The J. Paul Getty Trust Research Home Search Tools & Databases Collection Inventories and Finding Aids
Collection Inventories and Finding Aids

Home | Return to Search Results

Find a term within this inventory

Print View

Robert Valançay correspondence, 1921-1978

Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record for this collection. Click here for the access policy.
Finding aid for the Robert Valançay correspondence, 1921-1978

Scope and Content of Collection

Letters to and from Robert Valançay represent the personal and professional correspondence still in Valançay's possession upon his death. They span a period of over 50 years from the 1920s to the 1970s and treat a wide variety of literary issues that likewise concerned much of the French avant-garde. Among the prominent surrealist and Dada artists and poets who figure in this archive are Hans Arp, Hans Bellmer, André Breton, Blaise Cendrars, René Char, Jean Crotti, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, Raoul Hausmann, Maurice Heine, Richard Huelsenbeck, Georges Hugnet, Marcel Jean, Guy Lévis, Mano, Pierre de Massot, Amédée Ozenfant, Meret Oppenheim, Henri Parisot, Pastoureau, Roland Penrose, Man Ray, Hans Richter, Guy Rosey, André Salmon, Yves Tanguy and Jacques Villon.

Valançay's activities can be divided into his poetic efforts and his work as a translator. As a young man, he seems to have been involved with a group of Norman poets whose most famous member was a Charles Théophile Féret. The letters from Féret, Charles Boulen, Fernand Fleuret, Napoléon Roinard are concerned with the promotion of Norman literature and they clearly consider Valançay an ally in their campaign. This group of writers also encouraged Valançay's poetic aspirations, congratulating him on the publication of various articles and volumes of poetry. By 1930, Valançay had made the acquaintance of many of the French poets associated with surrealism. The collection includes letters from André Breton, Blaise Cendrars, René Char, Paul Eluard and Georges Hugnet. Valançay was a close friend--they use the "tu" form of address--of both Eluard and Hugnet; the Hugnet letters are particularly warm and express the anxiety of living in war-time Paris.

Valançay's interest in translation may have been ignited by his German teacher Maurice Boucher who was himself a poet and translator. In the more than 60 letters that Boucher sent Valançay, we witness the development of his career. The correspondence begins as a mentor relationship with Boucher offering encouragement and criticism--sometimes extremely technical--of Valançay's poetic efforts and then, over time, changes into a cordial collegiality. As their translator, Valançay was a close friend of Hans Arp, Max Ernst and Hans Bellmer and received a good deal of correspondence from all three men. The Bellmer letters detail a very difficult period, the war years, in the life of their author, offering a vivid autobiographical account of Bellmer's struggle to continue his artistic pursuits despite circumstances. The Ernst and Arp letters concern more professional issues that occupied artist and translator alike.

Valançay received some 70 letters from Henri Parisot who edited L'Age d'or and was associated with the publications Fontaine, Les Quatre Vents and Les Cahiers du sud. Parisot solicited Valançay's help in preparing a volume of German poems translated into French, entitled Anthologie de la poésie humoristique. The collection also includes Valançay's manuscript translations, presumably for this volume, of poems by Paul Celan, Heissenbüttel, Erich Fried, Wilhelm Busch, Christian Morgenstern and Joachim Ringelnatz.

Apart from the aforementioned correspondence, there are interesting letters from other artists, critics and editors associated with surrealism such as Marcel Jean, Francis Picabia, Raoul Hausmann, Maurice Heine, Guy Lévis, Pierre de Massot, Ozenfant, Meret Oppenheim, Pastoureau, Yves Poupard-Lieussou, Raymond Queneau, Man Ray, Hans Richter, Guy Rosey, Yves Tanguy and Jacques Villon. The Valançay letters also include a significant number of lesser known critics, editors and translators that, from a social historian's point of view, potentially offer a valuable source for the reconstruction of this artistic and cultural milieu.

The Valançay letters also contain about 50 photographs; most were presumably taken by Valançay. There are three pornographic postcards which may have come from Paul Eluard's infamous collection. Finally, some 50 letters and cards, despite the best efforts of the cataloguer, remain unidentified.

Arrangement note

The papers are organized in 2 series:
Series I. Letters received, 1921-1978;
Series II. Manuscripts and photographs, 1932-1978.

The J. Paul Getty Trust The J. Paul Getty Trust
© J. Paul Getty Trust
Privacy Policy Terms of Use