Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peace and happiness to everyone

In sending everyone who reads this all my best wishes for the holiday season and the year to come, I thought you might like to see a few of the 51 drypoints made by Hermine David for an edition of Sagesse by Paul Verlaine, published in 1943 by Creuzevault, Paris. Apart from the cover, frontispiece, and two full-page images, all of these drypoins were small vignettes in the text; but alongside the total of 450 copies of the book, there were also 100 separate suites of the prints, 50 in black, and 50 printed in colours à la poupée (i.e. the colours hand-applied to the plate for each impression), on thin China paper. The printer was the master taille-doucier Georges Leblanc. My images are from one of the 50 colour suites (I only, in fact, possess the suite, and have never seen the book).

Weirdly, the same publisher issued another copy of the same text, the same year, with completely different illustrations by the same artist, not something I have come across before. The alternative edition was published in 550 copies, illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings.

Hermine David was born in Paris in 1886, and studied at the Académie Julian and at the École des Beaux-Arts. She made her debut at the Salon des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs in 1904, subsequently exhibiting at the Sales des Artistes Français, the Salon d'Automne and the Salon des Tuileries.

Hermine David was married to the artist Jules Pascin, and his influence can be seen in her technique. As a printmaker, Hermine David specialised in etching and drypoint. She died in 1971.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Anywhere out of the world

Who on earth was Jean Mohler? Does anyone know?

Jean Mohler, Le Spleen de Paris
Original etching, 1946

Because I collect fine illustrated editions of Baudelaire, I recently acquired a copy of Le Spleen de Paris, illustrated by this obscure artist. I can’t find him listed in any reference book, and know nothing about his dates of birth and death, origins, studies, or mature associations. Yet I think his 16 full-page, hors-texte etchings for Le Spleen de Paris are absolutely brilliant.

Mohler’s etchings are essentially rooted in the freely-drawn, expressive realism of the between-the-wars School of Paris. His work shows the influence of major artist-illustrators of the 20s and 30s such as André Dignimont and Gus Bofa. Both of these would have been a generation older than him, I would guess, for the first evidence of Mohler’s existence I can find is the publication in 1943 of his edition of Sous la lumière froide by Pierre Mac Orlan (an author frequently associated with Dignimont and Bofa). Mohler also illustrated the novel Jésus-la-Caille by Francis Carco, another author often linked with Dignimont and Bofa.

Jean Mohler, Chacun sa chimère
Original etching, 1946

Jean Mohler’s three major livres d’artiste, all illustrated with original etchings, appeared in quick succession. An edition of Ben Jonson’s Volpone was published by Éditions de la Nouvelle France in 1945, under the artistic direction of Hervé Baille, in an edition of 395 copies. It looks as if Baille was trying to marshal talent for Éditions de la Nouvelle France in the 40s rather as Édouard Chimot had for Devambez in the 20s, but the times were far from propitious. So far as I can see the whole project fizzled out after a handful of books, including La Légende de Don Juan by Albert t’Serstevens, illustrated with original lithographs by Gaston de Sainte-Croix in 1944, and the wonderfully titled Les Moments Perdus de John Shag by Gilbert de Voisins, illustrated with copper engravings by Hervé Baille himself in 1945.

Jean Mohler, L'horloge
Original etching, 1946

Mohler’s second important book came the following year, with the edition of Le Spleen de Paris under discussion. A total of 359 copies were published: one on Japan, 3 on Arches, 8 on B.F.K. Rives, 93 on Lana, 245 on vélin pur fil du Marais, and 10 hors-commerce copies on unstated papers. There were no separate suites of the etchings, but the first 32 copies had varying numbers of rejected plates, up to a total of 6 in the unique copy on Japan paper. In this case the art director was Jean Baudet, rather than Hervé Baille. As with Volpone, Mohler’s etchings were printed by the specialist taille-doucier Manuel Robbe.

Mohler’s last major work was an edition of Racine’s Cantiques Spirituels, published in 1947 by Pierre Gaudin, in an edition of just 160 copies. My internet searches have turned up a few further minor contributions to books, up till 1952, and after that, nothing. Mohler seems to emerge from thin air and vanish back into it, after a mere decade of activity.

