Monday, August 6, 2012

A Communard in Dickensian London: Auguste Lancon

In 1986 I edited, with my friend Victor E. Neuburg, a collection of Charles Dickens's social criticism, under the title A December Vision. One of the pleasures of that project was researching visual images to match Dickens's texts on London's workhouses, prisons, and ragged schools. Illustrators such as George Cruickshank, Phiz, Watts Phillips, W.G. Mason, Kenny Meadows, William M'Connell, A. Henning, and various Punch cartoonists, enlivened the pages, along with work by two French artists, Gustave Doré and Gavarni. But I don't recall ever coming across the searing etchings of Auguste Lançon, created around 1880 to accompany the text La Rue à Londres by his friend Jules Vallès, published in 1884. It's a shame as many of them perfectly illustrate the scenes of poverty and desperation that so strongly roused Dickens's sense of injustice and inequality.

Auguste Lançon, Un abreuvoir dans Tottenham-Court-Road
Etching, 1884

Auguste Lançon, Une ruelle dans Spitalfields
Etching, 1884

Auguste Lançon, Pauvresses accroupies contre le mur du "Workhouse" de Saint-Giles
Etching, dated 1881 in the plate

Both Vallès and Lançon were Communards, exiled in London after the fall of the ill-fated Paris Commune in 1871. Vallès was actually condemned to death, but escaped to England. Lançon spent six months imprisoned in the Satory camp - presumably in a similar cell to that of Philippe Cattelain - before joining Vallès in exile in London. Men such as Jules Vallès and Auguste Lançon were primed by their own experiences and deeply-held political beliefs to side with those in the underbelly of Victorian society, and rage against their plight. Both the text and etchings are very powerful evocations of the pitiful condition of the London poor, at the height of Britain's power and wealth, and it is a shame that La Rue à Londres seems so little known, presumably because it was never translated into English.

Auguste Lançon, Le soir dans un "Lodging-House" de Drury Lane
Etching, dated 1880 in the plate

Auguste Lançon, Un ménage d'émigrants Irlandais dans un "Lodging-House" de Drury Lane
Etching, 1884

Auguste Lançon, La salle basse d'un "Lodging-House" de femmes dans Drury Lane
Etching, 1884

Auguste Lançon is an artist I had previously come across largely as an accomplished etcher of animal scenes, so these London etchings come as something of a revelation. They are beautifully observed, often quite dark, and full of telling details. As records of the life of the London poor at this period, these remarkable etchings stand comparison with the wood engravings of Gustave Doré for Blanchard Jerrold's London.

Auguste Lançon, La servante "The General Servant"
Etching, 1884

Auguste Lançon, La cuisine
Etching, dated 1880 in the plate

Auguste Lançon, Types de petites ouvrières dans leur intérieur
Etching, 1884

Auguste André Lançon was born in 1836 in Saint-Claude in the Jura, the son of a carpenter. Lançon was first apprenticed to a lithographer in Saint-Claude, then studied at the École des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, and finally went to Paris to study under Picot. He first exhibited at the Salon de Paris in 1861, under the name André Lançon, which he continued to use until 1870.

Auguste Lançon, Un campement de "Gypsies"
Etching, 1884

When Lançon began exhibiting again in 1872, after the interruption of the Franco-Prussian War, the Commune, and imprisonment, it was as Auguste Lançon, and this switch of first names has led to confusion, with some writers assuming that André and Auguste were two different artists. La Rue à Londres credits him as A. Lançon, though most of the etchings are signed in the plate Aug. Lançon.

Auguste Lançon, Chez Painter le marchand de tortues - Les réservoirs
Etching, 1884

La Rue à Londres was published by Georges Charpentier in an edition of 600 copies: 50 on Whatman with the etchings in two states, 50 on Japan, also with the etchings in two states, and 500 on wove paper, with the etchings in their final state. In all cases the etchings themselves were printed by either A. Salmon or F. Liénard on Hollande wove paper. The front cover claims 23 etchings, the title page 22, the latter being the correct total.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gueules Noires: the mining lithographs of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923) is celebrated for his posters for the Chat Noir nightclub, and his lithographs of languid ladies with cats. But he also had a strong social conscience, and in this post I want to look at his powerful images of working men, and in particular his lithographs for the novel Les Gueules Noires (The Miners, literally The Black Mouths or Black Faces) by Emile Morel. This novel is a kind of companion piece to the more famous Germinal by Steinlen's friend Emile Zola. It was published in 1907 by E. Sansot, with 16 lithographs by Steinlen printed by Eugène Vernan. The ordinary edition on wove paper has no limitation, though it is not common. In addition to this trade edition there were 25 copies on Japon Impérial and 5 copies on Chine; these numbered copies have the lithographs in two states, in black as in the regular edition and in sanguine. I have no. 10 of the 25 copies on Japon. Here are the paper wraps, in both states:

