Henri Michaux

Untitled Chinese Ink Drawing


Not on display

Henri Michaux 1899–1984
Ink on paper
Support: 746 × 1099 mm
frame: 780 × 1128 × 40 mm
Purchased 1963

Display caption

Michaux was both a poet and a painter, but he spoke of drawing as a release from words: 'a new language, spurning the verbal'. His drawings are, nevertheless, calligraphic in character, often suggesting indecipherable writing. Between 1954 and 1962 he experimented with working under the influence of the drug mescaline. The early results were obsessively detailed, while the ink drawings show an intense repetition of slashing marks. Michaux described fighting with these blots, likening them to 'insatiable desires or knots of force, which are destined never to take form'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Henri Michaux born 1899 [- 1984]

T00577 Untitled India Ink Drawing 1961

Inscribed 'HM' (monogram) b.r. and on back 'Henri Michaux | Encre 108 x 75 | 1961 | #44200 | 0012'
India ink on paper, 29 3/4 x 43 1/4 (74.5 x 110)
Purchased from the Galerie Daniel Cordier through the Robert Fraser Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1963
Prov: With Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris (purchased from the artist)
Exh: Henri Michaux: Oeuvres Récentes 1959-1962, Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris, October-November 1962 (works not listed); Henri Michaux, Robert Fraser Gallery, London, February-March 1963 (15), wrongly dated 1962

The artist confirmed in 1976 that the date 1961 inscribed on the back is correct and said he is almost certain that it was one of the works exhibited at the Galerie Daniel Cordier in October 1962.

He has commented on his works of this type: 'I try to rouse that which is not absolutely static within me and which may thus (who knows?) break out suddenly, a suddenly new and living movement. It is this movement which I insist must take place, this improvised, spontaneous movement. I should like to paint the inner ferment, not just paint with it or thanks to it ...

'Now about the blots ... They disgust me. I am never rid of them until I have made them jump, run, climb, clamber down again. In themselves they are abhorrent to me and really only blots, which tell me nothing. (I have never been able to see anything at all in a "Rorschach Test"). So I fight them, whip them, I should like to be done at once with their prostrate stupidity, galvanize them, bewilder them, exasperate them, ally them monstrously with everything that moves in the unnameable crowd of beings, of non-beings with a rage for being, to everything, insatiable desires or knots of force, which are destined never to take form, here or elsewhere.'

(This passage is taken from a short speech which Michaux made in 1959 at Frankfurt, to a group of students, and which was later printed in the catalogues of his exhibitions at the Galerie Daniel Cordier in 1959 and at the Robert Fraser Gallery).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.515, reproduced p.515


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