Jean Mohler, Eros, Plutus et la Gloire
Original etching, 1946

So I’m left wondering what prevented Mohler enjoying a long and distinguished artistic career. His etchings for Baudelaire nod both to Surrealism (in, for instance, Chacun sa chimère), and to Cubism (in the Picasso-esque figure of La Gloire in Eros, Plutus et La Gloire). This shows a keen awareness of the main artistic movements of the day, and along with his technical accomplishment suggests that Jean Mohler had studied at art school. My immediate though was that he probably studied etching under Édouard Goerg at the Beaux-Arts, Paris. Several of his plates, for instance L’horloge and La Belle Dorothée, remind me of Goerg both technically and stylistically. But looking up the dates, it appears Goerg was only made a professor at the Beaux-Arts in 1949. He may have had an atelier at some other institution in the 1930s; further research is needed.

Jean Mohler, La Belle Dorothée
Original etching, 1946

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief account of all the things I don’t know about Jean Mohler – and if anyone could add any further facts or thoughts, I’d be very grateful.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Degenerate art

In 1929, the artist Richard Lindner, whose work can be considered the bridge between Cubism, Surrealism, and Pop Art, was appointed art director of the Munich publishing house of Knorr and Hir. Lindner remembered, "I saw Hitler every day in Munich at the Café Heck, a small café with about ten tables and thirty seats... Hitler used to sit there every day at his usual table. Our table was beside his and we knew each other because we avoided direct contact... He always wanted to be with artists."

The Window, 1958
Original lithograph by Richard Lindner

Adolf Hitler’s thwarted wish to be an artist is more than an historical oddity; it lies at the root of the Nazis vicious persecution of artists and suppression of what they termed “degenerate art”. When the Nazis came to power, Germany was at the centre of the avant-garde, through German Expressionism and the Modernism of the Bauhaus.

Child's Head, 1939
Original lithograph by Paul Klee

Hitler came to power on January 31, 1933. His determination to destroy modern art in Germany was obvious. Many artists simply fled; Lindner, for instance, left for Paris the next day. Others tried to carry on. Rolf Cavael, for instance, went ahead with his first major show – a joint exhibition with Josef Albers – at Schloss Braunschweig (this was in 1933, I don’t know the exact date), but it was shut down on the day it opened. Both artists were banned from exhibiting. Cavael carried on painting abstracts, was denounced to the authorities, and interned in the concentration camp at Dachau for nine months. Cavael was banned from painting, and could only take up art again after WWII.

This story could be repeated many times. Those avant-garde artists who remained in Germany found themselves unable to buy art materials or practice art. Herbert von Arend, for instance, was forbidden to exhibit or even create works of art between 1933 and 1945, and did not restart his artistic career until 1950. Born in Qingdao (Tsingtao), China, von Arend had studied at the Bauhaus from 1928-1932 under Albers, Klee, Kandinsky, and Stözl. In 1973 he returned to one of his earliest loves, textiles. He had studied weaving under Gunta Stözl, and now began to create extraordinary and beautiful tapestries, often drawing on motifs from his Bauhaus days.

Le Jardin d’Amour, 1981
Original silkscreen by Herbert von Arend, a variation on a drawing made at the Bauhaus in 1932

Banning an artist from making art is as ruthlessly effective as it is cruel. The deliberate waste of human creativity upsets me even more, I think, than the Nazis’ destruction of existing works of art – the sculptures of Ernst Barlach, the paintings of Max Liebermann. At least these works – and the thousands of other artworks confiscated from German museums and burned by the Berlin Fire Brigade – once existed. The act of creation cannot be obliterated by simple destruction of the work.

Aus de Walpurgisnacht, 1923
Original woodcut by Ernst Barlach

Of course not all the artistic energy that had been building in Germany was lost. The Bauhaus teachers spread their influence far and wide – in Isokon and the Reiman School in the UK, in the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and Black Mountain College in the USA. The work of Bauhaus artists such as Kandinsky, Klee, and Moholy-Nagy may have been mockingly displayed as “degenerate art” by the Nazis, but the artists themselves continued to create and to influence the direction of twentieth-century art.

