Henri Michaux by Paul Facchetti.
Portrait of Michaux.
Henri Michaux sitting at his work table 1943-1945 photo Brassaï.
Henri Michaux with a cigarette.
Henri Michaux was educated at a Jesuit school in Brussels. He then enrolled in medical school. The young man abandoned his university studies.
Michaux worked as a merchant seaman. In 1930-1931 he visited Japan, China and India. The trip resulted in his book A Barbarian in Asia. Oriental culture became one of the biggest influences in his oeuvre. The philosophy of Buddhism, as well as Oriental calligraphy, later became principal subjects of his poems and inspired many of his drawings.
His first painting exhibition was held in 1937. Henri Michaux also travelled to Africa and to the American continent, where he visited Ecuador and published the book under the title Ecuador. His travels finished in Brazil in 1939, and he settled there for two years.
He soon moved to Paris, where he started to write and paint. His work attracted the attention of several writers, including André Gide. In 1948 his wife died after accidentally setting fire to her nightgown. Devastated, Michaux began to take drugs, particularly, mescaline, in exploration of his inner self and of further awareness. He was noting down about his experiences. The texts were accompanied by distinctive calligraphic line drawings.
Henri Michaux published three of his books between 1956 and 1959, sharing his experiences with mescaline. Among them were Miserable Miracle, L'infini turbulent and Paix dans les brisements. He also produced a disturbing series of sketches. Most of them were painted in black and white, and a few in colour, created shortly after each of his experiences. His prose, poems and sketches were closely related, reinforcing and illuminating the others.
Nevertheless, Michaux's painting has never been a mere supplement to his poetry: the two are simultaneously autonomous and complementary worlds. A poet first, Henri Michaux started to paint when he realised that this new medium might help him say what he was impossible to say in his poetry.
At sixty-seven Henri Michaux gave up drugs at his doctor's advice, believing he had already experienced all that he could with them anyway. Some of his experiences were reflected in The Major Ordeals of the Mind and the Countless Minor Ones, L'Infini turbulent, Connaissance par les gouffres, and L'Espace du dedans.
In his later years, Michaux devoted most of his talents to painting. That, for him, was another form of exorcism and a better medium to express himself. His artworks were not quite figurative, but suggestive. The Museum of Modern Art in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York both had major exhibitions of his paintings in 1978. For the rest of his life, he lived with his family in Paris.
Untitled (MP 1577)
Untitled Chinese Ink Drawing
Untitled (KC 505)
Red Abstract Composition
Les Trois Graces
Composition aux trois têtes
Untitled (K 254)
"He who has rejected his demons badgers us to death with his angels."
"With your faults, don't hurry. Don't correct them thoughtlessly. What would you put in their place?"
"He who hides his madman dies voiceless."
"The Surrealist supernatural is a bit predictable but given the choice between supernatural and anything else, I would have no hesitation. Long live supernatural!"
"It is almost an intellectual tradition to pay heed to the insane. In my case those that I most respect are the morons."
"It is preferable not to travel with a dead man."
"You can love a woman. To admire her is hard. You are not dealing with something important."
"He who knows how to shave the razor, will know how to erase the eraser."
"He who doesn't know anger doesn't know anything. He doesn't know the immediate."
"A man who knows neither how to travel nor how to keep a journal has put together this travel journal. But at the moment of signing he is suddenly afraid. So he casts the first stone. Here."
Michaux became a French citizen in 1955.
Quotes from others about the person
“Frederic Sepher: "[Michaux is the] least lyric of all contemporary French poets," and employs few metaphors, "he is brilliantly imaginative, inventive and rhythmic. He even verges on the musical in his haunting, desperate litanies with their repetitions and developments."”
Henri Michaux was married. His wife died after accidentally setting fire to her nightgown in 1948.