Monday, November 12, 2007
Édouard Chimot, Perfection - etching/aquatint for L'Enfer, 1921
The French etcher and lithographer Édouard Chimot (1880-1959) was one of those artists who carried the Symbolist aesthetic forward into the age of Art Deco. Chimot’s heyday was the 1920s. This was when his own art was at its most powerful and original. But in addition to this, this was when Chimot’s influence was strongly felt throughout the Parisian art world. As Artistic Director of the fine press Les Éditions d’Art Devambez, Édouard Chimot worked closely with artists such as Pierre Brissaud, Edgar Chahine, Tsuguharu Foujita, Drian, Jean Droit, Henri Farge, and Alméry Lobel-Riche.
Édouard Chimot, Conchita - etching/aquatint with remarques, for La Femme et Le Pantin, 1928
Typically, books published by André Devambez under the direction of Chimot were illustrated with original prints, in strictly limited editions of a few hundred copies. These books are now rare and sought-after, both by bibliophiles and print collectors.
Les Éditions d'Art Devambez, signed and dedicated by Édouard Chimot
I have managed to acquire a copy of a lavish catalogue published by Devambez in an edition of 100 and given to his chief collaborators and preferred clients, containing extra proofs from all the books published from 1923-1929. Each copy of this catalogue was numbered and signed by Chimot to a named recipient. As almost all the books are already listed as out-of-print and unobtainable, the catalogue is not a sales pitch, but a record of achievement. To make the 100 books, the publisher bound up existing proof pages, to distribute to those most interested. ‘Ce n’est pas un catalogue de reproductions que nous lui offrons, mais les précieux défets des livres eux-mêmems: les eaux-fortes du triage et les feuilles typographiques du tirage, imprimées sur les différents papiers employés pour chaque edition.” In order to construct a catalogue in this way, all copies of the book must be unique in their content.
William Ablett, Greek scene - etching/aquatint for La Variabilité du Gout dans les Arts by Léon Arnoult, printed and published by Devambez "À l'enseigne du masque d'or", 1921
Devambez – himself a painter, printmaker, author, and printer, as well as publisher – may have regretted the extra expense involved in creating this exquisite calling card, as the Wall Street Crash and subsequent Depression must have devastated his market. No one would be buying, or bankrolling, projects such as these in the 1930s. There were a number books still in the pipeline, but the glory days of the Chimot/Devambez partnership were over.
Pierre Brissaud, Two Young Men in a Bar - etching for La Vie en Fleur, 1924
The first book under Chimot’s direction was an edition of Le Petit Pierre by Anatole France, illustrated with colour etchings by Pierre Brissaud. The second was La Vie en Fleur, also by France, also illustrated with colour etchings by Brissaud. Pierre Brissaud later illustrated a third book for Chimot, an edition of Daudet’s Contes de Lundi, again illustrated with colour etchings. What is interesting about these projects is to see Brissaud, famous for his fashion plates and illustrations using the pochoir technique of hand-stencilled colour, achieving similar effects in conventional etchings. The colours are very rich, and the etchings deeply bitten.
Drian, Le sixième mariage de Barbe-bleu - etching for La Canne de Jaspe, 1924
Then follows the first of three titles illustrated with original etchings by Drian, La Canne du Jaspe by Henri de Régnier. Drian is another interesting Art Deco artist. He was born Adrien Desiré Étienne, into a peasant family in Lorraine. The chatelaine of the village took an interest in the talented boy, but was horrified by his desire to be an artist. So when Adrien Étienne went to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, he took the pseudonym Drian – his own first name, as his contemporaries heard it in his slurred Lorrain accent. He is often listed as Adrien Drian or Étienne Drian, but both are incorrect: the name Drian stands alone, like Erté.
Édouard Chimot, Soir près du feu - etching/aquatint for Les Chansons de Bilitis, 1925
Édouard Chimot himself was the most prolific supplier of original prints to Les Éditions d’Art Devambez, illustrating with etchings Les Chansons du Bilitis, Les Poésies de Méléagre, Les Belles de Nuit, La Femme et le Pantin, and (subsequently) Le Jardin de l’Infante and Verlaine’s Parallèlement.
Tsuguharu Foujita, Two Japanese women - etching for La Troisième Jeuness de Madame Prune, 1926
The next artist represented is the Japanese master Tsuguharu Foujita, known in France as Léonard Foujita. Foujita illustrated Loti’s La Troisième Jeunesse de Madame Prune with 17 original colour etchings.
William Walcot, The siege of Carthage - etching for Salammbô, 1926
The English/Russian artist William Walcot, who studied in St. Petersburg and Paris, made etchings for Flaubert’s Salammbô and Hérodias.
Henri Farge, Visite au Bosphore - etching for L'Homme qui Assassina, 1926
Henri Farge provided vivid colour etchings of Istanbul in the 1920s for L’Homme qui assassina by Claude Farrère.
Edgar Chahine, Cirque - etching for Novembre, 1928
The etcher Edgar Chahine, who was born in Vienna, of Armenian origin, and brought up in Istanbul, brought his intimate impressionistic style to La Mort de Venise by Barrès and (later) Mitsou by Colette.
Henri le Riche, Dancer - etching for Les Nouvelles Asiatiques, 1927
Henri Le Riche (Hirné) illustrated Les Nouvelles Asiatiques by the Comte de Gobineau, also with original etchings.
Jean Droit, L'agonie de la Sémillante - etching for Lettres de Mon Moulin, 1927
Also in 1927 came an edition of Daudet’s Lettres de Mon Moulin, illustrated with original etchings by Jean Droit. Droit is remembered today for his Art Deco posters for the 1924 Olympic Games. He was also one of the pioneers of the Scout movement in Europe, under the pseudonym Loup-Bavard, Chatterbox-Wolf.
Auguste Brouet, Fishing boats - etching for Le Livre de l'Émeraude, 1927
Auguste Brouet, who as a young man worked alongside both Whistler and Degas, provided etchings for three titles, including a life of El Greco by Barrès.
Jean-Gabriel Domergue, Venetian beauty - etching for La Nuit Venétienne, 1928
The last artist featured in the catalogue is Jean-Gabriel Domergue, with colour etchings for La Nuit Vénitienne by Alfred de Musset. Domergue, whose “seductive and perverse” portrait of Gina Maletti was much admired by Apollinaire, claimed to be the inventor of the pin-up. “Ma première pin-up date de 1912,” he proclaimed. Most of my prints by Jean-Gabriel Domergue are colour lithographs from his 1956 portfolio La Parisienne, so I am very pleased to have 2 much earlier works from La Nuit Vénitienne of 1929.
There my fascinating Devambez catalogue runs out. There were still works to come from artists such as Henri Jourdain, Tigrane Polat, Louis Jou, and – perhaps most notably – Alméry Lobel-Riche’s reading of Wilde’s Salome. But those must wait for another day, and a deeper pocket.