Fables of La Fontaine

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University of Washington Press, Jun 1, 2006 - Art - 153 pages
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In 1855 the French caricaturist Honoré Daumier and six other artists proposed to illustrate anew the fables of revered French poet and fabulist Jean de la Fontaine (1621-95), and what a book it would have been! Their project was never realized -- until now. Prompted by Daumier's intention, artist Koren Christofides has brought together more than sixty artists from across the United States, Europe, and Asia to create original artwork for Fables of La Fontaine. These illustrations -- by painters, printmakers, photographers, ceramists, sculptors, conceptual artists, fiber artists, and art historians -- celebrate an extraordinary intersection of contemporary art with the fabulist tradition. Constantine Christofides and Christopher Carsten have translated sixty-five of La Fontaine's fables. Readers will not only find familiar tales, such as "The Hare and the Tortoise," that have delighted generations of children and adults, but also a trove of lesser-known satiric fables, such as "The Man Between Two Ages and His Two Mistresses," translated here with sophisticated gusto and an elegance worthy of La Fontaine's enduring genius. A cogent introduction by Constantine Christofides describes the volatile social context of seventeenth-century France as well as the literary tradition, stemming from Aesop, that underlies La Fontaine's fables. Koren Christofides, the project's initiator and director, gives a curator's account in her preface of the present-day artists' exhibition from which the book's illustrations were chosen

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The Grasshopper and the Ant Fay Jones USA
A Council Convened by the Rats Andrew Johnson USA
The Hare and the Frogs Harry Bower USA

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About the author (2006)

Although he had a degree to practice law, La Fontaine does not seem to have done so but, rather, spent his life in Paris dependent on aristocratic patrons. His principal contribution to literature was his 12 books of Fables, to which he devoted 30 years of his life. They were published from 1668 to 1694 and are universally appreciated in France by children and adults alike. In drawing on a tradition of the fable going back to Aesop, La Fontaine created a portrait of human life and French society through the representations of animals. His work is marked by great insight into human moral character, while it preaches the value of the middle road.

Koren Christofides is a widely exhibited painter whose work is in private and public collections in the United States and Europe. At the inception of the Fables project she was artist-in-residence at the Center for Art and Culture of the Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Constantine Christofides is professor emeritus of comparative literature, French, and art history, University of Washington. Currently the Distinguished professor of humanities at the Institute for American Universities, he has been honored as a Chevalier in the Order of Palmes Acad?miques by the French Republic for his contributions to French culture.

Christopher Carsten, a poet and translator, has taught English literature and poetry at the University of Provence, Aix-en-Provence, and is currently on the faculty in philosophy and music history at the Institute for American Universities.

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