(BAUDELAIRE). BULWER-LYTTON, Neville. ~ Vingt poèmes de Charles Baudelaire illustrés par Neville Lytton. [France], 1934.
Oblong folio (380 × 575 mm), 53 leaves (which include a calligraphic title-page, 13 leaves of illustrations and 39 calligraphic text leaves), with a total of 20 original watercolour and gouache illustrations (6 full page, c. 230 × 400 mm and 14 smaller, c. 230 × 180 mm), 2 of the text leaves with calligraphic borders, various ornaments including illuminated initials and calligraphic tailpieces. Occasional browning/offsetting but generally very clean. All mounted on original guards in a contemporary full vellum binding.
A spectacular and unique interpretation of Baudelaire by Neville Lytton including 20 original watercolours with illuminated borders. The twenty poems comprise: Le Calumet de la Paix - Bohémiens en voyage - La Géante - Le Cygne - La Beauté - L’Idéal - La Vie antérieure - Sisina - Un Voyage à Cythère - XVIII - A une Passante - L’Albatros - L’Ennemi - Bien loin d’ici - Une gravure fantastique - L’Amour et le Crâne - La Cloche fêlée - Le Voyage - Le Balcon - Les Bijoux. Each of Lytton’s images is in the visionary tradition ―most have an otherworldly quality, and some border on Surrealism.
Most of the poems are given in two calligraphic versions, one probably written with a steel nib, the other with an oblique nib, perhaps a quill-pen. Three poems appear in only one version: La Cloche fêlée in steel nib version only and Le Balcon and Les Bijoux only in quill pen.
Neville Bulwer-Lytton (1879-1951) was grandson of the novelists Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Rosina Doyle Wheeler and his siblings included the suffragette Constance Lytton and Emily Lutyens. He was a man of many parts: a military officer, cricketer, Olympic athlete and artist ― educated at Eton and the École des Beaux-Arts. He was also an accomplished morris dancer and played an ivory flute.
Among several notable portraits he painted George Bernard Shaw in papal robes (in imitation of Velazquez) and a series of fashionable women in sumptuous velvets and silks, but he is best known for the series of First World War frescoes for the Victory Hall at Balcombe, Sussex. Throughout his career he also painted watercolour miniatures, intensely detailed with a distinctive coloration ― a style entirely suitable for these Baudelaire illustrations. His first wife was Judith Blunt, daughter of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (divorced in 1923), and he was an important member of circles of artists and connoisseurs around the turn of the 20th century. He was friendly with Sydney Cockerell, spent weekend with the Churchills and Eddie Marsh claimed that it was meeting Lytton that inspired his love of collecting. In 1924 Lytton married Rosa Alexandrine (Sandra) Fortel of St Rambert-en-Bugey, near Lyon and settled in France, asborbing himself deeply in French artistic culture. He wrote: ‘‘I love France because I am an artist, and in this glorious country artists are considered to be sacred --- to them gratitude is shown for the renouncing of material wealth and worldly values and the adoption of a life of struggle which as a rule is only understood by a small number of contemporaries’ (‘Reasons why I love France’ in Life in Occupied France, 1942).