptation of The Gods are Thirsty (1926), and came to illustrate his Le Mystère du Sang almost certainly as a result of the particularly dark state of the world at the time.
Exter played an important role in disseminating Cubist and Futurist ideas in Russia, and contributed to Avant-Garde theatre as a designer and scenographer, notably the Ballets Russes of Diaghilev. But her name first came to public attention in 1907 as a result of her book illustrations, which eventually included the first monograph on Picasso (Picasso i Okrestnosti, Moscow: 1917). Exter perhaps felt a debt to the book as an art form, and as an avid reader had always wanted to illustrate the books she liked the most. Her illustrated manuscripts spring from a Russian tradition which, unlike in the West, does not so readily distinguish between bibliophily and manuscripts collecting. 'Each manuscript had its own calligraphy, Exter playing with downstrokes and upstrokes according to her inspiration so that the synthesis would be complete between text and illustration [leading to] a redynamization of painting as writing and writing as painting'. Chauvelin et al. Alexandra Exter (2003), pp. 367-403.