Sunday, November 8, 2009

The art of taille-douce

Following my previous post on Terry Haass and her close collaboration with the master taille-douciers at l’atelier Lacourière-Frélaut, I was delighted to hear from Antoine Rubington, the son of Norman Rubington, with further information on his father’s etchings. Antoine (himself a printmaker) tells me that all of Norman Rubington’s etchings were also made at Lacourière et Frélaut, and that this explains the technical mastery displayed. In a print studio such as Lacourière’s, the artist had the help of highly skilled and experienced artisans in all aspects of preparing the plates, biting them in acid, inking, and so on. The fact that there are usually only a few artist’s proofs of Norman Rubington’s etchings is down to cost; a struggling artist such as Norman Rubington could afford to have a few proofs printed for his own satisfaction, but not to commission an edition.

André Dignimont
Man with his hand up a waitress's skirt
Etching, 1927
Definitive state in colour

Artists such as Picasso, Chagall, Dalí, Miró, Buffet, Beaudin, and Masson all benefited from the craft skills of Roger Lacourière and Jacques Frélaut, who were the pre-eminent taille-douciers of the postwar years (a taille-doucier is a specialist in printing intaglio prints such as etchings and engravings, on a hand press from the original plate). The work of such printers has scarcely changed in centuries, and often the skills were passed down in families (two famous father and son taille-douciers of the twentieth century were Edmond and J. J. J. Rigal, and Raul and Raymond Haasen). Often, too, the taille-douciers were themselves printmakers of note.

In black-and-white

In the case of Roger Lacourière, he had been a significant figure in the Paris art world since just after the First World War. From 1919 until the Great Depression, Lacourière ran the printing atelier La Roseraie, in the building next door to the studio of another great artist and taille-doucier, Jean-Gabriel Daragnès, in the avenue Junot in Montmartre. Like Daragnès, Lacourière was both a printer and a publisher. He printed the etchings for the books published by his own Éditions de la Roseraie, and also for Les Éditions d’Art Devambez. The artistic director of both of these lists was Édouard Chimot (working from his studio nearby in rue Ampère), and the artists and writers who contributed to them were all regulars at the atelier of Daragnès, which was really the hub of the Montmartre artistic and literary scene between the wars.

In colour with remarques

In black-and-white with remarques

In black-and-white from the cancelled plate

This post celebrates the exquisite craftsmanship of Roger Lacourière with images of every known state of one of André Dignimont’s etchings for Amants et voleurs by Tristan Bernard, printed and published by La Roseraie in 1927. Dignimont (1891-1965) was one of the regulars chez Daragnès. I will probably post separately on him in due course. His etchings for Amants et voleurs are among his most remarkable achievements, showing the influence of the German Expressionists. Amants et voleurs was published in an edition of 420 copies: 20 on Japon ancien, 50 on Japon impérial, and 350 on vélin de Rives. My copy is no. 8 on Japon ancien, and although not called for on the justification page, has an original watercolour by Dignimont and a huge stack of loose prints, also on Japon. Besides the etchings in their definitive state in colour, there are four additional suites—in black-and-white, in black-and-white with remarques, in colour with remarques, and in black-and-white with cancellation marks.


Jane said...

There's so much to see in the smallest variations here. The image is ideal for the purpose with so many elements at play: the human drama, the room itself, and the table that functions as a very active still life. I enjoyed this so much. I'm looking forward to more of Andre Dignimont.

Neil said...

So glad you enjoyed these, Jane. There is a lot to say about André Dignimont, and I certainly intend to return to him and his art. Some of his etchings for Amants et voleurs are really quite disturbing - murdered women and their drooling assassins - in a very 1920s kind of way. He's certainly a deeper and darker artist than is usually assumed.