PROUST, Marcel (1871-1922)

Original drawing, inscribed to Reynaldo Hahn : « R.H. (Bininuls) »
N.p.n.d [c. 1909 ?], 1 p. in-8° in black ink on laid paper

Precious drawing by the writer, dedicated to his « Bininuls »

EUR 22.000,-
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Fact sheet

PROUST, Marcel (1871-1922)

Original drawing, inscribed to Reynaldo Hahn : « R.H. (Bininuls) »
N.p.n.d [c. 1909 ?], 1 p. in-8° in black ink on laid paper
Period central fold mark, pencil annotations on the verso

Rare original drawing by Proust, depicting four sailboats buffeted by the waves

The drawing, entitled “Le Départ (gros temps)”, depicts four small sailboats sailing on high, almost vertical waves, each with two passengers on board struggling to hold the jibs and mainsails with difficulty. We can observe the meticulousness with which Proust himself applied to the details, even the smallest, making this drawing rather accomplished.

A pastiche of Turner’s painting
An admirer of the works of William Turner reproduced in John Ruskin’s The Harbours of England, Proust’s inspiration leaves little doubt, as the similarities are striking between his drawing and the reproductions in the book. It was not only in Ruskin’s books that Proust was able to see Turner’s works. Kazuyoshi Yoshikawa explains it in a passage from The Prisoner, the narrator, waiting for Albertine’s return, leafs through “an album by Elstir, a book by Bergotte” (RTP, III, p. 55). However, in a preparatory paper referring to the same passage, Proust writes: “I simply took a book by Bergotte” (notebook 53, f° 20v°), and then added in line spacing “leafed through an album by Turner”, before replacing the latter’s name with that of Elstir. Behind the painter of La Recherche appears William Turner as a spectral figure, alongside Paul-César Helleu, Claude Monet and Whistler.

Although the dating of Proust’s drawings is almost always uncertain, this one is to be compared with the letter-drawing n°02041 (BIP n°52, François Proulx and Caroline Szylowicz), where the caption “view of Lincoln (bensonge)”, dated by Philip Kolb on [Friday, November 26, 1909], appears. This drawing is now in the archives of the Harry Ransom Center at Textas. We can also cite another unpublished letter-drawing mentioned in Turner in the Port of Carquethuit, by Kazuyoshi Yoshikawa, where we find the legend “Entrance to the Port of Dulwich by Turner (insvations and bensonge)”.
These three drawings could form a series, which Proust would have sent to Reynaldo Hahn around the same date, i.e. November 26, 1909.

In other letters, Proust mentions the “series” of drawings he made for Hahn, for example in his letter of [21 or 22 May 1906] where he wrote: “I have made you thirty drawings so pretty that I am very sorry to have lost them […] for they constituted a bold criticism of the different schools of painting” (Corr., vol. VI, p. 87).

« (Ci-joint letterch de Picquart) »
In the medieval-inspired idiom that he used only with Hahn, Proust added this enigmatic caption: “Ci-joint letterch de Picquart”. Would this indicate that Proust wrote a letter-pastiche in the style of Picquart’s letters? Another plausible conjecture is a copy of a letter from Colonel Picquart published in the newspaper Le Siècle on 9 July 1898 and sent in clippings by Proust to Hahn (cf. Jean Denis Bredin, L’Affaire, Julliard, 1983, p. 294). Unless it is a letter about the deferment of thirteen days of military service that Proust was trying to obtain for his valet de chambre by asking for Hahn’s mediation with Picquart, who had become Minister of War (Corr., vol. VIII, pp. 187-188).

Autographes littéraires et historiques, Lettres de Marcel Proust [Marie Nordlinger], (Drouot, 15 and 17 December 1958, lot 149 / n°1). After Reynaldo Hahn’s death in 1947, his cousin Marie Nordlinger, who had helped Marcel Proust in his translation of Ruskin, inherited it.

BIP n°52, Les dessins de Proust à Reynaldo Hahn – Un inventaire, François Proulx and Caroline Szylowicz, 2022, p. 37, n°80099 – Un brouillon inédit de Marcel Proust : lettre pour la « Protestation Picquart », Pyra Wise, Éd. rue d’Ulm, 2009, p. 35 – n°4 – Turner dans le port de Carquethuit, Kazuyoshi Yoshikawa, Éd. rue d’Ulm, 2003, p. 45-46

Lettres à Reynaldo Hahn, éd. Philip Kolb, Gallimard, 1956, p. 135
Philip Kolb had been able to obtain from Marie Nordlinger a microfilm of all Proust’s drawings sent to Hahn for the purposes of his 1956 edition, before they were all sold at the sale on 15 and 17 December 1958. Our drawing was therefore published only once, and although it was very elaborate by Proust and full of small details, many of them do not appear in the reproduction of Lettres à Reynaldo Hahn, of modest quality.