Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The age of elegant motoring

Lucien Boucher, Le Petit Garage, 1925
Original lithograph by Lucien Boucher (1889-1971)

As regular readers of this blog will know, I love Lucien Boucher’s lithographs. This one of a garage got me leafing through prints looking for images of the kind of cars that would have been maintained there. I found seven from the 1920s that I particularly like.

Marcel Vertès, Driving at night
Original etching, c.1925

This etching by the Hungarian emigré Marcel Vertès (1895-1961) is incredibly atmospheric, I think, with its wild swirls of inky darkness. You can tell this handsome automobile is purring its way to some illicit tryst. It’s one of a batch of prints by Vertès that I bought from a collector who in turn acquired them from the artist’s widow when his studio was dispersed. Therefore I can’t be certain of the date, but from the style and the paper I would date it to the mid-20s. I would guess it was printed by Vertès himself. I won’t write at length about Marcel Vertès here, because he deserves his own blog entry in due course.

Marcel Vertès, Prostitutes and cars
Original etching, c.1925

This second Vertès etching, from the same batch as the first, addresses a theme that was central to his work. His intimately-observed etchings and lithographs of brothels and prostitutes in the 1920s have a satirical edge reminiscent of George Grosz. The perspective of this image, looking out from the furtively-occupied back seat of a car towards a second vehicle whose driver is bargaining with a street prostitute, is as evocative as a photograph by that other Hungarian observer of the seamy side of Paris, Brassaï. The scene is probably the Bois de Boulogne.

Chas Laborde, Driving
Original etching by Chas Laborde, 1926

Chas Laborde (1886-1941) moved in the same circles as Marcel Vertès; both were friends of the writer Pierre Mac Orlan (who also wrote the text for Lucien Boucher’s Boutiques). Laborde was born in Buenos Aires, to French parents. His given name was Charles, but he always worked as Chas. With Jean-Émile Laboureur, Chas Laborde was quick to incorporate elements of cubism in his work, especially in his colour etchings for Juliette au pays des hommes by Jean Giraudoux, from which this jaunty image comes. It was printed by Roger Lacourière. Pierre Mac Orlan said that Chas Laborde – who was gassed in the trenches in WWI - died of a broken heart when he saw the German army march past on the Place d’Étoile in 1941.

Édouard Goerg, Mending a car
Original etching, 1926

In this etching by Édouard Goerg (1893-1969), it takes a while before you notice the legs sticking out from underneath the bonnet. This is an early etching by Goerg. It comes from a suite of his etchings for a black comedy, Knock ou le Triomphe de la médecine by Jules Romains. 299 copies of this book were printed, of which 11 had the etchings in three states, and 28 in two states. The existence of separate suites of the definite state of the etchings is not recorded, and my suite, printed on Arches laid paper, is a real rarity. In 1913-14 Goerg studied at the Académie Ranson under the Nabis painters Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier. He was mobilised in WWI until 1919. Goerg was introduced to etching by Jean-Émile Laboureur in the 1920s, and became one of the foremost printmakers in twentieth-century France – President of the Société des Peintres-Graveurs Français, and professor etching at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Like Chas Laborde, this very French artist was born abroad, in Sydney, Australia.

Charles-Auguste Edelmann, Nuits des Princes
Original etching, 1927

Charles-Auguste Edelmann (1879-1950) is a more obscure figure than the others, but I like his work very much. I have etchings and drypoints by Edelmann. All three of the etchings reproduced here were made for the novel Nuits des Princes by Joseph Kessel, which dealt with East European émigrés living the highlife in post-war Paris. They were printed – as was the Goerg etching – by the master printer Robert Coulouma.

Charles-August Edelmann, The chauffeur
Original etching, 1927

Charles-Auguste Edelmann was born in Soultz-sous-Forêt, Alsace Lorraine, but settled in Montmartre, where he became a subtle chronicler of Paris in the jazz age. Charles-Auguste Edelmann studied under Gérôme and Humbert at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. He exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français and at the Union des Artistes Alsaciens.

Charles-Auguste Edelmann, Men and women in the street
Original etching, 1927

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This makes me wonder - is it the cars themselves or the way they stimulated the artists? I was originally attracted to the work of Australian artist Clarice Beckett by her 1920s cars emerging from the mists. Your Lucien Boucher pieces are more distinctive than his advertisements. More please. Also, if you check out the ever resourceful Mariana's Art Deco blog (20 July 2008), there is a print "Garage Marbeuf-Paris" by Albert Laprade from 1928. It must be one of the first parking garages?