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A lyric poet, painter, and draughtsman, Henri Michaux produced small-scale works in India ink, watercolor, oil, and acrylic. Influenced by the paintings of Paul Klee, Max Ernst, and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as by his experiences taking hallucinogenic drugs such as mescaline, Michaux worked in a Surrealist style with figurative elements that verged on abstraction. In Untitled (1959), small figurative black forms are scattered across a sheet of paper; each form is simultaneously distinct and seemingly absorbed into the field of other marks, pointing to the artist’s preoccupation with notions of eternity and the absurdity of the human condition. Michaux based his “Alphabet” series in ink on his personal ideograms. He also contributed to several avant-garde journals and wrote travelogues and art criticism, as well as poetry.
In the warm mist of a girl’s breath
I took my place.
I stole away, I did not leave my place.
Her arms weigh nothing. One encounters them like water.
All that is faded disappears before her. Nothing is left but her eyes.
Tall splendid grass, tall splendid flowers were growing in our field.
Impediment so light upon my breast, how heavily you weigh there now,
What pressure you exert there, now that you are no more.
[Translated from the French, La Jeune Fille de Budapest]