The Artwork of Roland Caillaux
Born in January of 1905, Roland Ferdinand Caillaud was a French film and theater actor, as well as, an illustrator and painter. Known professionally as Roland Caillaux, he was a key figure among the literary and artistic celebrities who lived and worked in Saint-Germain-des-Prés of Paris’s sixth Arrondissement.
The son of a wealthy Parisian family, Roland Caillaux inherited enough money upon the death of his parents to enable him to live a comfortable life free from financial restriction. He had a residence at 5 Rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie in the sixth Arrondissement of Paris and maintained a studio space on the Rue Boulard in the fourteenth Arrondissement. Caillaux was openly homosexual and enjoyed the relative freedom of Paris in the 1930s. He developed friendships with many of the writers, artists and filmmakers of the period including Jean Cocteau, Maurice Sachs, François Sentein, Jean Marais, Marcel Carné, and Jean Genet, among others.
In his lifetime, Caillaux was best known as a film and theater actor. His first appearance, an uncredited role, was in director Jaque Catelain’s 1924 drama film “La Galerie des Monstres”, a story of a young married couple’s tribulations after they join a circus. After playing the role of Le Sergent in Jene Renoir’s 1928 “Tire au Flanc”, Caillaux was given the role of Grippe-Soleil in Tony Lekain and Gaston Ravel’s 1929 “Figaro”, a film adaption of the 1778 Beaumarchais play “The Marriage of Figaro”. In the same year, he had a role in René Hevil’s film “Le Ruisseau (The Stream)”, and appeared onstage in a brief run of Vladmir Kirchon and Andreï Ouspenski’s play “La Rouille” at the Théâtre de l’Avenue in Paris.
The height of Roland Caillaux’s acting career occurred in 1930 with appearances in two films: “Soyons Gais” and composer John Daumery’s comedy musical “Le Masque d’Hollywood” directed by Clarence Badger. In the same year, he was in two theatrical performances: playwright Georges Neveux’s first notable work “Juliette ou la Cié des Songes” and Edmond Haraucourt’s “La Passion” held at the Comédie-Française. In 1932, Caillaux appeared in two films: the character of André Duval, Sergent de Spahis, in Rex Ingram and Alice Terry’s “Baroud” and a lead role in Georges Lacombe’s comedy “Ce Cochon de Morin”. His final film role was Lieutenant Jean Dumontier in Jean Benoît-Lévy and Marie Epstein’s 1934 “Itto” which, filmed in French Morocco, received a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 1935 Venice Film Festival.
As a visual artist during the period from 1940 to 1960, Caillaux worked in his Rue Boulard studio where he produced landscapes, portraits, lithographs and drawings. The rare erotic works he produced were meant to be circulated among his circle of friends in the arts, cinema and music worlds. In Paris in 1945, Roland Caillaux produced what is probably his best known illustrated work, “Vingt Lithographies pour un Livre que J’ai Lu (Twenty Lithographs for a Book I Read)”, a folio of twenty homoerotic lithographs loosely presented in printed wrappers within a cloth folding box.
Caillaux’s “Vingt Lithographies pour un Livre que J’ai Lu” was published in a small run of one-hundred fifteen copies without the name of the author, illustrator or printer. The lithographs were accompanied by text, attributed to novelist and playwright Jean Genet, that contain variant excerpts from two poems, “Notre Dame-des-Fleurs” and “The Parade”. These two poetic works by Genet were later published in a limited edition run, entitled “Poems”, in 1948 by Editions L’Arbalète.
Roland Caillaux passed away in Paris in December of 1977. Many of his illustrations, not publicly seen before, were discovered by Nicole Canet of Paris’s Galerie Au Bonheur du Jour and subsequently exhibited. Caillaux’s works are housed in many private collections and frequently appear in international auctions.
Note: The spelling of Roland Caillaud’s birth name was written with a “d”; however, throughout his career as an actor and draftsman, he wrote his last name with an “x”. In regards to his drawings, those not erotic were signed Roland Caillaux; while the erotic drawings were signed with a “spider” signature, a small spider web with an “x” in the middle.
Nicole Canet’s Galerie Au Bonheur du Jour, located in the heart of Paris, represents work by Caillaux and other artists in the fields of painting, illustration and photography. The gallery also publishes a wide collection of catalogues. Galerie Au Bonheur du Jour is located online at: https://www.aubonheurdujour.net
Top Insert Image: Dora Maar (Henriette Théodora Markovitch), “Portrait of Roland Caillaux”, Date Unknown, Gelatin Silver Print
Second Insert Image: Roland Caillaux, “Sailor”, 1932, Oil on Canvas on Cardboard, 26 x 21 cm, Private Collection
Bottom Insert Image: Dora Maar (Henriette Théodora Markovitch), “Portrait of Roland Caillaux”, 1935, Gelatin-Argent Negative on Flexible Support in Cellulose Nitrate, 18 x 13 cm, Le Centre Pompidou, Paris