Monday, November 16, 2009

Life and light

The Belgian response to Impressionism was a complex and local one. The Belgian Impressionists are often called Luminists, and the founder of Luminism was Émile Claus (1849-1924). His work combines elements of Impressionism, Symbolism, and Intimisme. Born in Sint-Eloois-Vijve, Émile Claus studied at the Antwerp Academy and then headed for Paris, where he became a close friend of Henri Le Sidaner. Under the influence of Le Sidaner and of Claude Monet, Claus shrugged off the brown tones of his early work for a style filled with light, giving rise to the term Luminism being used for the Belgian Impressionists as for the American ones. Claus repaid some of the debt of the Impressionists and Symbolists to Japanese art by teaching two of Japan's finest modern artists, Torajiro Kojima and Kijiro Ota. Émile Claus uttered some of the best last words of any artist, very much in keeping with the name he chose for the Luminist group he started in 1904, Vie et Lumière (Life and Light). They were: “Bloemen, bloemen, bloemen …” (Flowers, flowers, flowers).

Émile Claus, Midi
Lithograph, 1910

Émile Claus, Pâques
Lithograph, 1910

During WWI, Émile Claus took refuge in London, where he worked alongside his friend Albert Baertsoen in the studio of John Singer Sargent. Baertsoen (1866-1922), a painter and etcher of city scenes, was born and died in Ghent. He studied at the Ghent Academy of Art under Jean Delvin. After exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1887, Albert Baertsoen moved to Paris. Baertsoen furthered his studies in the atelier of Alfred Roll, where he became friends with the artists Edmond Aman-Jean and Charles Cottet. It was under their influence that Albert Baertsoen freed himself from the strict realism of the Termonde School, and re-oriented his art towards Impressionism. There was a retrospective of the art of Albert Baertsoen at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Ghent in 1972-1973.

Albert Baertsoen, La grand’rue, le matin
Etching, 1898

Albert Baertsoen, Reflets
Etching, 1909

Albert Baertsoen, Un canal à Gand
Etching, 1919

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fractured perspectives

The first person to incorporate elements of Cubism in book illustration was probably Jean-Émile Laboureur, but others, especially in the Jazz Age, saw value in the fractured perspectives of Cubism, and also in its elements of repetition and modernity. One of these was Chas Laborde (1886-1941), who was born in Buenos Aires to French parents. One of the most brilliant illustrators of the 1920s and 30s, Laborde had been gassed in the trenches in WWI. According to his friend, the author Pierre Mac Orlan, Chas Laborde died of grief on seeing the conquering German Army march past on the Place d'Étoile in 1941. Laborde and Mac Orlan were two more regulars at the salon of Jean-Gabriel Daragnès, and the etchings below, done in 1926 for an edition of Juliette au pays des hommes by Jean Giraudoux, were printed by Roger Lacourière on Rives laid paper. 317 copies were printed, coloured à la poupée, plus 50 suites in black-and-white.

Chas Laborde, Cubist portrait
Etching, 1926

Chas Laborde, Bicyclists
Etching, 1926

Chas Laborde, Travelling by train
Etching, 1926

Chas Laborde, Juliette
Etching, 1926

Friday, November 13, 2009

Intense and diverse

This Sunday sees the opening of an exciting new exhibition in the Cultural Centre (Cultuurcentrum) of Hasselt in Belgium. Entitled Helikon: intens en divers, it celebrates the work of the pioneering Helikon gallery, which brought contemporary and avant-garde art to Hasselt through the 1960s. It will run until Sunday 10 January 2010.

The main members of the Helikon group were Pierre Cox, Paule Nolens, Lucienne Porta, Ray Remans, Amand van Rompay, Robert Vandereycken, and Walter Vilain. Although I have recently acquired work by many Belgian artists of the 1970s, in a nearly complete run of the graphics portfolios De Bladen voor de Grafiek, unfortunately I don’t have any work to show by any of the Helikon artists. However, courtesy of Jo Klaps, the designer of the exhibition, I can offer a link here to photos of the exhibition in preparation.

The curator of the exhibition, who has also written the catalogue, is my friend, the art historian Zsuzsanna Böröcz. It has been my great pleasure to be able to lend a number of graphic works to the exhibition by various European artists whose art was exhibited by Helikon. For all those who will not be able to make to see the show in situ (sadly, including myself), here is a mini-exhibition of the works currently on loan from Idbury Prints to Helikon: intens en divers. And for the information of any curators reading this blog, I am always happy to lend work for exhibition if I can.