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, La Sortie de la mine (Crauzat 269)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, La Sortie de la mine (Crauzat 269)
Lithograph, 1907 (sanguine version, without lettering)

As this was the cover of the book, inevitably there are folds either side of the spine, and this image is particularly vulnerable to damage and paper loss. There exists an unfolded poster incorporating the cover lithograph, a lovely thing that can be seen in this post at Livrenblog. There are visual similarities with an earlier lithograph, Ouvriers sortant de l'usine:

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Ouvriers sortant de l'usine (Crauzat 254)
Lithograph, 1903

These two lithographs alone show a powerful empathy with the industrial workforce that was rare among artists and art-lovers at this time. Although the Impressionists incorporated factory chimneys into their landscapes, their figure studies and interiors reflect the life of the well-to-do, not the poor. Vincent van Gogh, of course, plunged himself with heroic compassion into the lives of the mining families of Belgium, and Frank Brangwyn (about whom I'll post at some future date) was making similar studies of factory workers at the same time as Steinlen. Steinlen's friendship with Zola, and his position as a regular contributor to the left-leaning satirical journals Le Rire and L'Assiette au Beurre, mark him as someone who regarded art as an instrument of social change as well a means of personal expression. There is something quite haunting to me about the hunched and desperate figures in the lithographs for Les Gueules Noires, and the grim attention that Steinlen pays to the tiny details of their daily lives. Here are the fifteen single-page lithographs, alternately in sanguine and black:

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, La Descente (Crauzat 270)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Le Mouilleur (Crauzat 271)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, La Paye (Crauzat 272)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Idylle (Crauzat 273)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Les Trieuses
Lithograph, 1907
(N.B. Crauzat left this lithograph out of his catalogue raisonné by mistake, presumably misled by the fact that the cover claims a total of 15 lithographs when there are actually 16; hence the title for this lithograph is mine, and I suggest a catalogue number of Crauzat 273a)

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Solitude (Crauzat 274)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, L'Train des Gueules Noires (Crauzat 275)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Le Marchand de gaufres (Crauzat 276)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Combat des coqs (Crauzat 277)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Baptême (Crauzat 278)
Lithograph, 1907
(Crauzat 279 is a redrawn version of this subject for a subsequent edition)

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Le Directeur (Crauzat 280)
Lithograph, 1907
(Crauzat 281 is a redrawn version of this subject for a subsequent edition)

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, La Catastrophe (Crauzat 282)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, La Reconnaissance (Crauzat 283)
Lithograph, 1907

 Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, L'enterrement (Crauzat 284)
Lithograph, 1907

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, La Veillée (Crauzat 285)
Lithograph, 1907

My final image must be one of the last created by Steinlen, who died on 14 December 1923 at the age of 64; it shows his continuing commitment to recording the plight of the poor and downtrodden.

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Le Vagabond
Etching, published posthumously in 1924

 Ernest de Crauzat (who compiled the catalogue raisonné of his prints) concluded a tribute to Steinlen published in Byblis in 1927 with the simple words, "Steinlen ne quittera plus jamais Montmartre": Steinlen will never again leave Montmartre.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Felix Bracquemond and Impressionism

The etcher Félix Bracquemond was a towering figure in nineteenth-century French printmaking, a fact which was recognised when in 1900 he won the Grand prix de gravure at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Over the course of a long career he worked in various styles, producing over 800 prints, but essentially he is one of those figures who form a bridge between the Barbizon School and the Impressionists, having close links with both groups. His discovery of the woodcuts of Hokusai in the late 1850s is often seen as the start of French Japonisme.

Paul Rajon, Bracquemond (en 1868)
Etching, 1897

Félix Bracquemond was born Joseph Auguste Bracquemond in Paris in 1833. Brought up in a stable, he entertained youthful dreams of becoming a circus rider. Around 1848, he was instead apprenticed to a lithographer. Taking drawing lessons in the evenings, Bracquemond was noticed by Guichard, a former pupil of Ingres. He persuaded the boy's parents to let him leave his apprenticeship and become Guichard's pupil. Bracquemond made his debut at the Salon of 1852.

