Stroke by Stroke

Stroke by Stroke

Henri Michaux

       Henri Michaux’s Stroke by Stroke is notable for its use of rough ink drawings in place of text. Although there is some text where Michaux gives half an explanation for his images, the drawings demand the most attention. Sometimes the drawings are clear, immediately one sees an insect, flying birds, or a human form, others are just blotchy shapes or intricate scratches across the page. Michaux states that he fights against form and assimilation. His drawings seem to be starting from the interior, expressing what is beyond objective shape and line.  He explains that “Line is not an abbreviation of volume or surface, but an abbreviation of hundreds of gestures and attitudes and impressions and emotions.” Like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, Michaux portrays a human figure on a staircase. Michaux’s drawing is only a sketch of stick figures, but through it he still communicates a sense of motion that Duchamp created in his controversial piece.

    This brings to mind an important question: is Stroke by Stroke controversial? Is it effective enough to make an impact? Is it even worth taking sides over or is it just fun to look at? I found the text to be intriguing and informative. Without it, the drawings would be too distant to communicate well; even still they are frustrating at times to read.

    Some of these drawings achieve his ideal. They are able to express something deeper and more direct than words could. It harkens back to something that feels like a universal memory. The drawings don’t carry the collection of connotations that we associate with words. They are more unique, but this also makes them more difficult to identify with and understand. This is the contradiction I was left with at the end of the book. Why are words not enough and can pictures help fill in the void?


-Claire Sammons 

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