Woodcut for 10 Origin, 1942
Original woodcut by Wassily Kandinsky

Many lesser-known artists followed a similar trajectory. Boris Herbert Kleint, for instance, who was a pupil of the Bauhaus teacher Johannes Itten, fled Germany for Luxembourg in 1936, only returning to his homeland after the war, becoming a professor at the Staatliche Schule für Kunst und Handwerk, Saarbrücken. In 1952 he published the first edition of his influential teaching manual, Bildlehre, which renewed the Bauhaus vision for a new generation.

Untitled, 1979
Original lithograph by Boris Herbert Kleint

Even if the Nazis liked your work, being an artist in Nazi Germany was hardly safe or comfortable. Hermann Goering liked the powerful machine-age art of Lili Réthi so much he “invited” her to create propaganda images. Réthi fled, seeking refuge, like many artistic émigrés, in the USA.

Maschinenwerkstätte, 1921
Original lithograph by Lili Réthi

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The world as non-objectivity

Olle Baertling (1911-1981)
Silkscreen of 1964 after a painting of 1961

From the moment Kazimir Malevich, just before the Russian Revolution, revolutionised art itself with his painting Black Square, the story of art has been bound up with the search for ways in which to communicate human emotions, ideas, and beliefs, in terms of pure line, geometry, and colour planes. Malevich’s new abstract art was called by him Suprematism, though it is more usually known to us by a name Malevich himself introduced as a term of abuse, Constructivism. It is concerned with “The world as non-objectivity”, as the title of Malevich’s treatise of 1926 put it.

Victor Vasarely
Silkscreen of 1964 after a painting of 1956

Abstract art so quickly swallowed up critical attention that whole areas of figurative art still remain unexplored. Women artists, for instance, barely had time to get accepted before it was unacceptable for them to explore pictorially the female domestic world. Even an artist as devoted to the everyday beauties of the home as Winifred Nicholson found herself painting constructivist abstracts in the 1930s, under the influence of her friend Piet Mondrian and the artists of the group Abstraction-Création.

Hans Arp (1886-1966)
Placé selon les lois de hazard
Silkscreen of 1964 after a painting (or collage?) of 1951

I’ve been tipped into thinking about the geometry of feeling by a new acquisition, the catalogue to an important group exhibition at the Galerie Denise René, Paris, in 1964. The title of both catalogue and exhibition is Hard-edge.

Richard Paul Lohse (1902-1988)
Farbenenergien in vier richtungen
Silkscreen of 1964 after a painting of 1950

As Josef Albers writes in his written contribution:

so far a suspected noun
of fashionable art terminology
but changing fast to an adjective
of decidedness
and thus on the way
to signal something more.

Josef Albers (1888-1976)
Homage to the square
Silkscreen of 1964 after a painting of 1963

The exhibition gathered work by nine artists: Albers, Hans (Jean) Arp, Olle Baertling, Auguste Herbin, Alexander Liberman, Richard Paul Lohse, Richard Mortensen, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and Victor Vasarely.

Richard Mortensen (1910-1933)
Silkscreen of 1964 after a painting of 1964

The catalogue contains statements by each of them (apart from Sophie Tauber-Arp, who died in 1943, who is given a heartfelt memorial by her widower, Hans). Hans Arp dates Sophie’s first pure abstract works to 1915 and 1916, subtly arguing for her as co-creator with Malevich and Kandinsky of the non-objective world. “Already in 1916 Sophie Taeuber was dividing the surface of her watercolours in squares and rectangles which she juxtaposed horizontally and vertically.”

Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943)
Silkscreen (by Hans Arp?) of 1964 after a painting of 1934
The catalogue also contains nine silkscreen prints (or serigraphs), one by each artist. The one by Taeuber-Arp is after a work from 1934; it was presumably supervised, or executed, by Hans Arp, though no details are given for this or the other works.

Looking at the sheer visual richness of these nine silkscreens got me thinking about the way that abstract art managed both to insist that everything that was happening on the picture plane only existed in two dimensions, and simultaneously that the picture plane was a window into a previously unrealised dimension (what Malevich himself called "the fourth dimension"). As Lawrence Alloway writes in his brief introduction to the cataloque, in hard-edge painting, “What you see is precisely what there is. Yet what you see is usually optically ambiguous. Positive and negative forms interact as shapes in hard-edge, united in a single plane.”

