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Cendrars/Delaunay at the Morgan Library

Master Drawings from the Hermitage and Pushkin Museums
(September 25 - January 10, 1999)
The Morgan Library
29 East 36th Street (at Madison)
Tues-Thur, 10:30-5:00; Sat 10:30-6:00; Sun noon-6:00.

Even in this impressive display of Old Master drawings "La Prose du
Transsibrien et de la petite Jeanne de France," an accordion book written
by Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay in 1913, stands out. If you know
this work only from reproductions, then you haven't seen it yet. At the
Morgan it's beautifully displayed so that one can see it from across the
room as if it were an elegantly balanced painting, one of Robert
Delaunay's Simultaneist canvases for instance. Up close it's more like
Cubo-Futurism: if you've ever been in a train crashing through the Russian
countryside in the middle of the night with great shafts of light shooting
intermittently into your darkened compartment, this is what this book is
about. Sonia Delaunay's pochoir colors interact with the multicolored type
of Cendrars's poem with marvelous, delicate effect. The pochoir effect is
in fact closer to watercolor in its freedom, and there are passages of,
say, red brushwork on pink type whose texture no reproduction could
convey. If you love books, don't miss this one.

Also at the Morgan Library: A dozen or so manuscripts from the collection,
notably the Hours of Catherine of Clves, A gilded Ottonian Gospel from
Salzburg, and, oddly enough, a reproduction of the back cover of the
Lindau Gospels placed next to the actual book with only its front cover
showing. It's annoying to be confronted with the copy when you know that
the original is inches away, unseen. And, of course, the Gutenberg Bible.

Paul Werner, New York City

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