Two artists, two languages, two titles – Foirades / Fizzles.  The book is a curiosity about doubles, fragmentation, contradiction, self-cancellation, disintegration, and paradox.  It is a beautiful objet d’art that speaks of the death of art.

Jessica Prinz
Contemporary Literature, 1980

This cerebral volume that provokes more questions than it answers is considered one of the greatest artists’ books of the twentieth century.

Robert Flynn Johnson
Artists’ Books in the Modern Era 1870 – 2000

Foirades / Fizzles must rank among the most beautiful illustrated books of the century, an ambiguous object that is both a dark meditation on death and alienation, and an impassive, measured exploration of the mechanics of the book format

Joan Rothfuss
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
The Burlington Magazine, 1993



This enigmatic book has attracted much critical attention both for its aesthetic qualities and for its unique approach to collaboration. Johns insisted on working with a text from Beckett that he had not read, and he decided upon the images before he knew what text would be chosen. All of the motifs for the illustrations in the book are more or less taken from Johns’ 1972 Untitled, a four-panel oil, encaustic, and collage on canvas now at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, which was chosen by him on the basis of his a priori knowledge of Beckett. Some of the images are modified to reflect Beckett’s text and the smaller format of the book’s leaves but others are not.

The idea for a joint project originated with Vera Lindsay at the Petersburg Press. Beckett had responded to her with a suggestion that an illustrated edition of Waiting for Godot be produced, but that idea was rejected by Johns. Beckett then offered to translate eight “Fizzles,” or character pieces he had written between 1960 and 1972, and of these Johns chose five, apparently to fit with the number of images he had already selected. These appear in the edition in both their original French and in Beckett’s English translation.

After the book was released it became the subject of two museum exhibitions. First, at the Whitey Museum of American Art, entitled “Foirades / Fizzles,” which ran for two months in 1977, and ten years later at the Wright Art Gallery at UCLA, entitled “Foirades / Fizzles: Echo and Allusion in the Art of Jasper Johns,” which ran for two months in 1987. This copy of Foirades / Fizzles includes both exhibition catalogues and the eight page prospectus issued by the Petersburg Press in 1976 which is bound with a black cord and includes four full page illustrations.

The book is a production of uncommonly high quality. It has separate title pages in each language, twenty-six lift-ground aquatints, five etchings with mixed media, one soft-ground etching and one aquatint. The book is divided into five chapters of one fizzle each, and each is preceded by an etched numeral in Johns’ iconic style. The two endleaves are original lithographs by Johns, one in his familiar cross-hatch pattern and the other taken directly from Untitled (1972). The book is printed at Atelier Commelynck on handmade wove Auvergne Richard de Bas paper which is watermarked with Beckett’s initials and Johns’ signature. It is bound in an accordion fold around support leaves and placed in a publisher’s beige linen-covered box with a purple tassel. The box is lined with another colored lithograph in the cross-hatch pattern.

This is one of an edition of 250 copies plus fifty hors commerce. It is signed by Beckett and Johns.


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