Exhibition Colette & Méheut. The Secret Books
From 11 December 2021 to 26 March 2022
The famous “Regarde…”, by Colette and Méheut. A mythical book, published in 1929 and, for years, highly sought after. A book you thought you knew everything about. Until it was revealed to us, recently, by a collector, the existence of unpublished gouaches by Méheut and the autograph manuscript of Colette. Today, it is these gouaches and unpublished documents that stand out in a book printed on pure cotton paper by Ariel Termine, at Clot, Bramsen and Georges, the oldest lithographic workshop in the world, in Paris.
A book, a dream
Oh! if we could go back in time… If we could follow in their footsteps… Wouldn’t we see them walk through the heavy door of the Center Cristel Éditeur d’Art? She and he came together, a broad smile lighting up their faces… First her, the immense Colette, entering with a sovereign allure. He, Mathurin Méheut, of a more retiring nature, but charming, and extending his hand as a great painter to anyone who would like it. What a picture, dare we say! On the one hand, the famous woman, unquestionably one of the best writers that France has loved; on the other, the one whom the public admired as the main image-maker of Brittany. And both present in Saint-Malo! Both reunited under the cover of the same book, The Secrets of “Regarde…”. Once again, what an event! Colette and Méheut finally turning the pages of the book they had dreamed of…
Because that was what it was all about: a dream. A dream sketched out in Paris in 1929, when a young publisher, Jean-Guy Deschamps, decided to publish a children’s book, the text of which would be written by Colette and illustrated by Méheut. Thus was born “Regarde…”, an album which quickly became legendary. An album available in 750 copies, on which we thought we had said it all – the genius of Colette, the genius of Méheut, the finesse of the coloring executed with a stencil by Jean Saudé, the elegance of the typography, the quality of the paper . So much so that the numbers for this first draw, if there were any on the auction market, were hotly contested! Precisely, up to €6,710, on February 24, 2018, under the hammer of Stéphane Prenveille, auctioneer in Saint-Malo. It was, it is true, a particularly remarkable example since the painter had dedicated it to Baroness Robert de Rothschild, before enhancing it with an additional drawing. Such was indeed the prestige of “Regarde…” that all collectors dreamed of!
If they had known… Yes, if they had known that, behind this magnificent work, a second, even more astonishing, even more prodigious, was hidden… A work which could have been denser, richer, and from which we took the measure in 2019, when an enthusiast introduced us to a treasure carefully preserved for ninety years: the production file of “Regarde…”! In other words, a set containing both Colette’s manuscripts and Méheut’s sketches, sketches, preparatory studies, tracings and notes. We repeat: totally new marvels, among the brightest in the master’s marine career. It is these gouaches in particular that the Center Cristel Éditeur d’Art is pleased to present today – in the same way as it presented on its walls, in the spring of 2017, the twenty-six plates of an Abécédaire also unpublished, and now passed on to posterity.
From this moving file, what were we to do? An artist’s book, of course. A book in every way worthy of the dreams of Colette and Méheut. A book printed sheet by sheet, on pure cotton vellum, by Ariel Termine, at Clot, Bramsen and Georges, the oldest lithographic workshop in the world. A book bringing together in a box, in addition to the painter’s works, an exceptional reprint of the original edition, the facsimile of Colette’s manuscript, as well as a critical apparatus, signed jointly by Gilles Baratte and Anne de Stoop, definitively elucidating the story of “Regarde…”. In short, an incomparable book, destined in turn to become legendary.
A book that we have chosen to print in only 100 copies so that it bears witness forever, in museums, in libraries, among collectors, to this passion that is ours: art publishing.