Monday, November 12, 2007

Édouard Chimot and Les Éditions d'Art Devambez

Édouard Chimot, Perfection - etching/aquatint for L'Enfer, 1921

The French etcher and lithographer Édouard Chimot (1880-1959) was one of those artists who carried the Symbolist aesthetic forward into the age of Art Deco. Chimot’s heyday was the 1920s. This was when his own art was at its most powerful and original. But in addition to this, this was when Chimot’s influence was strongly felt throughout the Parisian art world. As Artistic Director of the fine press Les Éditions d’Art Devambez, Édouard Chimot worked closely with artists such as Pierre Brissaud, Edgar Chahine, Tsuguharu Foujita, Drian, Jean Droit, Henri Farge, and Alméry Lobel-Riche.

Édouard Chimot, Conchita - etching/aquatint with remarques, for La Femme et Le Pantin, 1928

Typically, books published by André Devambez under the direction of Chimot were illustrated with original prints, in strictly limited editions of a few hundred copies. These books are now rare and sought-after, both by bibliophiles and print collectors.

Les Éditions d'Art Devambez, signed and dedicated by Édouard Chimot

I have managed to acquire a copy of a lavish catalogue published by Devambez in an edition of 100 and given to his chief collaborators and preferred clients, containing extra proofs from all the books published from 1923-1929. Each copy of this catalogue was numbered and signed by Chimot to a named recipient. As almost all the books are already listed as out-of-print and unobtainable, the catalogue is not a sales pitch, but a record of achievement. To make the 100 books, the publisher bound up existing proof pages, to distribute to those most interested. ‘Ce n’est pas un catalogue de reproductions que nous lui offrons, mais les précieux défets des livres eux-mêmems: les eaux-fortes du triage et les feuilles typographiques du tirage, imprimées sur les différents papiers employés pour chaque edition.” In order to construct a catalogue in this way, all copies of the book must be unique in their content.

William Ablett, Greek scene - etching/aquatint for La Variabilité du Gout dans les Arts by Léon Arnoult, printed and published by Devambez "À l'enseigne du masque d'or", 1921

Devambez – himself a painter, printmaker, author, and printer, as well as publisher – may have regretted the extra expense involved in creating this exquisite calling card, as the Wall Street Crash and subsequent Depression must have devastated his market. No one would be buying, or bankrolling, projects such as these in the 1930s. There were a number books still in the pipeline, but the glory days of the Chimot/Devambez partnership were over.

Pierre Brissaud, Two Young Men in a Bar - etching for La Vie en Fleur, 1924

The first book under Chimot’s direction was an edition of Le Petit Pierre by Anatole France, illustrated with colour etchings by Pierre Brissaud. The second was La Vie en Fleur, also by France, also illustrated with colour etchings by Brissaud. Pierre Brissaud later illustrated a third book for Chimot, an edition of Daudet’s Contes de Lundi, again illustrated with colour etchings. What is interesting about these projects is to see Brissaud, famous for his fashion plates and illustrations using the pochoir technique of hand-stencilled colour, achieving similar effects in conventional etchings. The colours are very rich, and the etchings deeply bitten.

Drian, Le sixième mariage de Barbe-bleu - etching for La Canne de Jaspe, 1924

Then follows the first of three titles illustrated with original etchings by Drian, La Canne du Jaspe by Henri de Régnier. Drian is another interesting Art Deco artist. He was born Adrien Desiré Étienne, into a peasant family in Lorraine. The chatelaine of the village took an interest in the talented boy, but was horrified by his desire to be an artist. So when Adrien Étienne went to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, he took the pseudonym Drian – his own first name, as his contemporaries heard it in his slurred Lorrain accent. He is often listed as Adrien Drian or Étienne Drian, but both are incorrect: the name Drian stands alone, like Erté.

