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“Eating with my Eyes”: The Landscapes of Guy de Maupassant

Writer-Artist 13: Guy de Maupassant

“I have the clear and profound feeling of eating with my eyes, and digesting colors as you would digest meat and fruit.”

Achieved Greatness and Wished for More

France’s greatest short story writer—his first collection of short stories was in its twelfth printing in less than two years, and his second novel had thirty-seven printings in four months—Maupassant declared: “I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing.”  I suspect it was the skills of a great landscape painter that he coveted but could not achieve.  On viewing the beauty of Normandy, he wrote: “My eyes opened like a hungry mouth, devouring the earth and the sky. Yes, I have the clear and profound feeling of eating with my eyes, and digesting colors as you would digest meat and fruit.”

Capturing the World in Image as well as Word

The legendary literary naturalist never stopped trying to capture the world in paint and line as well.  His letters were filled with drawings.  He sketched scenes from his stories. He did illustrations for a comic strip. He did scenic watercolors. Below is a lovely aquarelle he did in 1885 titled “The Beach at Etretat.”

Eating with my Eyes: The Sketches of Guy de Maupassant

When he was eleven his father left him and his mother who raised him alone. At thirteen she enrolled him in a seminary school from which he was expelled and from which he acquired a lifelong revulsion for religion. At 41, demented by end stage syphilis he’d contracted in his youth, he tried to kill himself by slashing his throat and was committed to an asylum in Passy. There he died a year later, on July 6, 1893.

And check out The Writer’s Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers for more than 400 plates of artwork by great writers and the stories behind them.

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