Auguste Herbin (1882-1960)
Silkscreen of 1964 after a painting of 1960

I love this kind of work. Mondrian, Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, and Sean Scully are among my favourite artists. But I haven’t gone out of my way to collect abstract prints, and within my abstract holdings there are more exuberantly expressionist works by artists such as Walasse Ting or Sam Francis than there are severely geometric ones. Yet the provocative simplicities of the hard-edge silkscreens remind me how potent such work can be. As Alexander Liberman writes in the catalogue, “In order for sensation to act upon us with the greatest intensity we have to cleanse our minds of the accumulated deposits of art memories. A painting should by its apparent simplicity act with such immediacy that the innermost centers of the mind can be reached without hesitation and time for reference to our memory or doubt centers.”

Alexander Liberman (1912-1999)
Silkscreen of 1964 after a painting of 1962

Much of my other work in this vein comes from a single source, the book Témoignages pour l’art abstrait (Testimonies for Abstract Art), published in 1952 in an edition of 1500 copies. In this, major artists of the day put forward their theories of abstraction, and each contributed an original pochoir plate, the pochoir colours being stencilled by Renson. Among the artists were Arp, Herbin, Mortensen, and Vasarely, overlapping with Hard-edge, but also Bloc, Dewasne, Deyrolles, Dias, Domela, Pillet, Reth, and many others. A few related images from this work follow, without any attempt at description.

André Bloc (1896-1966)
Témoignage III
Pochoir, 1952

Jean Dewasne (1921-1999)
Témoignage VIII
Pochoir, 1952

Cícero Dias (1908-2003)
Témoignage X
Pochoir, 1952

Auguste Herbin
Témoignage XXX
Pochoir, 1952

Auguste Herbin
Non (Témoignage XV)
Pochoir, 1952

Albert Magnelli (1888-1971)
Témoignage I
Pochoir, 1952

Edgard Pillet (1912-1996)
Témoignage XXIII
Pochoir, 1952

Alfred Reth (1884-1966)
Témoignage XXVI
Pochoir, 1952

Victor Vasarely
Témoignage XXVIII
Pochoir, 1952

Friday, September 5, 2008

Biffins de la zone

Noël Bureau, Les Athlètes
Original wood engraving, 1933

Just to cheer us all up after that last post, I thought I’d write something about the artist who provided the opening image, the modernist poet Noël Bureau.

Marcel Gromaire, Portrait of Noël Bureau
Original etching, 1930

Bureau was a quintessential dilettante – a poet, essayist, art critic, and composer of music. He moved in artistic circles in the Bohemian Montmartre that he loved, and was friends with many artists of the between-the-wars School of Paris, notably Marcel Gromaire, Tadé Makowski, Pierre Dubreuil, Édouard Goerg, Alexandre Ralli, Per Krohg, and Jean-Gabriel Daragnès. Daragnès provided a Cubist-inspired etched frontispiece for Bureau’s 1945 collection Rigeurs, the title sequence of which is dedicated to Janine and Jean-Gabriel Daragnès.

Jean-Gabriel Daragnès, Rigeurs
Original etching, 1945

Which of these artist friends taught Noël Bureau to make wood engravings is uncertain, but it was likely Gromaire, who made his own first wood engravings for Bureau's 1925 collection of prose poems, Ruptures, and also etched a portrait of the poet. One of Gromaire’s cuts for Ruptures shows a juggler, and foreshadows the subject that Bureau would make his own, the circus.

Marcel Gromaire, Juggler
Original wood engraving, 1925

The circus had, of course, been a popular subject for art since the days of Toulouse-Lautrec and Ibels. Montmartre artists such as Gustave Assire had the Cirque Medrano on their doorstep, and circus acts also featured in the shows at nightclubs such as the Folies Bergère, as this copper engraving by Hervé Baille shows.

