Patrick Caulfield (1936 – 2005) was a British painter and printmaker whose pictures combine simple graphics with a naive pictorial style in which personal, social, political and artistic images meet.
This is part 3 of a 4-part post on the works of Patrick Caulfield. Parts 1 - 3 feature Caulfield's work chronologically. For biographical notes on Caulfield see part 1.
Part 4 features his 1973 silkscreen print series Some Poems of Jules Laforgue. Caulfield was introduced to the poetry of Laforgue by a fellow student at the Royal College of Art who suspected that the 19th Century French poet would appeal to him. Caulfield kept hold of the college library’s translation long past its return date. The qualities that he particularly admired in Laforgue’s poems could also, perhaps, describe Caulfield’s art – “wonderfully concise, managing to be both romantic and ironic”. When invited to produce a limited edition book, Jules Laforgue was Caulfield’s natural subject choice.
Laforgue was a pioneer of what we now refer to as free verse. He experimented with vocabulary, structure and rhythm, and his poetry had a considerable impact on 20th Century Imagist poets such as Ezra Pound and T.S.Eliot. His books of verse include Les Complaintes (1885) and Imitation de Notre Dame la lune (1887).
He spent much of his short career entertaining the Francophile Empress Augusta at the German court, touring Europe and writing verse which was often accompanied by music. This experience was possibly a factor in the development of his innovatory style of poetry.
Laforgue was also interested in art criticism and was an early supporter of the Impressionists. Although his verse probably had more in common with Symbolist art with his extensive use of imagery and interest in the sub-conscious, he admired the anti- academism of these young Parisians. He felt that he shared a common aim in his own artistic endeavours as he too was pursuing new ways of expressing life in the modern age. Laforgue was also an early supporter of women’s liberation. He died at the age of 27 from tuberculosis.
Much of Laforgue’s poetry attempts to capture the banality of everyday life. In Complaint about a certain Sunday, for example, there is an underlying tension between the need for outward repose and the inner hysteria that the poet is experiencing through sheer boredom.