The Song of the Dead - Le Chants des Morts

Artist’s Name
Author’s Name
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960)
1948, Paris
Printed in one volume, size 42 x 32 cm
Manuscript of Pierre Reverdy
123 original lithographs, printed in red
Published on ‘vélin d’ Arches’ paper:
  • 250 copies, numbered 1-250
  • 20 copies, off the market, numbered I-XX
Pierre Reverdy, one of the most important modern poets of France, and the Spaniard Pablo Picasso, the most versatile, innovative and productive artist of the 20th century, worked together and produced this excellent book. Reverdy filled the pages of the book with his calligraphic handwritten poems (The Song of the Dead, 1946) expressing his personal intellectual doubts and feelings. Then, Picasso applied the strokes of his vibrant red-coloured brush, full of expressive motion, to these beautiful and luxuriant pages. The result is a harmonic unity, which is created by the drawing that surrounds and passes through the text. Even so, it does not overpower, but supports it. In this way, a perfect amalgamation of text and image is achieved. The book appears to be a kind of improvised dialogue; something like a friendly chat between a poet and a painter.

Pablo Picasso was troubled for a long time about the way in which he would artistically express the poems of Reverdy. At the beginning, he drew some ‘traditional’ illustrations. However, he soon felt the need to match, somehow, the writing of the poet and its sculpting qualities with a relative, accompanying support. Considering the impact of reality, he frees and exposes it to every useless and meaningless idea; then, by using the process of elimination, he brings it back to its meaningful elements. He does not simply try to harmonise his drawings to the text of the book. In reality, he radically renews the relationship between the writings and the painting; he enriches it, giving it a new personal meaning.