Sable mouvant (Quicksand) was Pierre Reverdy's last poem. Rene Char had asked him to write the verses for a collection of works by twelve poets to be illustrated by Jacques Villon, but the projected volume never appeared.
Reverdy died on June 17, 1960 at Solesmes, the famous abbey to which he had retired in 1926. His death went almost unnoticed; in fact only three friends - Braque, Picasso and Teriade - had been informed of it. As a tribute to the incorruptible friend who had clearly seen the pitfalls of Picasso's genius, and the price he would pay for his fame, Picasso agreed to illustrate a posthumous edition of Sable mouvant. Ten aquatints were selected from the great series of prints on the theme of the artist and model that Picasso had explored indefatigably during the winter of 1963-1964, and February and March of 1965. The effect of the aquatints chosen for the book builds as one proceeds from one to the other, so that there final impact is fully as powerful as that of the text. In fact, images attest to the essential difficulty of seeing and knowing because the one who sees is seen in return. Revedy's verses sum up a poet's life, a life which must end as all lives end: "Je suis sorti du port / Par un etroit passage / Et je rentre a la mort demuni de baggage" ("I left the port / though a narrow passage / And at death return stripped of my belongings".) Reverdy evokes the necessary perils of the frenzies of passion and the concluding void: he acknowledges his helplessness in the face of death, and accepts it like an engulfing wave or a strong gust of wind.
These ten aquatints were published on October 26, 1966. The text and typography was printed by Requet et Baudier in Paris, and the aquatints were printed by Atelier Crommelynck, also in Paris.