Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #168 by Drew Barth

A Life’s Collections

If we look around our rooms, we see our collections. The books, the artifacts, the bric-a-brac, the detrius. What we collect becomes just as important as why we collect. And a true collector knows when they have met another collector. Pierre Le-Tan was one of those collectors. From the apartment he maintained in Paris to the objects he drew, Le-Tan surrounded himself with collectors and collections. And it is in A Few Collectors, a series of ruminations on those collectors and the objects they surrounded themselves with, do we see the care and dedication Le-Tan had for those pieces that would define his life and his subjects’.

A Few Collectors is a collection about collectors. Le-Tan’s life was filled to bursting with individuals and their various collections—from art to wadded up paper. But it’s through his friends and acquaintances that he ruminates on their collections and the nature of collecting itself. What do these objects say about the people who collect them? Some of them define themselves by their collections while others don’t even let on that they have an apartment filled with precious objects until Le-Tan is invited over for a drink. But it’s the look at his own collection and the objects that he had and the ones he had sold off throughout years that is the most fascinating. The act of collecting is, in Le-Tan’s own words “both essential and completely useless.” But his collection and its continual tide-change maps out the kind of collector Le-Tan was: devout, yet distant.

Through Le-Tan’s inks, we truly begin to marvel at the collections he writes about. The distinct cross-hatching provides a depth and texture that makes these objects feel both ethereal and completely solid. They’re not meant to be photo realistic representations, but impressions of them through Le-Tan’s eye, but this makes them all the more real. Even the sketches of collector’s faces feel more like the person than a photograph. There is a warmth and nostalgia coming from his pen that can only be rendered by someone who had lived in 60s and 70s Paris—someone who has the first-hand account of these extraordinary collections through the decades. It is the kind of evocation that the Wes Anderson nostalgia of his younger audience can only grasp at. And yet we want to experience these collections for ourselves.

It is hard to pin down the kind of journey A Few Collectors brings its reader down. We are at once marveled at the stories of these eccentric collectors and the works that we would likely only see in museums now and pinched ever so slightly by the collecting bug ourselves. I look at my own room and the stacks of books or small plastic robots and wonder if this is the kind of collection that would be illustrated. But then I don’t mind if it is or not as it is my collection and mine alone.

Get excited. Get collecting.

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.