Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some forgotten post-Impressionists

All the etchings below were published by the revue of art and literature L’Artiste in the 1890s. L’Artiste had been going since 1831, and had been a second home to Delacroix and Baudelaire, and the staunch champion of the Barbizon School of artists. It ceased publication in 1904. Received opinion has it that by the 1890s the journal was in terminal decline, but at least in terms of the quality of the original graphics I believe this to be a harsh judgement. The original plates published in the 1890s – mostly etchings or lithographs – represent the current artistic movements of Symbolism and post-Impressionism with remarkable images, many by artists who are hardly remembered at all today. The major names contributing original work in these years are Félicien Rops (see my last post), Rops’ pupil Louis Legrand (about whom I’ll write separately), Henri Fantin-Latour, Charles Cottet, Alexandre Lunois, Edmond Aman-Jean, and Eugène Carrière. But for me the real surprises have been from the unknowns. For the first of these, William Julian-Damazy, author of a stunning impressionistic etching of the Place de la Concorde, I don’t even have a date of birth or death.

William Julian-Damazy, Place de la Concorde
Etching, 1892

Julian-Damazy is an incredibly shadowy figure. He was active from the 1880s to the 1920s, but I haven’t been able to turn up any background except that he was born in Paris.

William Julian-Damazy, La danse
Etching after Jules Chéret, 1892

François Courboin was born in 1865 and died in 1925. He seems to have been most active as an original artist in the 1880s and 1890s, after which he turned his attention increasingly to documenting the history of French printmaking. His Sur la plage is a beautiful little etching, harking back to the beach scenes of Boudin, which so inspired Claude Monet.

François Courboin, Sur la plage (Trouville)
Etching, 1892

Among other important works, Courboin wrote and compiled a massive four-volume Histoire illustré de la gravure en France, which was published between 1923 and 1929, the last volumes appearing posthumously. But looking at his lovely Étude of a Belle Époque lady with a chignon revealing a tantalising glimpse of the creamy nape of her neck, one can’t help regretting the triumph of the scholar over the artist.

François Courboin, Étude
Drypoint, 1894

Eugène Decisy is a slightly more substantial figure in art history. Born in Metz (Moselle) in 1866, Decisy studied under Boivin, Bouguereau, and Robert-Fleury. His Étude is an original aquatint, a study for the aquatint Bouillie d’avoine (“Porridge”) which he exhibited to acclaim at the Salon du Champ de Mars in 1892, and also at L’Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles in 1897. The study shows a young woman in a traditional Breton headdress; in Bouillie d’avoine this same women is shown cooking.

Eugène Decisy, Étude
Aquatint, 1892

Decisy was a member of the Société des Artistes Français, and exhibited at their Paris Salon from 1886. In 1898 he was also elected a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He died sometime around 1936.

Eugène Decisy. Hiver
Aquatint, 1895

The name of Eugène Delâtre (1864-1938) is one frequently mentioned in studies of French prints, but generally as a printer rather than a printmaker. The Delâtre family were “taille-douciers”, running perhaps the finest specialist studio for printing intaglio plates on a hand press. Eugène took over the studio from his father Auguste.

Eugène Delâtre, Parisienne
Colour etching, 1893

As an artist, Eugène Delâtre trained under his father and under the artist John Lewis Brown (who despite being saddled with a name “si terriblement anglais”, was in fact a Frenchman of remote Scottish descent). Eugène Delâtre in turn taught printmaking techniques to a host of modern artists, including Picasso.

Victor Vignon, Nature morte
Etching and aquatint, 1894

My final artist rescued from obscurity is Victor Vignon. Of them all, his is the most surprising disappearing act, for Vignon, known for landscapes and still lifes, is one of the direct links between the Barbizon School and the Impressionists. Victor Alfred Paul Vignon was born in Villers-Cotterets (Aisne), and died in Meulan (Yvelines). Vignon was a pupil of Corot around 1869. In 1874-1876 Vignon was living in Auvers-sur-Oise, in intimate companionship with Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne; like them, Victor Vignon no doubt had the freedom of the etching studio in the house of Dr Paul Gachet, who collected Vignon's prints. Victor Vignon's close association with various of the Impressionists, including Renoir, Degas, and Guillaumin as well as Pissarro and Cézanne, led to his exhibiting with the Impressionists in 1880 and 1886. In 1884 Vignon's own solo exhibition was a great success. Victor Vignon was also a friend of both Theo and Victor van Gogh. Original prints by Victor Vignon very rarely come on the market; none has been offered at auction since 1995.


curator said...

Damazy is (1865-1910)

As usual a fantastic, informative post.

Amanda said...

What a feast for the eyes! That "Place de la Concorde" is so dreamy.

Neil said...

Thanks so much for Damazy's dates - I couldn't find them anywhere!

The Place de la Concorde is wonderfully atmospheric, and all done with such subtle marks; I particularly like the shadow of the woman who is walking away from us.

Neil said...

I wonder if 1910 can be correct for Julian-Damazy's date of death. He seems to have still been active in the 1920s, for instance providing etchings for an edition of Madame Thérèse by Erckmann-Chatrian in 1925. Bénézit notes that he was elected a member of the Société des Artistes Français in 1907.

Jane said...

It's intersting to notice (and difficult not to)that these underestimated artists all knew how to draw very well. Some art students I've met recently regard drawing as stifling to creativity. I only wish I could draw better. The Davies Collection from the National Museum of Wales is coming to our local museum this fall and will include sveral Post-Impressionists, and two Carriere painintgs. I had not heard of Damazy before - no wonder it's difficult to say when he died.

Roxana said...

i am totally taken with those umbrellas! and the 'nature morte' is fabulous, so simple and refined...

Prudence said...

Any evidence that Victor Vignon is related to Claude Vignon?

Neil said...

I think there's too much of a time gap to make a connection between Victor Vignon and Claude (and his sons Claude, Nicolas, and Philippe) - and actually there seems to be a bit of uncertainty about Victor Vignon's claim to the surname. Bénézit says, His mother was called Catherine Bouchard, "il a été dit à tord fils d'une certaine Claude Vignon, femme de lettres". My French fails at that "à tord", I don't understand it - "à tort" would be wrongly, which would mean something like, "he has been wrongly said to be the son of a female writer called Claude Vignon".

Neil said...

I may have muddied the issue with so many Claude Vignons in that last reply! First there's Claude Vignon the painter (1593-1670), and his son Claude François (1633-1703). Then there's a leap to the C19th, where Victor Alfred Paul Vignon (1847-1909) is wrongly said to be the son of a certain Claude Vignon, a woman of letters. This is not the male writer Claude Vignon (1832-1888); it presumably refers to Noémi Cadiot (Mme A.-L. Constant, later Mme Maurice Rouvier), a popular writer of the second half of the nineteenth century, publishing books between 1851 and 1886 under the pseudonym Claude Vignon. Anyway, I guess the implication is that Victor Vignon was illegitimate.

houfton said...

I have an oil painting by Victor Paul Vignon. I would love to know more about him / it.

Neil said...

Lucky you, Houfton. I'm not aware of any books on Victor Vignon. This lack of critical attention may account for his relative obscurity.