Édouard Chimot, Soir près du feu - etching/aquatint for Les Chansons de Bilitis, 1925

Édouard Chimot himself was the most prolific supplier of original prints to Les Éditions d’Art Devambez, illustrating with etchings Les Chansons du Bilitis, Les Poésies de Méléagre, Les Belles de Nuit, La Femme et le Pantin, and (subsequently) Le Jardin de l’Infante and Verlaine’s Parallèlement.

Tsuguharu Foujita, Two Japanese women - etching for La Troisième Jeuness de Madame Prune, 1926

The next artist represented is the Japanese master Tsuguharu Foujita, known in France as Léonard Foujita. Foujita illustrated Loti’s La Troisième Jeunesse de Madame Prune with 17 original colour etchings.

William Walcot, The siege of Carthage - etching for Salammbô, 1926

The English/Russian artist William Walcot, who studied in St. Petersburg and Paris, made etchings for Flaubert’s Salammbô and Hérodias.

Henri Farge, Visite au Bosphore - etching for L'Homme qui Assassina, 1926

Henri Farge provided vivid colour etchings of Istanbul in the 1920s for L’Homme qui assassina by Claude Farrère.

Edgar Chahine, Cirque - etching for Novembre, 1928

The etcher Edgar Chahine, who was born in Vienna, of Armenian origin, and brought up in Istanbul, brought his intimate impressionistic style to La Mort de Venise by Barrès and (later) Mitsou by Colette.

Henri le Riche, Dancer - etching for Les Nouvelles Asiatiques, 1927

Henri Le Riche (Hirné) illustrated Les Nouvelles Asiatiques by the Comte de Gobineau, also with original etchings.

Jean Droit, L'agonie de la Sémillante - etching for Lettres de Mon Moulin, 1927

Also in 1927 came an edition of Daudet’s Lettres de Mon Moulin, illustrated with original etchings by Jean Droit. Droit is remembered today for his Art Deco posters for the 1924 Olympic Games. He was also one of the pioneers of the Scout movement in Europe, under the pseudonym Loup-Bavard, Chatterbox-Wolf.

Auguste Brouet, Fishing boats - etching for Le Livre de l'Émeraude, 1927

Auguste Brouet, who as a young man worked alongside both Whistler and Degas, provided etchings for three titles, including a life of El Greco by Barrès.

Jean-Gabriel Domergue, Venetian beauty - etching for La Nuit Venétienne, 1928

The last artist featured in the catalogue is Jean-Gabriel Domergue, with colour etchings for La Nuit Vénitienne by Alfred de Musset. Domergue, whose “seductive and perverse” portrait of Gina Maletti was much admired by Apollinaire, claimed to be the inventor of the pin-up. “Ma première pin-up date de 1912,” he proclaimed. Most of my prints by Jean-Gabriel Domergue are colour lithographs from his 1956 portfolio La Parisienne, so I am very pleased to have 2 much earlier works from La Nuit Vénitienne of 1929.

There my fascinating Devambez catalogue runs out. There were still works to come from artists such as Henri Jourdain, Tigrane Polat, Louis Jou, and – perhaps most notably – Alméry Lobel-Riche’s reading of Wilde’s Salome. But those must wait for another day, and a deeper pocket.


Anonymous said...

There is no evidence whatsoever from any reliable source that A. Brouet worked alongside either Degas or Whistler.

Neil said...

Thanks for your comment, which sent me scurrying back to my reference books. Benézit, which I've always found a meticulous source, says, "il commença par reproduire des planches de Rembrandt, puis travailla pour Whistler et Degas." This could mean several things, I guess, but it does suggest there was some connection beyond mere influence (though actually I don't see any stylistic link to Degas in Brouet's art). I've taken out the reference to Whistler and Degas from the artist biography for Auguste Brouet on my website, to be on the safe side.

Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen said...

This was highly informative for me. I'd like to know more about an 1928 edition by Devambez of Flaubert's early novel Novembre. I'd be in particular interested in the illustrations by Chahine.

Best regards,

Ivo Blom

Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen said...

Can I contact you over the 1928 edition of Flaubert's Novembre, edited by Devambez?

