Archives - Paul Eluard

Eugène Émile Paul Grindel, known as Paul Éluard, was born into a modest family in Saint-Denis on December 14, 1895.

In 1908, his family moved to Paris. A scholar at the Colbert higher school, Paul Éluard obtained his patent in 1912. His schooling was disrupted by poor health. He suffered from a lung disease that led him to spend several stays in Swiss sanatoriums. It was at the age of 17, during one of these stays, that he fell in love with the young Russian Helena Diakonova, nicknamed Gala, who became his inspiring muse.

In 1914 he was mobilized and went as a military nurse to the Somme front. Following bronchitis, he was sent back to Paris. The war and the trenches will mark him forever.

In 1917, at the age of 22, he married Gala and became a father the following year. In Paris he first joined the Dada movement, then he took part in the Surrealist movement.

Paul Eluard and Gala. Photo André Breton.

In 1926 Paul Eluard with Louis Aragon and André Breton joined the French Communist Party and took a stand against fascism. During this time he published two essential collections: Capital of Pain (1926) and Love and Poetry (1929).

In 1928 Gala left him for the painter Salvador Dalì, after having been for a while the mistress of Max Ernst. Nevertheless, the bonds of affection will remain intact and he will remain close to them all his life.

Throughout his life Paul Éluard maintained friendships with numerous painters.

Portrait of Paul Éluard by Salvador Dali. Oil on cardboard, 33 x 25 cm, 1929

In 1929, Éluard met Maria Bentz, nicknamed Nusch, a stage artist. He falls in love again. They married in 1934. Nusch was both wife and accomplice of Éluard and model and muse of surrealist painters.

The Surrealists group, Paris, 1930.
From left to right Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, André Breton, Hans Arp, Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Rene Crevel, Man Ray.
I love it, because their eccentricity is in their works, in their thinking, while they are all very clean, shirt, tie. Dali and Ernst are really two very handsome guys, that doesn't spoil anything, right?

August 1930. Éluard and Breton return from vacation, lonely and unhappy. In two weeks, they completed the writing of a book together, "The Immaculate Conception", an unidentified, fascinating and enigmatic literary object...
There Legend has it that it was in order to “kill time” that Breton and Éluard began writing this collection. “The perfect knowledge that we had of each other made our work easier. But above all it encouraged us to organize it in such a way that a poetic philosophy would emerge.”
In this prose collection, the two tendencies that Breton and Éluard embody within the surrealist movement are brought together: the first, ardent defender of the most baroque and revolutionary automatic writing, the second, more inclined to a a certain poetic transparency, an obviousness which disarms the reader. Here, their common will is displayed: through a radically new word, it is a question of setting out in search of the Truth itself.
Dali, Gala, Eluard and Nush in 1931 photographed by Man Ray.

From 1931 to 1935, Éluard traveled Europe as an ambassador for the surrealist movement. In 1936, in Spain, he learned of Franco's counter-revolution, against which he protested violently. The following year, the bombing of Guernica inspired him to write the poem “Victory of Guernica.” During these two terrible years for Spain, Éluard and Picasso were inseparable.

Excluded from the Communist Party in 1933 like the other surrealists, Eluard continued his fight in favor of revolutions. He travels throughout Europe subject to fascist regimes.

“Nusch in the Mirror”, photo by Man Ray, 1935.

In 1935, Éluard became intimate with Picasso who was going through a serious crisis. Separated from Olga, Picasso stopped painting. Between the two men everything converges: the same taste for poetry, the same vision of artistic creation, the same lifestyle.

On January 8, 1936 Picasso drew a portrait of Éluard which shows to what extent the current passes between the two artists. This luminous portrait will serve as a frontispiece to the collection Les Yeux Fertiles .

In March 1936, Éluard introduced Picasso to his friend Dora Maar, who deeply disturbed him. This young photographer will enter his life and his painting. Secretly leaving Paris for Juan-les-Pins, Picasso began painting again with frenzy. A true resurrection! And when Picasso returned to Paris by surprise, Éluard celebrated their reunion in his poem À Pablo Picasso , which will become the central point of his new collection entitled in homage to the painter, Les yeux fertiles. Written on May 15, 1936, in the middle of the Popular Front, during the strikes, this poem reflects the jubilation of their newfound friendship.

To Pablo Picasso

Have a good day, I saw again who I won't forget
Who I will never forget

And fleeting women whose eyes
Made me a guard of honor
They wrapped themselves in their smiles

Have a good day, I saw my friends without worries
Men didn't weigh much
One who passed
His shadow changed into a mouse
Flee into the stream

I saw the sky very big
The beautiful look of people deprived of everything
Remote beach where no one approaches

Have a good day which started melancholy
Black under the green trees
But who suddenly drenched in dawn
Entered my heart by surprise.

Mobilized in September 1939 in the commissariat, in June 1940 he settled with Nusch in Paris. During the period of German occupation, Paul Éluard was part of the resistance. He participates in clandestine literature at the head of the National Committee of Northern Zone Writers.

His poem “Freedom” (see here) was launched in thousands of copies over France occupied by English planes. He continued to publish until liberation in 1945.

Standing: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose and Louis Aragon. Seated: Picasso, Nusch Eluard. Paul Eluard and Elsa Triolet. Picasso's studio rue des Grands Augustins, Paris, 1944.

Once the war was over, Paul Eluard and Nusch increased the number of tours and conferences in Europe on the sign of peace. On November 28, 1946, Nusch died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Paule Éluard is overcome by pain.

Very interesting and amusing photo of the Surrealists group, we recognize Dalì, Gala, Éluard…
Um, finally, recognize? Recognize the spirit in all cases.

Poem by Paul Éluard. Illustrations: wood engravings by Serge Rezvani. Work published in only 16 copies by Aimé Maeght in 1947,

“She had a palace built for herself which resembled a pond in a forest, for all the regulated appearances of light were buried in mirrors, and the diaphanous treasure of her virtue rested in the depths of gold and emeralds, like a beetle. »

This poem with mythical, even mythological overtones, is a madness of love, sensual and even erotic. Enhanced by the somewhat callipygic and terribly enigmatic portraits of women drawn and engraved by Serge Rezvani. Rezvani is also known for having composed "Le Tourbillon de la vie", a song written for the film "Jules et Jim" by François Truffaut and sung by Jeanne Moreau.

Paul Eluard by Fernand Léger, 1947

In 1948, with Picasso, he was invited to participate in the Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in Wroclaw, Poland.

Rare invitation card to the exhibition of 85 original etchings produced by Roger Chastel to illustrate "Le bestiaire" by Paul Eluard and presented at the Galerie Maeght from February 11 to 21, 1949.

In 1949, at the Mexico Peace Congress, Eluard met his third wife Dominique, whom he married in 1951.

Portrait of Paul Eluard by Valentine Hugo
Three portraits of Paul Eluard by Alberto Giacometti, 1952

Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso

Paul Eluard died of a heart attack on November 18, 1952. He is buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. His funeral was organized by the French Communist Party.

The infinite sadness on Picasso's face, at the funeral of Paul Eluard. Photo Marc Riboud.
After the death of Éluard Picasso will no longer have any poet friends. He will now have to face alone the questions he asked himself about the role and meaning of art. This is what he did for more than twenty years.