Paris: Henri Laurens, Editeur, . Side-stapled volume, measuring 10.5 x 8.5 inches: . Original color pictorial paper boards. Seven color plates and seven matching uncolored plates, with two additional uncolored plates reproducing the color images printed on the boards. Lightest general foxing and toning.
First edition of Maurice Denis’s iconic modernist coloring book, Premiers Paysages (First Landscapes). A founding member of the group of French painters known as Les Nabis, Denis was invited by editor Henri Laurens to contribute to a popular children’s art series, Les Leçons de Choses du Petit Coloriste. In response, during the summer of 1911, Denis produced a series of dreamlike French landscapes. “Petits coloristes” can lose themselves in painting scenes of villages and mountains, countryside and seashore, with captions by Denis that provide a wry running commentary on his creative process: “Ce n'est pas difficile de faire des maisons quand on ne fait pas toutes les fenêtres.” (Denis even reminds his young readers to keep their paints separate and their brushes clean.) The quality of these vibrant landscapes, which exemplify Denis’s famous definition of painting as “a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order,” was immediately recognized. In 1912, the bibliophilic society “Les XX” commissioned a deluxe edition of twenty signed copies, featuring an extra plate and multiple impressions of each image. This first edition of Premiers Paysages, while less lavishly produced, reflects the book’s original identity as an inexpensive, ephemeral activity book: surviving examples are typically found with plates colored by early owners. From the stock of legendary book scout Martin Stone (1946-2016), with his penciled note: “of the utmost rarity.” We locate copies of this trade issue at BNF, Getty, Yale, and the Smithsonian: this copy, like the Yale copy, is staple-bound. A near-fine unused example.