Biography of Joe Guillotin
Joe Guillotin timeline:
Joseph David Guillotin is born to Henri and Sien Guillotin
in Gillette, France on the 7th of February. He is a pale, sickly, and deformed infant. His left thumb was on the wrong side of his hand, among the immediately OBVIOUS things.
(Rumors of Guillotin's unusually large and misshapen genitalia
circulated through the various prostitutes he frequented during histeenage years. Earning him the nickname of 'Gonzois'- a French guttural term of the period, meaning 'unusually large and misshapen
genitalia ') .
Joe's father, a wealthy escargot farmer, has him
placed in an institution in Arles for his first 7 yrs until he ishealthy. This was done in hopes that when he was able, Joe would be reunited with his parents in their house. He would also learn his father's snail trade, in hopes that he would continue the family business for the next generation.
Unfortunately for Henri's hopes, it is in the institution that young Joe shows his first initial SPARK of artistic talent.
There were no pens or paints in the institution, so Guillotin
in his ingenuity used the only material at hand- his own excrement.
Vibrant brown, black - and occasionally green strokes soon
covered the hospital walls; often recreating scenes Guillotin had viewed from his window, and portraits of the various doctors and attendants that worked there. Guillotin was so affable and well-liked by the staff, that his fecal murals were allowed to stay up- and are still there today. Guillotin, later in life said of those murals, that it was his
Joe reluctantly returns home. His father immediately tosses him into learning the trade. He in turn, has an
immediate loathing of the time he spends with his father, as evidenced from entries in his daily journal The journal, which was posthumously published in 1958 under the title: J'HAIS CA 'ICI (translation: I HATE
IT HERE) : It consists solely of the phrase, 'I hate it here' 2,556 times.
Young Joe frequently runs away from home, spending
most of his time and money in the art districts and brothels, he returns home only for food and money from his growingly aggravated father. It is when Henri finds Joe committing the ultimate sacrilege- racing the
years prize stock and taking bets from the locals- that Henri kicks 13yr old Joe out of his home and onto the streets.
Joe, now truly out in the world for the first time,
begins his artistic rite of passage. His father, not completely without compassion, gives him a large sum of money before finally slamming the door on him. He travels Europe and beyond, soaking up all the art, education, and depravity he can.
These years show young Joe's love for extremely
contrasting lifestyles. On any given evening, he could be found buriedin volumes of Latin religious texts in a library basement of Paris; or, he could be found passed out on opiates in a Spanish bordello.
He would continue his art wherever he journeyed however, selling it whenever he could. Most of which were poster advertisements; eye-catching,
surrealistic pictures- with bland captions underneath. [e.g. A beautifulnude woman is sitting at a table, with a black and white checkered tablecloth, a bottle of wine, candles, she is anxiously licking out a raw oyster from its shell. Seated across from her, is an ostrich in a
beret. The caption reads: ”BUY MANQUIFFE'S HORSEHAIR BRUSHES'.
Unfortunately, most of these adverts and original art did not survive through the first World War.
It is also during these years, that young Joe had many
brushes with some great artists and thinkers of the time. In early 1894, he was in LaCroix, where Oscar Wilde was passing through to see a play of friend, Alistar Sejanus.
Only 15 at the time, Joe was in love with the theatre.
The theatre in fact, loved him. Playwrights and directors were drawn in by his keen intellect and wit, especially for someone of such a tender age. He also had a mutual friend in Sejanus, who apparently 'liked the
cut of his jib'.
Sejanus introduced young Guillotin to Wilde, and they immediately hit it off. They shared a correspondence for some time, in which young Joe would often give advice to a struggling Wilde. The following is an excerpt from a letter to Wilde, dated Sept.29,1894:
'...I am deeply flattered that you want to entitle your next great piece THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING JOE. I am in fact, enamored by this homage. Nothing would please me more than to have my name emblazoned on many a' play guide, blindly leafed through by faux intellectuals and their vacuous trophy mates.
Understand, my name is also my existence, and you are throwing my moniker into the critical lion den, and all I have to defend me isyour talent. The sharp, jagged teeth of the theatre critics, tearing at the tender loins of my being, and your pen as my only defence. In all earnestness, I would be very much relieved if you struck my name from
the title and character, I'm sure something will come to you.
