Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another mystery solved

When I posted a while ago about the special copy of L'Art Belge for 1933 that I had acquired, with 20 original prints by various hands, I had several nagging queries, mostly about attribution. That was copy XVII, and all except 5 prints were hand-signed by the artists, the exceptions being Armand Rassenfosse (signed in the plate and stamped with his studio stamp), Auguste Oleffe (signed in the plate), and Alfred Delaunois, Marc-Henry Meunier, and Victor Mignot, whose etchings were all annotated in the same hand, "par Delaunois" and so on. I speculated that the etchings had been added from stock by the art dealer Isy Brachot, the publisher of L'Art Belge.

I was particularly concerned about one etching with aquatint, a canal scene (in Bruges, I think) which had been attributed to Paul Hermans. The signature didn't look right to me, and indeed since then I have seen signed work by Hermans and was quite certain that it was not by him. Anyway, I have been able to buy another of these special copies of the same issue of L'Art Belge (this time copy XXX, printed for Marcel Grafé) and various things have become much clearer. It too, contains copies of the same 20 prints. But by copy XXX, Brachot seems to have been running out of signed copies of various of the etchings, and there are several more pencil annotations "par So-and-So". The etchings by William Ablett, Manuel Robbe, Camille Barthélemy, and "Hermans" have lost their signatures, and the "Hermans" is clearly marked: "par Sterkers".

Robert Sterkers, Les bouquinistes
Etching with aquatint, c.1946

Now I happen to have a portfolio of 12 signed colour etchings with aquatint of Paris by the artist Robert Sterkers, published by L'Estampe Moderne c.1946. I rushed to this and lo and behold! the signatures match. So little is currently known about Robert Sterkers that I am not sure of his nationality, or his dates of birth or death. I assume now that he was Belgian, but most of what I know of him places him in Paris just after WWII, when in just a few years he produced an incredible amount of work. Between 1944 and 1948 he published a stream of books and print portfolios illustrated with original etchings. Several were published by L'Estampe Moderne, including Montmartre, with text by Pierre Mac Orlan, À travers les vieilles églises de Paris and Paris medieval by Louis Hautecoeur, Eaux et fontaines de Paris by Paul Léon, and Paris: 12 eaux-fortes originales en couleurs. Other works of this period include etchings for Au pied du Ventoux by Gabriel Fauré, and Bretagne aux cent visages by Roger Vercel. Sterkers also made etchings after drawings and watercolours by others, notably after Isa Kyprianna for Mimes des courtisanes, and after Gaston Barret for Marcel Pagnol's Topaze.

Robert Sterkers, Rue des Francs-Bourgeois
Etching with aquatint c.1946

Aside from his etchings, Robert Sterkers is noted for his watercolours, produced on sketching trips to Brittany, the Antilles, and elsewhere, and exhibited in both Paris and Brussels. I look forward to finding out more about him in due course.

Robert Sterkers, Fontaine Médicis
Etching with aquatint, 1946


sjk said...

These are truly beautiful indeed and I look forward to hearing more about this artist. Very nice blog.

Neil said...

Thanks, Sammie. It's a moment of great satisfaction when a puzzle like this finally slides into place.

Jay Dee said...

Great to hear about the enthusiastic unfolding of this artist's puzzle with regards to the works you have Neil. Made for an exciting read!

Jane said...

I especially like the Medici Fountain, the way Sterkers angles your eye in to the statuary and then the rippling reflections in the water draw the eye out. It is anything but a static image. What size is it, please?

Neil said...

Jay Dee - I love the way the solutions to these puzzles just fall into your lap if you are patient.

Neil said...

Jane - the fountain etchings are roughly 9 x 7 inches (image), 12 and a half by 9 and a half inches sheet size. The Paris ones are a bit bigger. The Medici fountain is the frontispiece to Eaux et Fontaines de Paris, and probably the best of the 20 etchings, but they are all interesting - if I get a chance over the next couple of weeks I'll put them on my website.