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Paul Eluard 1895 - 1957

Paul Éluard was an important poet during the  mid-century and instrumental in the founding of Modernist artistic principles. Born Eugène Grindel in 1895 in Saint-Denis, France, he grew up as an only child, and the small family eventually moved to the 10th arrondissement in Paris, where the young Éluard would attend school. There he excelled at English which led to him spent time in England as a teenager. He also began writing poetry. During this time he also contracted tuberculosis, and during his ensuing convalescence in Switzerland,  Éluard found his inspirations and influences, reading symbolist and avant-garde poets such as Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire and Guillame Apollinaire. He also began reading Russian authors such as Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy, who were recommended by his future wife Helene Dmitrievna Diakanova, a Russian woman, commonly known as Gala. It was this time of exploration that would shape Éluard experimental and political works. 

When World War I broke out, Éluard joined the efforts on the front lines as a medic and an infantry member. These experiences, including the trauma of being gassed, had an extreme influence on his world view. In 1917, his first book was published, its launch catapulting him into the world of the Parisian avant-garde. A member of the Dada movement, Éluard was also heavily involved in the foundation of Surrealism. He collaborated with artists such as Max Ernst, producing works such as Répétitions (1922), which was an illustrated book. The literary works that were born out of this time were predominantly focused on the concept of dislocation and sensuality in relation to poetic meanings.


'The poet is he who inspires rather than he who is inspired.'
Despite the release of the Surrealist manifesto and the ever-growing artistic bustle in Paris, Eluard entered what seemed like the final phase in his writing career in 1924. Mourir de ne pas Mourir was published and the financial support of his father was lost. By March, the poet had disappeared and was presumed dead. However, it transpires that he had gone to travel the world to escape the public impact of Gala’s affair with his once collaborator, Max Ernst. Éluard returned to France later that year and picked up where he left off, soon becoming one of the leading voices of the Surrealist movement. In 1930, Éluard and Gala divorced. Gala went on to move in with Salvador Dali and Éluard married Maria Benz, also known as Nusch. She would stand as a great source of inspiration for some Éluard’s most beautiful and delicate poetry.
The last half of Éluard’s life was politically-centered. He was galvanised by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and rediscovered his Communist views. By the late 1930s, the poet had left Surrealism behind. During World War II, he continued to write but now for the resistance. His poetry was spread around Europe by the British forces as part of its anti-Nazi propaganda campaign, and other poems were broadcasted illegally on pro-Allies radio stations. After the war, Éluard travelled extensively in Europe keen to inspire and discover. Nusch died in 1946, and Éluard married his third wife, Dominique Laure, in 1951. His final book was published that year and a year later Éluard died, at the age of 57.

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Slade House collects and owns original lithographs, giclees and limited edition prints by all of the artists represented here - only some of which are for sale online. Please get in touch if you would like to see our wider collection. 

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