Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2009 Issue

Signed Documents from David Schulson Autographs

Schulson141

Autographs from David Schulson.


By Michael Stillman

David Schulson Autographs recently released Catalog 141 of autographs and signed documents by important figures of the past couple of centuries. These are all names you will recognize, or if not the name, the individual's role in culture or history. Each item is an opportunity to touch the life of someone who left a mark on this world. Here are some of these autographed items.

Item 12 is a most significant letter from impressionist artist Paul Cezanne. The previously obscure Cezanne's career got a boost when a couple of his paintings brought good prices at an auction on March 19, 1894. However, he was still not that well known when critic Gustave Geffroy wrote a very positive review of his work shortly after the sale. Cezanne was very grateful, and on March 26, he penned this letter (in French) to Geffroy. Writes Cezanne, "I read yesterday the long treatise that you devoted to bringing to light the endeavors I have made in painting. I wanted to express to you my gratitude for the sympathetic understanding I found in you..." Cezanne finally met Geffroy late that year, and in the following year wrote the critic that he would like to draw his portrait. Geffroy sat for the portrait regularly for many months, but Cezanne abruptly stopped the project and, despite Geffroy's urgings, never quite finished it. It is unclear whether something Geffroy said, perhaps his liberal political or religious views, offended the sensitive Cezanne, or whether it was simply a case of artist's block. This letter is priced at $17,500.

Guillaume Apollinaire and Pablo Picasso were good friends in the early 20th century. Apollinaire was a French poet who created the term "surrealism" to describe his work. Picasso, the artist, needs no introduction. Picasso drew inspiration from the poet's work for his own artistic endeavors. Item 1 is an undated Apollinaire letter to an unnamed recipient, dealing with the publication of an image of one of Picasso's paintings. Apollinaire notes that Picasso has diverse styles from which to choose, and writes, "In any case I shall ask Picasso to indicate which drawing he would like to see published." $2,850.

Item 16 is a 1914 letter from Marie Curie to her daughter's tutor. Curie, along with her husband Pierre, was a pioneer in discovering radioactivity, research for which she won two Nobel Prizes. This letter is interesting because Curie also notes (in French), "Mr. Langevin certainly appreciates your efforts in that matter. By helping him in his difficult life you made sure he could pursue his work regularly and brought him some peace." Pierre died in accident in 1905, and six years later, his widow took up an affair with Langevin. It was a major scandal, used against this French naturalized but Polish born scientist in her not always welcoming adopted homeland. Langevin, a former student of Pierre, was an unhappily married father of four at the time of the affair. $12,500.

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