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A Life of Books: Remembering David Logan

Favorite Things: An Exhibition of Artist Books in Memory of David Logan, 1918–2011, a selection of books from the Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books, is currently on view at the Legion of Honor in through February 12, 2012. 

Comprising approximately 300 volumes, the Logan Collection is one of the foremost collections of modern artists’ books (also called livres d’artiste, or illustrated books) to find a home within a museum.

David and Reva Logan

When Mr. Logan first visited the Legion of Honor in 1995, shortly after it reopened following a seismic retrofit, a special exhibition of Treasures of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts was on view in the temporary exhibition galleries. Artists’ books were displayed alongside prints and drawings from the Renaissance to the mid-1990s. After seeing the Treasures exhibition, David remarked to his wife, Reva, “What they’re missing is our collection.” Soon thereafter, in 1998, the Logans began giving selections from the collection to the museum.

The Logans started collecting artists’ books in 1979 after seeing Joan Miró’s classic À toute épreuve available for sale. A complex and revolutionary publication, the book used found objects such as planks of wood, plastic wood, wire, old wood engravings, and bark paper as print surfaces. The book contains seventy-nine woodcuts and is considered one of the greatest illustrated books of the twentieth century.

Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893–1983). Pages from À toute épreuve (Proof Against All), by Paul Éluard (Geneva: Gérald Cramer, 1958). Color woodcuts. FAMSF, Museum purchase, Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books, Reva and David Logan Fund, Prints and Drawings Art Trust Fund, Fine Arts Museums Foundation Auction Proceeds, Unrestricted Art Trust Fund. 2001.121.3.70

The Logans were so taken with the Miró book, which was the first artist's book they ever purchased, that when it came time to give the Museums their collection, they retained their volume for its personal associations and acquired another specifically for the Achenbach.

Many of the twentieth century’s leading European and American artists are represented in the Logan collection, but none more than Pablo Picasso. The Logans acquired virtually all of Picasso’s significant books (there are more than seventy in the collection), covering all periods and styles of his creative expression.

Over the years, the Logans collected some of the most iconic, sumptuously produced books of the twentieth century. Rather than acquire large groups of books that previous collectors had assembled, the Logans preferred to seek out individual volumes, finding in each acquisition a new memory to be shared and cherished together with the book.

Fernand Léger (French, 1881–1955). 5th illustration in the book La Fin du monde, filmée par l'ange, N.D. by Blaise Cendrars (Paris: Editions de la Sirène, 1919), 1919. Color pochoir on ivory wove lafuma paper. Gift of the Reva and David Logan Foundation. 1998.40.77.5

This close, personal connection to books was nothing new to David, who recalled that growing up, “I kept each book I read; it was an emotional investment.” In donating the collection to the Fine Arts Museums it was the Logans’ hope that the books would also elicit new meanings and memories for visitors.