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Every childhood is marked by a symbol, a memory or a dream. The biggest imprint on my memory was left by a portrait of Chopin, a small reproduction of a drawing by Ingres which my father put up above his desk, and discovery of a huge anatomy atlas in a closet. This was followed by Greek mythology and novels by Jules Verne. And then there were two small sculptures on a dark desk. One of them, made of brass, featured Faust, while the marble one was a bust of Venus. This was enough to furnish my emerging imaginations for the years to come.

The image of the drawing by Ingres, whom I believe to be the most prominent graphic artist in the history of art, has always been with me. I think that my fascination with his drawings, recorded somewhere deep in my memory, allowed me to undertake the huge journey round the Dune universe in 2006 and to engage in dialogue with Herbert’s work. A similar dialogue was mastered by Gustave Doré, who created illustrations for the Bible, and by William Blake in his drawings to Paradise Lost by John Milton, a 17th century English poet. We are dealing with prominent works of literature and art here.

I chose drawing because it seems to me as the most profound and convenient artistic form for dialogue with Herbert. “What I did not draw, I did not see,” Goethe said. Ingres claimed that “drawing is the essence of art.” Those two quotes are enough to understand the winding paths that I followed to draw the naturally teeming thoughts.

Dune is definitely a masterpiece of world literature. It is one of those gigantic columns that support the vault of the Pantheon containing the most valuable legacy of world culture. Herbert’s work refuses to be pigeon-holed and does not need any label to define its style. Working on the drawings for that series was a tremendous pleasure. I remember my daughter being fascinated with Dune at the age of fourteen. Perhaps her children will follow in their mother’s footsteps and will want to read the book. It is important that no reader, whether young or grown up, is burdened by illustrations and graphic interpretations that carry little value. Visual literality and awkward prompts that block the imagination should be avoided.

The tone set by Herbert for the plot and the characters of Dune brings to mind a fuzzy photograph. This allows the readers to “appropriate” his world rather than inhibiting their own reflections or limiting their imagination, which is why his masterpiece so skilfully escapes the grip of the passing time. I want the world drawn by me to be a certain gift for fantasy literature enthusiasts. The time of childhood and youth needs imagination because it is facing a broad horizon and a far-reaching look at the future.

Inspiration is a common thing and it is necessary for talent and intelligence to thrive. After all, there are similarities between Dune and Cordwainer Smith’s The Rediscovery of Man.

Norstrilia. Such analogies can be found between the Last Supper by Leonardo and other painters because they address the same topic. We are the heirs of a huge legacy of the world culture. My own works, as well as works of many other artists, have been used in France by fashion designers, directors, writers and painters. But whereas inspiration is a natural phenomenon in visual arts and in literature, visibly drawing from or blatantly copying someone else’s work without quoting the source is not a commendable act. Even such artists as Salvador Dali, Giorgio de Chirico, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso made liberal use of the works by Giovanni Battista Bracelli, or even “robbed” his works, leaving out the source of such obvious and basic borrowings. So, try to better explore the technique and the works of an artist before proclaiming him or her a genius.

As you can see, I am not the only one fascinated and inspired by Dune. I am accompanied in this by the Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who shared a pleasant anecdote about the beginnings of his interest in Herbert during an interview. When he was thirteen or fourteen, he noticed a book published by the French publishing house Pocket with a reproduction of my painting on the cover. He considered the image of a character with blue-within-blue eyes fascinating. He read the book, loved it and had been dreaming about making a film based on it ever since. This finally happened in 2020. The description of where the idea to bring Dune to the screen came from shows the openness and integrity of Denis Villeneuve, as well as his sense of ethics and of his own creative value. It is a beautiful gesture, deserving a thank you.