Gérard Trignac’s Invisible Cities


I wrote a short appreciation of French artist Gérard Trignac back in 2006, and he’s been mentioned a few times since, so it would be remiss of me to not include his etchings in this week’s illustration series. Trignac is a favourite of mine among the current crop of French etchers and engravers for his superb renderings of fantastic architecture. Most of this work is from his own imagination but he’s also illustrated Borges (The Immortal) and Calvino, producing plates for expensive limited volumes. Les Villes Invisibles was published in 1993 by Les Amis du Livre, Paris, in an edition of 200. The combination of a small print run with a series of ten etchings makes this a costly volume; the cheapest edition on Abe.com just now is going for €1500.

Scarcity aside, these are marvellous depictions of Calvino’s cities, as detailed and meticulous as any of Trignac’s other works. One thing that becomes apparent when you start looking at illustrations of Calvino’s novel is that artists tend to pick the same few cities. So in Trignac’s case we have more views of Armilla, Octavia, Zenobia and so on. All of these may be seen at Trignac’s website, while one of the expensive volumes is for sale here. For those who can’t afford the latter I recommend Les Portes du Silence (2004), a collection of Trignac’s work that includes all the plates for Les Villes Invisibles, the Borges’ illustrations, and much more besides.


Thin Cities 2: Zenobia.


Trading Cities 5: Esmeralda.


Continuous Cities 1: Leonia.


Thin Cities 3: Armilla.


Thin Cities 5: Octavia.


Cities and Eyes 2: Zemrude.


Continuous Cities 5: Penthesilea.


Cities and the Dead 4: Argia.


Cities and Signs 2: Zirma.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Colleen Corradi Brannigan’s Invisible Cities
Le Città In/visibili
Mikhail Viesel’s Invisible Cities
Bookmark: Italo Calvino
Crossed destinies revisted
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
Tressants: the Calvino Hotel

4 thoughts on “Gérard Trignac’s Invisible Cities”

  1. Another fantastic post. For some reason these depictions of Calvino’s cities remind me of Feuillade’s Fantomas films, which according to Francis Lacassin, ” He (Feuillade) had understood that nothing is more beautiful than a certain suburban poetry that emanates from disjointed paving stones, from working-class districts, from a dismal suburb, silent, and deserted, from vacant lots beyond which at a distance, the blurred profiles of buildings under construction are silhouetted against the sky.”
    And also a bit of Viriconium.

  2. You’d see even more Feuillade in some of Trignac’s other works which present views of Paris in a strangely dreamlike manner: architecturally overcrowded (or even ruined) but also depopulated. Viriconium is described in one story as being “all the cities there have ever been” so that’s an apt reference as well.

  3. Thank you, John. This weeks posts have been amazing. I bookmarked Trignac’s website. I am fascinated by his style of depicting city-scapes. And I have dusted off my copy of INVISIBLE CITIES, to reread, but with these great illustrations to deepen my reading experience.

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