Félix Bracquemond was one of the pioneers and shapers of the French etching revival. It was Guichard encouraged him to learn etching, without being able to offer any practical help; undeterred, Bracquemond learned the techniques from an old encyclopedia. From 1862 Bracquemond was the driving force of the Société des Aquafortistes. Félix Bracquemond was generous with his advice and help to other artists who wanted to learn how to etch, including Corot, Courbet, Théodore Rousseau, Degas, and Fantin-Latour. Like most etchers and engravers of the time, Bracquemond earned his bread and butter by creating interpretative or reproductive etchings after the work of others. My first Bracquemond etching, dating from 1859, is one such piece, etched after a painting by the seventeenth-century Spanish painter Francisco Herrera the Elder. The second is a portrait of the artist Paul Chenavard, who like Guichard (and later Bracquemond's wife-to-be Marie Quiveron) was a pupil of Ingres; this may be after a photograph. The third is a portrait of the 18th-century artist Simon Mathurin Lantara, after a drawing by his friend Horace Vernet.

Félix Bracquemond, Saint Basile
Etching, 1859, after a painting by Francisco Herrera the Elder

Félix Bracquemond, Paul Chenavard
Etching, 1860

Félix Bracquemond, Lantara
Etching, 1864, after a drawing by Horace Vernet

Because of his friendship with Impressionists such as Manet, Degas, Cassatt, and Caillebotte, Félix Bracquemond was invited to exhibit at the Impressionist Exhibitions of 1874 (the first), 1879, and 1880. At the First Impressionist Exhibition, Félix Bracquemond was I think the most prolific exhibitor, showing a total of 32 prints. He was joined in the 1879 and 1880 exhibitions by his wife Marie, who was one of the most significant female Impressionists, alongside Eva Gonzalès, Mary Cassatt, and Berthe Morisot (another pupil of Guichard). Marie Bracquemond also exhibited at the last Impressionist exhibition in 1886, this time without her husband. My next Bracquemond etching is an interpretative work after a painting by the Barbizon-linked painter Charles Chaplin, who taught both Mary Cassatt and Eva Gonzalès; Chaplin's atelier was the only place in Paris that accepted female students, apart from the Académie Julian.

Félix Bracquemond, Le miroir
Etching, 1867, after a painting by Charles Chaplin

The Bracquemonds' son Pierre left a sour memoir full of resentment towards his father, whom he saw as domineering and unsympathetic. From this, the idea has gained currency that Félix Bracquemond stood in his wife's way, relentlessly criticising her and eventually bullying her into giving up her art. The current Wikipedia entry on Marie Bracquemond talks of, "his campaign to thwart her development as an artist," and says that "His objection to her art was not on the basis of gender but on the style she adopted, Impressionism." Later the article speaks of his "disgust" when Monet and Degas became her mentors. This is not just simplistic, but plain wrong. Félix Bracquemond was an early pioneer of Impressionism, as his 1868 series of 8 etchings, La Seine au Bas-Meudon, clearly shows. He was as keen as any of the Impressionists to capture the fleeting effects of light on the landscape, and even called some of his landscape studies of this period croquis impressionnistes. I wish I had one of these sparkling early Impressionist etchings to share with you.

Although no doubt Félix did have a strong and perhaps overbearing personality, and although his own devotion to the severe delights of black-and-white stands in opposition to Marie's lush sense of colour, the notion that he hated either her art or Impressionism in general is clearly nonsense. Not only did Félix exhibit with the Impressionists, he did so jointly with Marie. It was Félix who introduced her to Monet and to Degas, to Sisley who became one of their closest friends, to the art critic Gustave Geffroy, who championed her work, and to Paul Gauguin, who influenced her colour sense profoundly. Here is what Félix actually had to say about Marie's art, as quoted by Jean-Paul Bouillon in his chapter on Marie Bracquemond in Pfeiffer and Hollein, Women Impressionists: "She has never turned out masses of work, preferring complete, properly finished pictures. And because she's sick and disheartened, her oeuvre is small. As a result, she's pushed aside as being useless. It's stupid and cruel."

