Jirí Kolár

They Waver, but their Eyes Are Gimlet-Sharp and Gleam Like Holes where Water Sleeps at Night

1972

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On display at Tate Modern

Original title
Qu'ils sont, ils ont des yeux perçants comme une vrille, luisants come ces trous où l'eau dort dans la nuit
Medium
Photograph and lithograph on paper
Dimensions
Image: 266 x 390 mm
frame: 540 x 692 x 16 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mr and Mrs Rodney Capstick-Dale 1988
Reference
T05040

Display caption

Kolár was both a visual artist and a writer, and in these works he pays homage to nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire whose portrait recurs in all of them. Kolár (pronounced to sound like ‘collage’) developed various different ways of combining imagery; he called this technique of interlacing vertical strips of two different images ‘prollage’. In each case the reproduced painting interwoven with the poet’s portrait reminded Kolár of a particular line from Baudelaire’s collection of poems ‘The Flowers of Evil’, from which the titles are borrowed.

Gallery label, January 2016

Catalogue entry

T05040 They Waver, but their Eyes Are Gimlet-Sharp and Gleam like Holes where Water Sleeps at Night 1972

Qu'ils sont, ils ont des yeux perçants comme une vrille, luisants comme ces trous où l'eau dort dans la nuit
Photo-lithograph on wove paper 265 × 390 (10 1/2 × 15 1/2)
Inscribed ‘JK 72’ b.r. and ‘J Kolář 72’ on back centre
Presented by Mr and Mrs Rodney Capstick-Dale 1988
Prov: Johanna Ricard, Nuremberg 1972, who sold it to Rodney Capstick-Dale 1983 or 1984
Exh: Jiří Kolář: Hommage à Baudelaire, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, April–June 1973, Museum Boy-mans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Sept.–Nov. 1973 (43); Jiři Kolář: Collagen Rollagen Chiasmagen Crumblagen, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, April–June 1973 (207); Jiři Kolář ... Unterwegs ins Paradies Collagen und Objekte, Gutenberg-Museum, Mainz, Aug.–Sept. 1980, Kunstverein, Wolfsburg, Oct.–Nov. 1980, p.14, no number, as ‘Die ärmlichen Greisinnen (Gebrochen sind sie, doch die alten Augen leben, die Blicke funkeln noch wie Pfützen in der Nacht)’; Jiři Kolář: Collages 1952–82, Albemarle Gallery, June–July 1987 (no number)
Lit: Ronald Alley, 'Jiři Kolář and the Poetry of Collage in Jiři Kolář: Collages 1953–1982, exh. cat., Albemarle Gallery 1987, p.11

Like T05031, T05038 and T05039 (see previous entries), T05040 belongs to a series of fifty-six collages made between 1972 and 1973, in which two reproductions are combined. All these works include a reproduction of a photographic portrait of the French poet Charles Baudelaire by Carjat, c.1861, and a reproduction of a painting. The subject of the painting recalled for Kolář lines from one of Baudelaire's poems in the cycle Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), published in 1857, which are given as the title of the collage. In T05040 the painting is by Théodore Géricault and is entitled ‘Portrait of a Mad Woman’, 1822–4 (Musée des beaux-arts, Lyon). It depicts a female figure wearing a white bonnet and a brown dress. Kolář cut out the reproduction from an Italian series of art books called Maestri del colore. The photo-lithographic reproduction of Baudelaire was specially produced for Kolář by Johanna Ricard, the dealer who commissioned the series. It is black and white, although blue is visible in the contours of the face where the registration is not precise due to the inexact alignment in the printing process of the different colour overlays. The reproductions were cut vertically into narrow sections of equal width and glued in alternate strips onto a cardboard support.

Kolář has made many works inspired by Charles Baudelaire, including the series to which T05040 belongs. He has developed numerous types of collage and this one is called a ‘prollage’. When acquired by the Tate Gallery, T05040 was titled after the poem ‘Les Petites Vieilles’ ‘The Little Old Women’. Originally, however, it was titled after the opening lines in the fifth stanza of the same poem and the compiler has followed this original title. For detailed discussion on the reasons for this change, the subject and series, and on Kolář's specialist collage techniques, see the entry on T05031.

The artist has approved this entry.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996