René Bazaine, Composition
Pochoir, 1958

Georges Braque, Figure
Lithograph, 1938

Georges Braque, La bouteille de marc
Pochoir, 1956

Georges Braque, Oiseau
Lithograph, 1958

Yves Brayer, Venise la Rouge XV
Lithograph, 1939

Yves Brayer, Venise la Rouge XVI
Lithograph, 1939

Jean Dubuffet, Personnage II
Pochoir, 1955

Raoul Dufy, Man reading in a deckchair
Lithograph, 1920

Max Ernst, Un chant d’amour
Lithograph, 1958

Oskar Kokoschka, Mädchenbildnis
Lithograph, 1920

Fernand Léger, La chapellerie
Lithograph, published posthumously in 1960

Fernand Léger, La femme à la fleur
Lithograph, published posthumously in 1960

Alfred Manessier, Croquis
Lithograph, 1962

Henri Matisse, La danse
Lithograph, 1938

Henri Matisse, Zulma
Lithograph, 1950

Joan Miró, Composition pour Jacques Prévert I
Lithograph, 1956

Joan Miró, Composition pour Jacques Prévert III
Lithograph, 1956

Pablo Picasso, Les deux frères
Pochoir after the painting by Picasso, 1930

Pablo Picasso, Hélène chez Archimède
Wood engraving by Georges Aubert after Picasso, 1931

Pablo Picasso, Deux femmes près de la fenêtre
Reduced facsimile linocut, 1959

Georges Rouault, Tête de jeune fille
Lithograph, 1939

Victor Vasarely, Témoignage XXVII
Pochoir, 1952

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Come up and see my etchings...

Another member of the circle of artists that clustered around the neighbouring ateliers of Jean-Gabriel Daragnès and Roger Lacourière in the 1920s was Charles Martin (1884-1934). Martin was born in Montpellier, where he began his art studies before going to Paris to study at the Académie Julian and at the École des Beaux-Arts.

Charles Martin, Woman putting on her stockings
Pochoir for Manon Lescaut, 1934

Charles Martin was a significant figure in Art Deco graphics, as illustrator, poster-designer, fashion, ballet, and theatre designer, as well as contributor to fashion journals such as the Gazette du Bon Ton and the Journal des Dames et des Modes.

Charles Martin, Le baiser rendu
Pochoir for Contes et nouvelles en vers. 1930

Charles Martin’s heyday was also the highpoint of the French livre d’artiste and livre de luxe. Among the texts he illustrated with original etchings are Carmen by Prosper Merimée (173 copies published by La Roseraie, 1926), L’illusion héroïque de Tito Bassi by Henri de Regnier (291 copies published by La Roseraie, 1926), Charles de Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes (223 copies published by Jean Terquem, 1926).

Charles Martin, La servante justifiée
Pochoir for Contes et nouvelles en vers, 1930

But Charles Martin was most active as an illustrator using the pochoir (hand-stencil) technique that was favoured by the fashion journals. Among his books illustrated with pochoir plates are
Henri de Regnier’s Contes Vénitiens  (Émile Chamontin, 1927), L’Abbé de Prévost Histoire de Manon Lescaut (La Meridienne, 1934).

Charles Martin, Les oies de Frère Philippe
Pochoir for Contes et nouvelles en vers, 1930

I have a copy of his Manon, and also of his Contes et nouvelles en vers of Jean de La Fontaine (Librairie de France, 1930). In the English-speaking world we think of La Fontaine as a children’s writer, the French Aesop, but his verse Contes are lightly erotic, rather in the manner of Boccaccio. This is a very lavish production but because it uses pochoirs rather than etchings, it was published in a substantial edition of 3,415 copies. There were 350 on Arches, 1500 on Lafuma, and 1500 on Alfa Navarre; these copies have the text and pochoir illustrations. The 65 remaining copies (50 on Hollande van Gelder and 15 on Japan) also had a separate suite of the 64 plates (of which 32 are in colour). I have copy XXV of the 50 on Hollande.

Charles Martin, Joconde
Pochoir for Contes et nouvelles en vers, 1930

 Charles Martin, Joconde
Etching with aquatint, 1930

Also included with my copy of the Contes, but with no indication in the justification that it is supposed to be there, is a portfolio of 15 much more explicit etchings, also by Charles Martin and relating to the same subjects. These etchings are in two states: pure etchings on Japan, and etchings with aquatint, and the title etched into the plate, printed on Hollande van Gelder. The etchings are aesthetically similar to the pochoirs, but - while still relatively innocent - are intended to be more titillating. For instance, while the pochoir for La chose impossible, in which a woman outwits the Devil by challenging him to straighten out a pubic hair, shows her with her head modestly lowered and her private parts covered, the etching lifts a wild froth of petticoats aside to reveal all.