Neil said...

Hi Ivo, I'm sorry to delay replying to you. I haven't got a copy of the Devambez edition of Novembre, but I can tell you a bit more about it. It was published in 1928 in an edition of 238 copies - 1 on Japan paper with all the drawings, proofs, bons à tirer proofs, and the etchings and drypoints in 3 states; 25 on Japan with the etchings in 3 states and 1 original drawing; 50 on Japan with the etchings in 2 states and 1 original sketch; 150 on Arches with the etchings in their definitive state; and 12 on different papers reserved for the artist and publisher. The text was printed by Robert Coulouma, the etchings were printed in the specialist atelier La Roseraie. There were 21 etchings and drypoints in total, the frontispiece being a portrait of Flaubert. Of the remaining illustrations, 10 were full-page hors-texte etchings, and 10 were smaller vignettes printed in the text.

Neil said...

Actually, calling the smaller etchings vignettes is misleading. The one I reproduce in this blog entry, Cirque, is one of the in-texte pieces, but it is quite large (145 x 155 mm) and there is in fact only room for 5 lines of text below. My copy of this is printed on Arches, whereas my second Chahine etching from Novembre, one of the full-page images (a street scene) is printed on Japan. Having the two pages from Novembre on different papers is indicative of the way my Devambez volume was made up from whatever proofs or spare copies happened to be available.

Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen said...

Dear Neil,

Thank you very much for this. Is there a way to trace or consult all of Chahine's illustrations? I am asking for a special reason. I am writing a book on Luchino Visconti. One of his earliest projects, never realized and developed around 1935, was to film Novembre. As far as I could trace, the Devambez edition was the first separate publication of Novembre.



Neil said...

Hi Ivo, I think you're right that this was the first separate publication of Novembre in French; there seems to have been a German translation in 1916. If you want to see all the Chahine illustrations for Novembre, you may have to track down a copy of the book. Major libraries may have copies (there is certainly one in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France). However, here are some other places to look. Tabanelli's Edgar Chahine: Catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé lists 429 etchings and drypoints, but this excludes around 200 etchings Chahine made for limited editions of works by writers such as Huysmans, Mirbeau, Flaubert, Barrès, France. and Colette. These (including those for Novembre) are separately catalogued in Claude Blaizot & Jean-Edouard Gautrot, Chahine illustrateur: catalogue raisonné illustré, 1974. Other catalogues and monographs on Chahine include: Edgar Chahine, Peintre-Graveur (Bibliothèque Nationale, 1980); Chahine: Paris (Musée Carnavalet, 1982); Edgar Chahine: Images of Venice and the Belle Époque (Aldis Browne Fine Arts, 1983); Edgar Chahine: La Vie Parisienne (Smithsonian Institution, 1984). There was also probably a catalogue for the Chahine retrospective staged in Pont L'Evêque in 2008. I have the catalogues Chahine: Paris and Edgar Chahine: Peintre-Graveur. The first doesn't seem to have any relevant information; the second lists Novembre a catalogue entry 63, and tells us that the Novembre etchings are listed (and presumably illustrated) on pp.74-85 of Blaizot & Gautrot. This was published by Librairie Auguste Blaizot, Paris, a highly-respected bookseller which is still run by Claude Blaizot, so your best bet is to contact him. Good luck with your book on Visconti.

Neil said...

Ivo, you can see the Novembre etchings at this url:

Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen said...

Many thanks!

Benoît said...

Bonjour de la part d'un bibliophile français, who's very happy to see that some people care about those books in America ! Where are you exactly, Neil ?
I'll be back for further comments... Questions, and maybe answers. I was born in a "bibliothèque" full of illustrated books...

Neil said...

Hi Benoît - I'll be delighted to have your comments! I'm in the Cotswolds, England, not far from Oxford.

S Wadey said...

loving the Chimot etchings.

Neil said...

Thanks - Chimot was a perfect artist for and in the 1920s. Afterwards his work tailed off.