Shortly before the outbreak of the first world war, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire met Louise de Coligny-Châtillon, introduced to him by a friend, in a restaurant in Nice. He was immediately lovestruck, and it seemed the attraction was reciprocal. But war intervened, and Apollinaire was called up for military duty.
From the trenches he regularly wrote to Lou, with poems testifying to the intense love experienced by the poet-combatant. The passion was far from being sentimental; it was both emotional and carnal, regularly occupying the thoughts of the poet abandoned among the troops, the shells whistling above his head and death marking his days. Apollinaire was more than unhappy, cut off from the woman he feels is as necessary to him as the oxygen he breathed. His love was absolute, total, obsessive.
As early as 1915 Apollinaire asked Lou to keep the poems he sent her, of which he had not made a copy, with a view to possible publication. But it was not until 1948 that the Swiss publisher Pierre Cailler produced a complete edition, based on the manuscripts that Louise had kept. As André Salmon writes in the preface to Ombre de mon amour (The Shadow of My Love), ‘It is to Lou that we owe the most beautifully sad songs for those who do not know how to play with the depths of love’.
This illustrated edition, published eight years after its first publication, is the perfect collaboration between an acclaimed and innovative poet and an expressive and passionate artist.
The Vertès-illustrated Ombre de mon amour was published in Paris by Les Cent Bibliophiles de France et d’Amérique (The Hundred Bibliophiles of France and America) in a limited numbered edition of 172 copies.