Friday, June 27, 2008

Artists You've Never Heard Of: Tony Minartz

This is the first Artists You’ve Never Heard Of blog, the male equivalent of my Neglected Women Artists strand. The artist I have chosen is the post-Impressionist painter-etcher Tony Minartz – and if you have already heard of him, award yourself a gold star.

Tony Minartz

His full name was Antoine Guillaume Minartz. He was born in Cannes in 1870 (or possibly 1873). He was essentially self-taught, though he did benefit from advice and guidance from the Impressionist printmaker Paul Renouard. Minartz first comes to the attention of art history in 1896, when he exhibited with the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He showed with this and other Paris Salons up until 1914. What happened to him in the First World War, I don’t know. But after the war he seems to have ceased sending work to the Salons. From my limited knowledge of his work, the Parisian subjects mostly date from pre-WWI, while the post-WWI subjects tend to be of fashionable life on the Côte d’Azur. He died in Cannes in 1944.

Paul Renouard, Figurante du théatre de Drury Lane, à Londres (May Belfort?)
Original drypoint, 1905

No one would have been less suited than Tony Minartz to be a War Artist. His whole attention was focussed on life and vivacity. Death and despair – even hunger and want – are nowhere to be seen. His eye was attracted by bright lights, beautiful women in outrageous gowns and hats, and all the thrumming life of a city enjoying its wealth. This may make him a shallow artist, but it also makes him one of the most acute observers of the Belle Époque.

I have four etchings by Tony Minartz, all published by La Revue de l’Art ancien et moderne. Each of them tells a little story. The first, from 1902, is entitled Le Bal. At first glance you see a swirl of dancers, their movement captured with subtle skill. Then you notice their rapt involvement with each other. And then the penny drops: every one of the dancers is a woman. There is no clue in the title, but this is a scene from Belle Époque Paris’s flourishing lesbian subculture.

Tony Minartz, Le Bal
Original etching, 1902

The second is entitled L’Avant-foyer de l’Opéra. A fashionable lady in furs and a couture dress leaves the theatre, to be greeted by a bowing man in evening dress. Their relationship is left open to question, but one thing we know: they are not husband and wife.

Tony Minartz, L’Avant-foyer de l’Opéra
Original etching, 1903

My third Minartz etching is entitled Au Restaurant. A beautiful woman in an expensive hat, languidly holding a fan, waits while the man who accompanies her orders for them both from an attentive waiter. In the background, a violinist plays, and the female half of another dining couple bends low to display her cleavage. Once again, this is high society living, but it has nothing to do with French bourgeois morality.

Tony Minartz, Au Restaurant
Original etching, 1904

The fourth and last of my etchings by Tony Minartz dates from five years later, in 1909. It is entitled La rue de la Paix. Two richly-dressed women smirk into a shop window. Behind them, a servant or porter brings up the rear, barely able to carry the purchases they have already made.

Tony Minartz, La rue de la Paix
Original etching, 1909

From these four etchings – all I have from an output described by Benézit as ‘extrêment abondant’ – I hope it can be seen that Minartz, while chronicling the life of the rich and fashionable, did so with an acute observing eye, and a certain wry detachment. I make no claims for originality or world-shaking importance in his work. His style as an etcher owes everything to Paul Renouard and Edgar Chahine; his paintings, such as ‘Leaving the Moulin Rouge’, in the Hermitage, show the influence of Toulouse-Lautrec. But in his chronicles of the nightlife of the Belle Époque and the Années Folles, Tony Minartz both observed and added to the sum of human gaiety.

Edgar Chahine, La Promenade
Original etching, 1900


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Well, you're right, I hadn't heard of him. But isn't he wonderful? I definitely see the influence of Lautrec. Thank you for sharing him!

Neil said...

I've been amazed, Pamela, to discover so many overlooked/undiscovered/forgotten artists in the course of becoming an accidental print dealer. You just thing, but why isn't this person famous? Tony Minartz is an interesting artist, whose work I like, but I don't think he is important in the sense of either being a great original or in having an influence on others. But if you look back at my Neglected Women Artists blog on Angèle Delasalle, she really is a great and completely forgotten artist. I think the internet is just starting to allow a kind of democracy of taste that will give all kinds of people a new chance to be understood and appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of this artist either; I'm quite jealous of your possession of these prints! Are any of these prints you talk about owning for sale, or do you have a separate site for dealing?