Félix Bracquemond, La terrasse de la Villa Brancas
Etching, 1876, proof avant la lettre

The most telling evidence of Félix's admiration and love for his wife lies in what I think is one of his finest etchings, La terrasse de la Villa Brancas, which was created in 1876, published by the revue L'Art in 1878, and exhibited at the 4th Impressionist Exhibition in 1879. It shows Marie on the terrace of their home in Sèvres, painting her sister Louis Quiveron, in the new Impressionist style she had adopted after the revelation of the First Impressionist Exhibition. Félix depicts his wife not as a mother, not as a domestic goddess, not as an object of male desire, but as an artist. Not just an artist, but an Impressionist artist, a fact which he conveys in his own style, which is the essence of Impressionism. Jean-Paul Bouillon writes vividly about the triumph of this etching: "In this major work . . . the artist takes a clear stand on the issue of color and plein air painting, demonstrating that the effect of light can be fully rendered, independently of color, simply by masterful gradation and ordering of black and white values, from pure white for Louise's dress and the parasol directly catching the sun, through the deep black of Marie's costume. And at the same time he informs us that in the mid-1870s his wife was already engaging with this kind of subject matter." One of Marie's greatest paintings, called alternatively Sur la terrasse à Sèvres or by the same title as the etching La terrasse de la Villa Brancas, is a kind of colour riposte to the etching. It can be found in the Musée du Petit Palais in Geneva.

Félix Bracquemond, La terrasse de la Villa Brancas
Etching, 1876

I'm delighted to be able to show you two versions of La terrasse de la Villa Brancas. The first is a rare proof avant la lettre, before Félix has used a drypoint needle to credit L'Art in the bottom righthand corner, the title La terrasse below Louise's dress, and a credit to the printer, A. Salmon, in the bottom left. I can't see any differences in the actual image, beyond the added lettering, but there may be some minor changes.

Félix Bracquemond, Vue du Pont des Saints-Pères
Etching, 1877

Vue du Pont des Saints-Pères is another notable Impressionist etching, also published by L'Art, while Les trembles, which shows the influence of Sisley, was published by the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, and La surprise by the Revue de l'art ancien et moderne. Stylistically I wonder if Les trembles, which depicts aspens quivering in the breeze on the banks of the Seine, may date from earlier than its publication date of 1884.

Félix Bracquemond, Les trembles
Etching, 1884

Félix Bracquemond, La surprise
Etching, 1900

My next four etchings by Bracquemond were executed for a monumental work of 1895, La Mer by René Maizeroy, which contained 24 etchings by different hands. The first is the cover of the book, printed on thick buff-coloured paper.

Félix Bracquemond, La Mer
Etching, 1895

Félix Bracquemond, La Mer - frontispice
Etching, 1895

Félix Bracquemond, Le Mont Saint-Michel
Etching, 1895

Félix Bracquemond, Les mouettes
Etching, 1895

And finally, the last work I have from Bracquemond's hand, Loup dans la neige, or as it is titled in Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, Der Wulf im Schnee.

Félix Bracquemond, Loup dans la neige
Etching, 1907

As well as his etchings and lithographs, Bracquemond designed ceramics, notably for Sèvres (from 1870) and Haviland, whose experimental atelier in Auteuil he ran as artistic director from 1872. The Sèvres porcelain factory can be seen in the background of La terrasse de la Villa Brancas.

Loÿs Delteil, Bracquemond (en 1897)
Etching, 1897

Félix Bracquemond died in Sèvres in 1914; Marie survived him by two years.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Etchings of Young Goethe

It's not surprising that many writers are also talented artists, and many artists also write. In some cases - David Jones is an obvious example - it's impossible to say which medium predominates. But I was still surprised to stumble across the accomplished etchings featured in this post, created by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1768, at the age of 18.

William Unger, Goethe
Etching, 1881
after the 1779 portrait in oils by Georg Oswald May

Although he is remembered today as Germany's greatest writer, early in life Goethe was inclined to become a painter; his lifelong interest in art is evidenced in his book On Colour, and of course the hero of The Sorrows of Young Werther is an aspiring artist. While studying law in Leipzig from 1765-1768, Goethe took drawing lessons from Adam Friedrich Oeser, director of the Leipzig Academy, who became a key influence on him. It was Oeser who encouraged Goethe to take up etching, and taught him the technique.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Landschaft nach A. Thiele (Dedié à Monsieur Goethe)
Etching, 1768

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Landschaft nach A. Thiele (Dedié à Monsieur le Docteur Hermann)
Etching, 1768

My two Goethe etchings were printed in 1893 from copper plates that had remained in the possession of a Leipzig family and were subsequently donated to the Leipzig city library. Both are interpretative etchings after landscapes by Alexander Thiele (1686-1752), and each has an etched dedication below the image, one to Goethe's father, and the other to his law teacher Dr. Christian Gottfried Hermann. The effect is rather like a pair of bookplates, though the etchings were not intended for use as exlibris.