Hervé Baille, Clowns at the Folies Bergère
Original copper engraving, 1945

Another inspiration for Bureau's naïvely exuberant wood engravings of the circus was the work of the self-taught artist Camille Bombois. Bombois was an ex-circus strongman and wrestler, who worked in a printing factory at night and painted by day, mainly circus motifs. In 1922 Noël Bureau spotted his work hanging on the railings in the Place du Tertre and championed him as a master of naïve art, an opinion which holds good today. Bombois contributed a sketch to Bureau’s Chapeau chinois in 1929. It was no doubt partly his admiration for the self-taught Bombois that gave Bureau the courage to try his own hand at the graphic arts.

Noël Bureau, Cirque
Original wood engraving, 1933

Bureau’s collection of woodcuts and prose poems, Cirque, was printed in 1933 by Marcel Seheur in an edition of 90 copies, published by Éditions de la Girafe. My copy has a warm gift inscription from Noël Bureau dated 1957, so I think one can confidently say it was not an immediate sell-out. But I think it’s great – robust and funny and full of verve.

Noël Bureau, Éléphant musicien
Original wood engraving, 1933

I have not been able to find dates of either birth or death for Bureau. The first publication I can find trace of is Projections impulsives in 1916; the last, Au profit du silence, in 1947. He certainly lived until 1957, as the inscription in my copy of Cirque attests. As a writer, he seems to have been completely forgotten. My own feeling is that he probably had private means, allowing him to behave in all the arts as an elegant amateur – for instance, he privately published his own chamber music, with a preface by Max Jacob, and I think one can assume that he also financed the publication of Cirque.

Noël Bureau, Joueur de jazz
Original wood engraving, 1933

Besides Cirque, Ruptures, and Rigeurs, I have one further book by Noël Bureau, this one published as well as printed by Marcel Seheur. The title is Marché aux puces: poèmes en prose accompagnés de 6 eaux-fortes originales. This book has one of my favourite dedications of all time. It reads: À mes collaborateurs: peintres-graveurs, imprimeurs et biffins de la zone. A biffin is a rag-and-bone man. The etchings in this book are by Gromaire, Goerg, Makowski, Dubreuil, Ralli, and Krohg. I have already reproduced Gromaire’s frontispiece portrait above (I have no idea, by the way, why Gromaire has etched the number 97 next to his initial in the plate; it’s certainly not the date). So here are the others, with no further ado.

Édouard Goerg, Marché aux puces
Original etching, 1930

Tadé Makowski, Marché aux puces
Original etching, 1930

Pierre Dubreuil, Marché aux puces
Original etching, 1930

Alexandre Ralli, Marché aux puces
Original etching, 1930

Per Krohg, Marché aux puces
Original etching, 1930

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dicing with Death

Noël Bureau, Baron Samedi, 1933
Original wood engraving by Noël Bureau (active 1916-1957)

Writing my recent blog entry on Marcel Roux started me thinking about the artistic depiction of personified Death. The skeletal figure of Death was important in western art in the medieval danse macabre, but it isn’t I think until Symbolism that Death really starts dancing again. He continued to do so through Expressionism and Surrealism, right up to the present day, in pieces such as Damien Hirst’s grotesque skull embedded with gemstones.

André Villeboeuf, Danse macabre, 1944
Original etching with aquatint by André Villeboeuf (1893-1956)

One of the interesting things about the various figures of Death in my collection is their fluidity of gender. I think English speakers are probably apt to think of Death as masculine, but Anglo-Saxon had masculine, feminine, and neuter words for death, and in languages such as French, death is a feminine noun, la Mort. The elegant skeletal figure leading the little girl by the hand in Roux’s L’Enfant et la Mort is definitely female. So too is grand Madame la Mort, riding a high-stepping black palfrey in my engraving by Hervé Baille (1896-1974).

Hervé Baille, Madame la Mort, 1945
Original copper engraving

Death figures obsessively in the art of Marcel Roux, featuring in a full third of his etchings. Jean Deville (1901-1972) is another French artist much possessed by death, and my copper engravings by Deville were executed for Sonnets et stances de la Mort by the sixteenth-century metaphysical poet Jean de Sponde, published by Pierre Seghers for the group La Jeune Gravure Contemporaine. Janine Bailly-Herzberg writes of Deville in her Dictionnaire de l’Estampe et France, “Son style, dramatique et quelquefois visionnaire, où la mort est souvent présente et côtoie des personages tourmentés, ne cherche pas à plaire à un grand public.”