*p.s. love the bit with the cucumber sandwiches.
After traveling abroad for over 5 yrs, Guillotin decides
it is time to settle down. At the age of 19, he takes residence with famed muralist Renee Coffin in Paris. Coffin by this time is quite elderly, palsy stricken, and absent minded. Because of this, Coffin was living from commission to commission- which were few and far between. His pieces were often either substandard or incomplete late in
Guillotin finds himself becoming the unwilling aide
to ailing Coffin, who eventually becomes so senile that Guillotin often finished his murals for him- just so Coffin can go on living and remain debt free for another month. Coffin, in his feebleness, does not even realize that he did not complete the pieces himself. He gives no thanks
or gratitude to Joe. Guillotin, however could care less, because during this time he makes two great discoveries.
The first was the use of models. Coffin insisted that he
have live models for every mural. He pounded it in Guillotin's head that he must take as much from real life as possible. Coffin often used ordinary day to day people for his murals, that were painted mostly on the sides
of wealthy businesses and elit restaurants. The murals usually depicted some tranquil slice of life. Guillotin, for awhile used these 'ordinary people' while completing Coffin's work.
But as Coffin grew more and more mentally incompetent, Guillotin grew more daring. He would then hire his own models,
scouring bars, back alleys and whore houses. Then he would paint the scenes that had filled HIS head, not the continuation of another.
The day to day depiction's of perhaps a walk in the
park on the side of a peaceful cafe' by the sturdy, patently wholesome Renee Coffin, had now somehow transformed into bizarre orgies of flesh.
Critics took notice.
The 'gig was up' as Guillotin would write later in memoirs.
To this day, Guillotin still remains uncredited for those murals.
By 1905, American culture was seeping into the cracks
and cobblestones of French culture. The artistic community for the most part, turned their noses up to it. But something very exciting had caught the eye of Joe Guillotin.
The Katzenjammer Kids, by Rudolph Dirk had somehow found its way into Guillotin's hands. It is considered by many to be one of the shapers of the comic strip as we know it today. It depicted characters who 'spoke', their words appearing in a balloon tat hovered above their heads. PANELS separated actions, or changes of time and/or scenes.
The subject matter was lithe, to be sure. But what Guillotin
saw in it was a way to expand upon his own art, to communicate a story in more than one picture; to merge drawing and painting with his love of dramatic writing.
For the next year, Guillotin would go into seclusion,
writing and laying out the scenes for FOLIE du L'HOMME. It is said thatGuillotin would work 19 hours a day, stopping only to sleep in hour intervals, and to support his growing drinking habit. His daily
consumption consisted of red wine, absinthe, and a dangerousmind-altering fluid called 'Muertila'. It was imported illegally throughMexico, and customarily used for abortions- where it was injected, notingested. (Guillotin would combat this particular addiction for years to
In the spring of 1907, Guillotin surfaces. He is
a shadow of his former self physically, yet driven by some seeminglyinvisible force. He leaves France, later describing the locals as too 'dumpy' for his purposes. He heads to the shores of England, eventually setting up in the conservative port town of Enderby.
He placed ads in several papers, asking for:
“Open-minded, male/female arteurs and
actors, wishing to expand
their horizons and break new ground'
By this time, Guillotin's funds were dwindling, He budgeted what he needed for supplies, and his 'habit'. So what he could offer for pay was little, sometimes little more than a free meal. So most of the serious models and artists stayed away. He ended up with vagrants and
the various & sundry misanthropes that wandered the streets. This of course suited Guillotin just fine.
Work on FOLIE du L'HOMME goes without any sorts of hitchesat first, other than a few days when Guillotin is blind or mad fromdrinking- or a few of his models pass out from exhaustion and heatstroke(In which case, Guillotin would sometimes just prop them up and continue) .
In 1909 however, disaster hits- Guillotin is completely bankrupt.His hired models leave, he can no longer afford the cottage he was renting in Enderby. What few pounds and pence he does have left, hefritters away on alcohol.
