King Ubu - Ubu Roi

Artist’s Name
Author’s Name
Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Alfred Jarry (1873-1907)
1966, Paris
Printed in one volume, size 43 x 33 εκ.
The text is hand written with ‘romain du roi’ fonts,
which were inscribed by Grandjean in the 17th century
13 coloured original lithographs in double page
Printed on ‘vélin d’ Arches’ paper:
  • 180 copies, numbered 1-180
  • 25 copies, off the market, numbered I-XXV
The eccentric French writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) brought a big change to modern theatre with his revolutionary satirical play, King Ubu (1896), which established him as the pioneer of “The Theatre of the Absurd”. The outrageous success of this anarchist play was considered a turning point in the history of Symbolism and was also very influential in the written works and other creative works of Dadaists, Surrealists and Futurists. The central character in this strange parody of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is Pa Ubu - a complicated old man as well as a malicious, evil, impotent ruler, who wants to conquer Poland at any cost. Alfred Jarry’s inspiration for this character came from Felix-Federic Hebert, a politician of the time whom he considered to be a very stubborn man. Pa Ubu embodies all the qualities that the writer discards and satirizes; he is the personification of all the stupidity, incapability and ignorance that exists in the world. Through this play, Jarry attempts to analyse the psyche and to discover the hidden truth that exists in the subconscious and imagination of every human being.

The ideal person to convey this play through illustrations is Spanish Surrealist Joan Miró who had often expressed his desire to do so – Tériade just happened to choose the right moment. As it is obvious from the very first page, the artist allows himself without reservations to go with the flow of the text. The line disengages itself full of passion, and bold colours are sprayed on the pages in all directions. Interpreted as humorous, imaginary figures, all the characters of Jarry’s play express, on a theatrical prop, some of the play’s most vital themes. The artist shapes his figures with unnatural qualities in order to give each character a unique entity and to bring out their inner world – a world where the ridiculous, the absurd and exaggeration rule. These strange creatures that belong to the ‘family’ of Miró are brought out in the artificial stage light from a hidden space that refers to the ‘backstage’ of the subconscious. The backdrop of the spectrum underlines the violent, dreamy character of the total, so as to surprise and stimulate the viewer’s imagination and spirit in the same way that the original appearance of this theatrical play made the public revolt.