I always look forward to your posts, by the way. Exceptional content!

Neil said...

Thanks! It's good to have appreciative readers out there. Everything I write about in these blog entries is for sale on the Idbury Prints website (just click on the link on the right to browse this), bar the odd print that has sold or that I haven't got round to listing yet. I try to keep the commercial aspect separate from the blog, because I want the blog entries to reflect the pleasure I have in acquiring and learning about the prints and printmakers, without trying to sell anybody anything. You can email me through the website if you find anything that interests you.

Anonymous said...

It should be enough for an artist to make interesting works. Re: defining originality and detecting influences. It may be fun for those of us who write about art and who like to read about it as well as look at it, but the exclusionary aspects are an unfortunate side-effect...unless you're someone like Clement Greenberg, who clearly enjoyed casting people out into darkness. Very interesting article, as usual.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I scanned the symbolist section of your shop and saw enough to make me sick with desire! And sick that the dollar is so pitifully weak right now, else I'd be snatching up some of those Rops and Moreaus post haste.

(sad face)

Neil said...

Well, I'm happy for people just to look and enjoy. Certainly in the context of this blog, I'm only interested in the intrinsic worth of art, not the commercial value. I sell prints to enable me to buy more prints... But as I say, if you are interested in anything, email me.

Thomas said...

I found your blog while searching for information on Louis Buisseret...there is some fantastic stuff here. I fully concur with your comments about a "democracy of taste" bought about by the internet! There is some truly exceptional art out there that somehow dropped out of view somewhere down the line. Fantastic content!

Neil said...

Thanks. I'm glad you like the blog; I'm a bit erratic about adding entries, but I fully intend to keep going. I don't really know anything about Buisseret beyond what it says in the artist biography on Idbury Prints. I just had a quick look at various articles in the issue of L'Art Belge I wrote about in another blog to see if there's anything about Buisseret, but there's nothing I can see, beyond the reproduction of the painting Mater Beata in a long section of plates at the end, headed École Belge, Peintres et sculpteurs contemporains. As others have mentioned on this blog, Belgian art remains something of an undiscovered country.

Anonymous said...

Just thought you might want to know that the entire Robert O. Muller collection of Japanese prints was donated to the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and it is available online at
For some reason, on this site when you search, you should use only the last name, because you won't find it with the full name.

Neil said...

Thanks so much, Jane. The worldwide web really is a cat's cradle of intertwining tendrils, isn't it? Your comment - much appreciated - hasn't got anything to do with Tony Minartz, but is instead a reaction to a comment I left on another blog (the great Japonisme, for anyone interested). I was just saying today, à propos of how violent and aggressive the world has turned, what a supportive, friendly, and positive environment it is out here in the virtual world. So thanks again, I will explore the Muller collection for free in cyberspace.

Jane Librizzi said...

If you are ever in Washington, D.C.,do visit the Freer Gallery, where the Muller Collection is. The Freer is one of my favorite museums for many reasons. As for "The New Wave", the book has more information, but the website has the complete works. Books and the internet complement each other.

Neil said...

I'm just coming to terms with the whole expansion of consciousness and knowledge that has come with the internet. A lot of my research used to rely on a kind of instinct for the lucky discovery - the perfect book that just fell under your hand. Now the internet aspires to do all that for you, and in some ways it does. But I never quite trust information gleaned from the net in the same way as I do that from a book - even though I am quite aware there has never been a book printed without a mistake in it. There's something comforting about holding a book that can't be replicated looking at a screen. On the other hand, even the books in my garden shed are now triple-banked, so there is some reason to be glad for internet projects such as the wonderful Internet Sacred Text Archive, available both as a website and a DVD-Rom, and one of the most brilliant resources one could ever imagine. The DVD-Rom contains the full texts of over 1200 books - including at least one I'd been searching for for years, Chukchee Mythology by Waldemar Bogoras. I'm not sure how to leave a link, but the url is

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