Unable to find a paying art job, he takes a job as a dock worker. He continued work on FOLIE du L'HOMMEin a small rented room above a bar, in the blue collar city of Lesterton. His work during this period is most noticeable in FOLIE du L'HOMME, and is best described as sub par.
Still,1909 is a transitional period for Guillotin. After a drunken binge, he decides to take a stroll through the seamier parts of the city. Where he stumbles upon an attempted rape of a prostitute. He comes to the girls aid, and fends off the attackers. He is immediatelyenraptured by her.
The woman, known only as 'Marygold', in various letters and journalentries by Guillotin, is toothless, illiterate, and nearly deaf. Guillotin, needlessly, does everything to impress her. He stops drinking, buys her gifts to woo her, and ultimately weds her.
Their coupling helps Guillotin in many ways. Not only was he now reinvigorated, clean, and sober- he also had a model working for him gratis.
In the end of 1909, Guillotin received a letter telling him of thedeath of his father, Guillotin, going a large part of his life not knowing his father, is not phased by this news. However, his father left him with a large inheritance.
Guillotin invests these funds in the completion of FOLIE du L'HOMME, and of course making Marygold happy.After a brief jaunt to Arles to claim his inheritance,
He relocates to Enderby, and by the latter part of 1910, FOLIE du L'HOMME is completed.
Guillotin takes his completed work to George Babbit, publisher for Oxford Press located in Oxford, England.
Babbit a relatively young, educated man, was considered a visionary in the field of publishing for the time. He published many daring works by relative unknowns, often lifting them to popular and critical acclaim. He was quite enthused by what he saw in Guillotin and FOLIE du
L'HOMME. Thus, began a shortlived, and ultimately disastrous partnership.
Babbit had arranged everything as far as publishing and
distribution were concerned. All that was left, was for Guillotin to sign a contractual agreement via Oxford Press's lawyer, who was currently in Leeds. Guillotin, who consdered Babbit now a personal friend, asked him to watch after Marygold while he is away. This proves to be a fatal mistake.
Guillotin returns to fin his wife and newfound friend and
publisher- both dead. Apparently, Babbit took Marygold out to celebrate her husband's deal. After exiting a restaurante, Marygold attempted to cross the busy street outside while Babbit was distracted. Babbitnoticed she was about to be struck by an out of control produce cart(mostly wekk old legumes) , and called out to her. Marygold, almost deaf, cold not heed his warning.
Babbit attempted to rush out and push her out of the way. But in the end, they were both trampeled.
Filled with grief and confusion, Guillotin leaves England after the funeral, and heads for New York City; leaving FOLIE du L'HOMME on a shelf in Oxford to gather dust.
Guillotin comes to America. the second he steps foot on New York ground, he is robbed of all his worldy goods and funds. Feeling more beaten and miserable than ever, he flits around aimlessly, forgetting his art entirely.
Unable to find any real or lasting work, he takes on temporary oddjobs. One such job included that of a gravedigger in a potter's field.This turns out to be the most therapeutic thing for Guillotin, he would
'...They were poor, immigrants, criminals, or crazed loners- often buried in the same clothes that they died in, and nothing else. They made me appreciate my own position more and more. I became immediatelyless despondent. I began writing, drawing, painting again.Reams ofwork sometimes. I felt that I had to thank these forgotten muses somehow. I would thank them with my legacy'.
It is said that Guillotin buried some 200+ pieces of all
varieties of work in the potter's field, his gift to the 'forgotten muses'.
In 1914 he seeks employment as a newspaper writer, what he
finds though is a country on the heels of a World War. New York societywas xenophobic to any foreigner, regardless of their country of origin. So to blend in, he Americanizes his name to Frank Roland, and is almost immediately given a job as a food critic for The New York Review. It
wasn' t what he applied for, but he was the only one at the paper who was able to pronounce and write the names of French cuisine.
His memoirs later revealed that his tastebuds were all but
incinerated by his addiction to Muertila, but his reviews flowed with a prose and elegance that were missing overall in journalism, especially during that period.
Because of this he became a popular fixture. By 1920 was
basically allowed to do whatever he wanted.
