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Had we never known Eisenstein as a film director, his sketches and drawings alone would have been sufficient to class him with the most interesting and original artists of our times. But today, it is especially fascinating to review his sketches and drawings in connection with his general artistic outlook, his work as a film director and teacher, his views on art, and his artistic likes and dislikes.
And more likely than not, Eisensteins drawings are the truest and straightest path to an insight into his creative method, the crucible of his inner life. Incisive in thought, lucid and laconic in form, they express their authors social temperament, his social leanings, his understanding of the conflicts in art, and his penetration into the tragic, comic, pathetic, and grotesque.
The predominating theme of Eisenstein the artist was the searching for the expressive delineation of the individual, the searching that reveals inexhaustible imagination, power of observation, and the artists striking visual erudition.
From his earliest years Eisenstein was deeply absorbed in a versatile study and profound representation of man in his relations to his environment, tracing an infinite variety of human characters in widely different positions and situations.
Eisensteins sketches and drawings above all revealed the film directors approach, for his drawings presented an infinite file of human characters in tense, dramatic action.
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Cest une galerie de personnages inseres dans une action drama-tique.
Dans Comment je suis de-venu cineaste Eisenstein ccrit:
(i Tele baissee, jc fon^ai dans le theatre .. . Dabord comme decoruteur. Puis comme meltcur en scene... Lessentiel, cest que mon altirance vers la mysterieuse carriere dinommee art etait invincible, gloutonne, insatiable.
Si le metteur en scene la emporte en lui sur le peintre, ce fut en verlu des dominantes de son talent. Mais le coup dceil du cineaste a toujours feconde le coup de main du dessina-teur, tout de meme que la technique du dessi-natcur a infiniment enrichi lccuvre du metteur en scene. Aussi Eisenstein na-t-il pas degal pour la creation de limage visuelle.
Tout enfant, il couvrait ses cahiers de dessins ou il faisait passer a la fois son experience quotidienne, ses impressions de lecture, ses souvenirs de pieces de theatre, doperas, de spectacles de cirque, contractant ainsi des le jeune age c.ette habitude de penser, le crayon a la main, quil devait garder toute sa vie, et appeler plus tard sa steno plastique.
Ce don de dessinateur, il mettra ensuite a profit pour son ceuvre de metteur en scene, dans les centaines de dessins pour Alexandre Nevski et pour Ivan-le-Terrible, dans ses etudes pour la mise en sc^ne de la Walkyric de Wagner au Theatre Bolchei, dans ses esquisses de banets et de figures de ballet.
Mais il a continue pendant toute sa carriere de dessiner pour soi, sans but utilitaire. 11 ne cesse de sentrainer, de poser sa vision, selon une expression de Serov qu'il aimait & repeter, de resoudre des problemes de composition. A lInstitut du cinema il exigeait aussi de ses sieves quils sachent transmettre Iimpression visuelle a la main , parce que, disait-il, la veritable illustration du mouvement nest pas la plioto, mais le dess in .
Meditant sur les portraits de Serov, il releve que, chez ce peintre, le caraclere se degage de la multiplicite des contingences, que cc sont des roles dejii tlabores sous le rapport psychologi-que , quon pourrait les jouer.
La remarque vaut pour ses propres dessins.
Prenons par exemple la serie de ses croquis de la vie quotidienne (A Iiglise, Liseuse, le Pouls, Point dinterrogation, les Mordus du cinema, Filature, le Pa, et tous ses couples qui variations sur un theme eternel:
Espagnole au balcon, Rond-de-cuir, les conseils). Partout nous decouvrons le meme choix rigoureux des moyens dexpression, la meme volontc de decouvrir le ressort cache, ce quEisenstein appelait ole noyau dexpressif,
I plunged headlong into my work at the theatre ... first as an artist, and then as a director," he recalls in his essay, How I Became a Director. The main thing was that my yearning for the mysterious life-process styled art was irresistible and insatiable.
If the producer triumphed over the artist in him, it was due only to the peculiarity of his talent. His producers vision always nourished and fertilized his graphic art just as his skill as an artist infinitely enriched the creativity of the outstanding producer. It was not accidental that Eisenstein had probably no equal in creating the visual effects of his films.
When still a child he filled one thick notebook after another with his drawings. Even then his pictures were vibrant with his impressions of life, of the books he had read, and the opera, theatre, and circus performances he had seen. This habit of thinking in graphic terms was to stay with him all his life. Later, he termed his drawings visual stenographic reports.
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