 Charles Martin, La chose impossible
Pochoir for Contes et nouvelles en vers, 1930

Charles Martin, La chose impossible
Etching with aquatint, 1930

I haven’t been able to find out anything about these erotic etchings by Charles Martin. Were they included in all 65 of the special copies of Contes et nouvelles? It doesn’t appear so. It seems quite likely that Martin made these as a side-project, and they may have been published quite separately. As to how many copies were printed, and by whom, I can only guess. Roger Lacourière would be my first guess as the printer, and a total of around 65 copies would seem reasonable for the etchings (though possibly not so many of the pure etchings on Japan).

Charles Martin, Le calendrier des vieillards
Etching with aquatint, 1930

The only comparable publication I can trace by Charles Martin is his suite of erotic etchings Mascarades et amusettes, which was published sometime in the 1920s in a total of 63 copies. It was wittily naughty etchings such as these that gave rise to the seducer's catchphrase, "Come up and see my etchings."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The art of taille-douce

Following my previous post on Terry Haass and her close collaboration with the master taille-douciers at l’atelier Lacourière-Frélaut, I was delighted to hear from Antoine Rubington, the son of Norman Rubington, with further information on his father’s etchings. Antoine (himself a printmaker) tells me that all of Norman Rubington’s etchings were also made at Lacourière et Frélaut, and that this explains the technical mastery displayed. In a print studio such as Lacourière’s, the artist had the help of highly skilled and experienced artisans in all aspects of preparing the plates, biting them in acid, inking, and so on. The fact that there are usually only a few artist’s proofs of Norman Rubington’s etchings is down to cost; a struggling artist such as Norman Rubington could afford to have a few proofs printed for his own satisfaction, but not to commission an edition.

André Dignimont
Man with his hand up a waitress's skirt
Etching, 1927
Definitive state in colour

Artists such as Picasso, Chagall, Dalí, Miró, Buffet, Beaudin, and Masson all benefited from the craft skills of Roger Lacourière and Jacques Frélaut, who were the pre-eminent taille-douciers of the postwar years (a taille-doucier is a specialist in printing intaglio prints such as etchings and engravings, on a hand press from the original plate). The work of such printers has scarcely changed in centuries, and often the skills were passed down in families (two famous father and son taille-douciers of the twentieth century were Edmond and J. J. J. Rigal, and Raul and Raymond Haasen). Often, too, the taille-douciers were themselves printmakers of note.

In black-and-white

In the case of Roger Lacourière, he had been a significant figure in the Paris art world since just after the First World War. From 1919 until the Great Depression, Lacourière ran the printing atelier La Roseraie, in the building next door to the studio of another great artist and taille-doucier, Jean-Gabriel Daragnès, in the avenue Junot in Montmartre. Like Daragnès, Lacourière was both a printer and a publisher. He printed the etchings for the books published by his own Éditions de la Roseraie, and also for Les Éditions d’Art Devambez. The artistic director of both of these lists was Édouard Chimot (working from his studio nearby in rue Ampère), and the artists and writers who contributed to them were all regulars at the atelier of Daragnès, which was really the hub of the Montmartre artistic and literary scene between the wars.

In colour with remarques

In black-and-white with remarques

In black-and-white from the cancelled plate

This post celebrates the exquisite craftsmanship of Roger Lacourière with images of every known state of one of André Dignimont’s etchings for Amants et voleurs by Tristan Bernard, printed and published by La Roseraie in 1927. Dignimont (1891-1965) was one of the regulars chez Daragnès. I will probably post separately on him in due course. His etchings for Amants et voleurs are among his most remarkable achievements, showing the influence of the German Expressionists. Amants et voleurs was published in an edition of 420 copies: 20 on Japon ancien, 50 on Japon impérial, and 350 on vélin de Rives. My copy is no. 8 on Japon ancien, and although not called for on the justification page, has an original watercolour by Dignimont and a huge stack of loose prints, also on Japon. Besides the etchings in their definitive state in colour, there are four additional suites—in black-and-white, in black-and-white with remarques, in colour with remarques, and in black-and-white with cancellation marks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Artist's Studio

I visited today the exhibition The Artist's Studio (curated by Giles Waterfield) at one of my favourite local galleries, Compton Verney, which is a wonderful country house with Capability Brown gardens, turned into a museum by the philanthropist Peter Moores. It started me thinking about how many depictions of artists' studios I have, so I thought - given my recent silence - I should quickly post a few images of the artist's studio as Bohemian hideout. Here they are:

Henri Boutet (1851-1919)
L'Atelier d'Ulysse
Etching with aquatint, 1913

Louis Legrand (1863-1951)
À l'Atelier
Etching, 1885

Paul-Maurice Vigoureux (1876-?)
Artist's studio
Etching, 1925

I apologize if there are any weird mistakes in this post - everything about Blogger, which I felt quite comfortable with, seems to have changed without warning, and I feel I am blundering around without a clue what I'm doing.