What he wanted to do was a comic strip, a daily continuing
saga. Thus began the short-lived, daily 4 panel strip FEROCIA.
FEROCIA was the story of a man who loses his love when he and she are attacked by a pack of wild ferrets. He lives through the attack, gaining heightened, animalistic abilities. He then goes on to have a series of heroic adventures.
FEROCIA lasted all of 35 days. It was easily the most popular piece in The New York Review. In fact, it was largely believed that it was the only reason people bought the paper anymore at all. But it wasn't enough. So, in the fall of 1920, the 15 year run of The New York Review ended.
Guillotin wasn't on the street long however, Frank Roland was getting job offers from almost every paper in the city. But it was a telegram from Oxford that called him back to England.
Peter Bryce, the current publisher at Oxford Press had found the forgotten FOLIE du L'HOMME, and wanted to start resuming publishing right away.
Two versions were to be published, an English version to which Guillotin had previously provided Babbit with notes for, and a French/Latin version, in which Guillotin had wrote the original text (A warehouse fire would later destroy almost all of the known English versions) . In lieu of payment, Guillotin wanted a job with Oxford Press, headlining a department that was to publish monthly graphic novelettes.
Bryce, reluctant at first, decided to let Guillotin proceed on a trial basis. Guillotin immediately exceeded his expectations when he published his collected work on FEROCIA. It sold out at almost every book store and shop, and largely to a group that had previously ignored everything Oxford Press had put out- England's youth.
In 1924 Guillotin hired and published several more artists with similar visions. Sinclair Miller did PARADOX, a book about alternate Earths, dealing especially with alternate earth social/table manners. Nicholas Chapman did TALES of the EXHUMED, a sort of horror anthology book (Chapman would later write anatomy textbooks) . There was even room for a humor book. Maurice Sheldon's BLATHER was a kind of polite precursor to MAD.
The books all sold marvelously, but like everything else in Guillotin's life to date, this too would fall apart. Apparently, a lady visiting the Queen, had told her in casual conversation of an incident where the lady's son had bit her ankle after reading Guillotin's FEROCIA
The Queen knew nothing of Guillotin. But she brought the incident up in a later address, describing him as an 'abomination to the literary world'. This cued up anyone in British government to also attack Guillotin and Oxford Press (thinking they would gain favor with the Queen by doing so) . Soon, there were calls for book burnings and Guillotin's immediate exportation.
In the latter part of 1925 Peter Bryce, not wanting any sort of trouble, decided to cease operations of Guillotin's publshing divisionimmediately. Guillotin, angered by his being censored, stormed out and left again for America, promising never to return to England.
PART 2 OF TIMELINE – “POETRY YEARS “WILL FOLLOW.
Joe Guillotin's Works:
'...' republished in 2004 by Lulu Press
This poem will kill you
Folide Du Homme(all copies destroyed as of 1981)
Joe Guillotin Poems
Ellipse #78(…candy Bar)
Saw a kid in a gas mask today Five years old- maybe four Stole a Hershey bar from the remains of a burnt down store.
It makes me want to laugh sawing a girl in half and missing the mark
A cast of thousands- MILLIONS(maybe more) Just wait till you see the things we have in store.. The Red Sea parted like a 50 cent haircut!
Bill, the gardener liked to water the pansies Until they were flooded, it tickled his fancy Retarded he was, because of his eccentricities Ignorant, for sure of a garden's awesome complexities
A Walk In The Door
A walk in the door On this most solemn night I sit- and I wait
Liplock Carbomb And Puzzle Piece Noses
The choke of her hair the smoke of her smile a finger up a spine index indexing
Ellipse #80...(Someone Else's Words)
'Please don't quote me' For then you'll see Why it is absurd to use another's words
The friends HE sends me whisper sweet nothings
A million pens dropp all at once. Everyone is silent. No more scrawling manically on the walls and napkins and odd bits of paper that seem only to be available at these particular moments of inspiration. You close your eyes- and you can see past the pain, or the want, or the love..
A Walk In The Door
A walk in the door
On this most solemn night
I sit- and I wait
What comes in?
a wind, a song, an ebb of light
a leaf of autumn trait?
All these things I do ignore