Albert Skira


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Swiss publisher, born in Geneva. After working in a bank and as an entertainments organizer in luxury hotels, he set up business as a bookseller and in 1931 began his publishing career with Ovid's Les Métamorphoses, illustrated by Picasso. This was quickly followed by further luxury editions of poetry illustrated by Dalí, Matisse, and other distinguished artists. He also began publishing art books with high-quality colour illustrations. From 1933 to 1941 he lived in Paris, where he published the avant-garde periodical Minotaure (1933–9; thirteen numbers appearing irregularly); it covered contemporary artistic and literary trends, particularly Surrealism, as well as primitive art and anthropology. The journal was beautifully produced, the illustrations including original prints. In 1941 Skira returned to Geneva, where he published Labyrinthe (1944–6; twenty‐three issues); it covered the same type of subjects as Minotaure, but was much less lavish in presentation—in fact it was printed as a newspaper. It showed Skira's desire to reach a wide readership, but he also continued with his luxury products, in which he demonstrated an almost fanatical devotion to achieving the highest possible standards. In this he was matched by Matisse, and they spent seven years on Florilège des Amours de Ronsard (Anthology of the Amours of Ronsard), from the initial agreement in 1941 to publication in 1948, overcoming what Alfred H. Barr describes as a series of ‘extraordinary trials and misadventures’ to achieve the exact results they wanted in design and typography. The book features 126 lithographs in brown crayon on grey-tinted paper, illustrating the love poems of Ronsard. By this time Skira was publishing books on a wide range of artistic subjects, and from the 1950s he produced various series of beautifully illustrated books on the history of art in which he brought his high standards to a mass audience: they include ‘The Great Centuries of Painting’ and ‘The Taste of our Time’. See also livre d'artiste.

Subjects: Art.

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