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Henri Michaux, poet-painter

by Halasz, Alison Vort

Abstract (Summary)
Henri Michauxs trip to the Far East in 1930-1931 became a point of departure for his career-long inquiry into the relation between language and image which led him to combine the poetic and the pictorial as a way to relieve tensions within his divided self. For over sixty years, the Belgian-born (1899-1984) poet-painter created text-only, image-only, and over twenty text-and-image works. The merging of language and image in Michauxs text-and-image projects breaks down divisions between these two arts and consequently moves away from G. E. Lessings separation of the arts. This departure from the modernist view of literature and art positions Michaux as a transitional figure: as a practitioner between arts, cultures, and period styles. Just as Michauxs divided self came together to a certain degree from his creative work, so too did his work obtain a unity of the poetic and the pictorial that blended into one kind of expression. Although Michaux combined words and images to explore the self, this activity led to the parallel development of Michaux as a poet-painter and to a merging relation between the verbal and the visual. This dissertation explores Michauxs transformation into a hybrid artist and the works he produced between 1922 and 1984. The initial chapter approaches the biographical features contributing to Michauxs career as a poet-painter and how mixing media was essential to his practice. The following chapter frames the relations of words and images in a theoretical context, focusing on Lessings separation of the sister arts and on W. J. T. Mitchells opposing view, in which he considers language and image not as separate forms of expression but instead as overlapping forms. This framework serves as the methodology for approaching Michauxs corpus and this analysis situates his mixed-media work in relation to writers and artists like Guillaume Apollinaire and René Magritte. The final chapter presents case studies of the verbal-visual overlap in Michauxs text-and-image projects and his poetic inquiry into his own visual art and that of other artists. These constructions illustrate the diversity within Michauxs work while showing the unity within his text-and-image corpus.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Dr. Philip Watts; Dr. Millard F. Hearn; Dr. Roberta Hatcher; Dr. Daniel Russell

School:University of Pittsburgh

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:french

ISBN:

Date of Publication:09/19/2007

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