The art of Pierre Clayette, 1930–2005


The Library of Babel (no date).

Another French artist who specialised in fantastic architecture, Pierre Clayette’s work came to my attention via the picture above which illustrates a Borges story. This leads me to wonder once again what it is about French and Belgian artists which attracts them more than others to this type of imagery.


Whatever the reason, there isn’t a great deal of Clayette’s work online and biographical details are few. This page (the source of the untitled picture above) reveals that he worked as an illustrator for Planète magazine, the journal of “fantastic realism” founded by Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels in the early Sixties. Some readers may know that pair as the authors of a { feuilleton } cult volume, The Morning of the Magicians (1960), whose vertiginous blend of speculative and weird fiction, occultism and futurology Planète was intended to continue.


Clayette also worked as a theatre designer and book illustrator. Le Chateau (above) is an illustration from Songes de Pierres, a 1984 portfolio depicting scenes from Pierres by Roger Caillois. That writer has his own significant Borges connection, being responsible for introducing Borges’ work to France via his editorship of the UNESCO journal, Diogenes. (Pauwels and Bergier later published Borges in Planète.)

Finally, there’s a less extravagant Flickr collection of some Clayette covers for Penguin Shakespeare editions. All of which only scratches the surface of what was evidently a prolific career; I’ll look forward to more examples of his work coming to light.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Michiko Hoshino
The art of Erik Desmazières
The art of Gérard Trignac
The Absolute Elsewhere

4 thoughts on “The art of Pierre Clayette, 1930–2005”

  1. They’ve both got that ribbed thing going on but I think that’s as far as it goes. Clayette stays within the bounds of the probable so his Babel picture is all books and wood detailing. Giger veers quite happily into biomechanical abstraction, especially in his New York series of paintings which the Babel one most reminds me of. HRG has never been big on perspective either, most of his work tends to be very flat.

    I wonder whether the Babel picture was in colour originally; I suspect it probably was.

  2. This post hits on virtually all of my interests. Can’t wait to read Morning of the Magicians especially.

    If you haven’t picked it up, one of Caillois’ fantasy anthologies was published in English in the 60s as The Dream Adventure:

    It’s a nice companion to Borges’ The Book of Fantasy and Calvino’s Fantastic Tales. (And Manguel’s Black Water anthologies.)

    I came to Caillois via a Cioran essay about “Stones.” After that I started seeing his name crop up everywhere — with Bataille (in the College of Sociology), the Surrealists, weird ethnographers, dream psychologists, you name it. Most significantly, perhaps, was his work piecing together and reviving The Saragossa Manuscript. I keep meaning to sit around for a few weeks in the library with a complete set of Diogenes.


  3. Hi Will. Morning of the Magicians is the Ur-text of all the crank volumes which flooded the paperback stalls throughout the Sixties and Seventies (and which the late RT Gault’s site documents). It also manages to transcend the books which followed by not really stating any grand theories outright, P & B were more concerned to throw a whole mass of disparate elements into the crucible and see what sparks flew as a result. That sustains its fascination and it’s also what made their follow-up, Impossible Possibilities a disappointment when they started making ludicrous prognostications of what life will be like in the near future. I haven’t seen a copy of MotM around for a while; keep intending to buy another as mine is old and battered.

    Caillois seems to have evaded my radar as a writer, only know his name via the Surrealist connections. I’ve got The Book of Fantasy and the original Black Water so I’m definitely interested in anything similar. Thanks for the tip.

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