Jean Deville, La Mort, 1946
Original copper engraving

Jean Deville was born in Charleville in the Ardennes. He was a pupil of Maurice Denis and Georges Desvallières, and was taught how to etch in 1931 by Yves Alix and Gérard Cochet. From that point, printmaking, especially etching, was crucial to his art. All his prints, including those for Sonnets et stances de la Mort, were printed by Georges Leblanc.

Jean Deville, Et quel bien de la Mort?, 1946
Original copper engraving

Alphonse Legros (1837-1911) is I think the earliest artist in my collection to take Death as a primary subject; perhaps it’s not surprising, given his close friendship with Baudelaire, whose writings on the subject inspired quite a few of the artists whose work will follow in this blog.

Alphonse Legros, Jeune fille et la Mort, 1900
Original wood engraving by Charles de Sousy Ricketts (1866-1931) after a drawing by Alphonse Legros.

Alphonse Legros was a painter, printmaker, and sculptor. Born in Dijon, Legros was apprenticed at the age of 11 to a house painter, who was also a "colourer of images". Legros studied at the Dijon Beaux-Arts, whose director was Célestine Nanteuil, and then at the atelier of Lecoq de Boisbaudran in Paris, where he became close friends with Fantin-Latour. Alphonse Legros moved to England in 1863 and was naturalized in 1880. Legros was encouraged in this move by Whistler, whom he first met in 1858. Although Legros had been one of the most active members of the French Société des Aquafortistes, a close ally of Fantin-Latour and a friend of Charles Baudelaire (for whose translation of Poe had made a series of remarkable etchings), he found it hard to make ends meet in France, and in emigrating to England he was also fleeing his creditors and escaping the threat of debtor's prison. One in London, Legros found himself the neighbour of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the friend of Swinburne, and the centre of admiration among English etchers. His "notoriété Britannique" caused a revision of opinion back in France, and Alphonse Legros had two paintings in the Salon of 1863 and a third - a portrait of his friend Manet - in the Salon des Refusés. Exhibitions at the galleries of Durand-Ruel and Samuel Bing were to follow, and after his hand-to-mouth early years Legros became a popular and successful artist. In London, he was appointed Slade Professor of Art at University College, and professor of etching and engraving at South Kensington.

Alphonse Legros, La Mort et le Bûcheron, 1876
Original etching

Édouard Chimot (1890-1959) has already featured in this blog through his role as art director for Les Éditions d’Art Devambez in the 1920s. My four Chimot etchings on the subject of death all date from just before he joined Devambez. They were made for an edition of the harrowing vision of existential nothingness that is the novel L’Enfer (Hell), by Henri Barbusse. The etchings were printed by Eugène Monnard on Chimot’s own hand-press.

Édouard Chimot, La Mort, 1921
Original etching with aquatint

Édouard Chimot, Ce sont les autres qui meurent, 1921
Original etching with aquatint

Édouard Chimot, L’Enfer, 1921
Original etching with aquatint

Édouard Chimot, Le visage humain, 1921
Original etching with aquatint

An artist working in a similar vein to Chimot at this time was the Russian émigré Serge Ivanoff (1893-1983). Ivanoff was born in Moscow, where is parents enrolled him in the Academy of Art from the age of 10. Following the Russian Revolution the family moved to St. Petersburg, where Ivanoff studied under Braz, the curator of the Hermitage. In 1922 Serge Ivanoff emigrated to France, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. He became a very successful painter of society portraits, and a member of the staid Salon des Artistes Français. My etchings by Ivanoff show a younger, edgier side to his art. They are illustrations to the classic tale of erotic transgression Les Diaboliques by Barbey d'Aurevilly.

Serge Ivanoff, Death and the maiden, 1925
Original etching

Serge Ivanoff, Death, 1925
Original etching

In the same year as Ivanoff, William Malherbe (1884-1952) was illustrating his brother Henry’s war memoir, La Flamme au Poing. William Malherbe was born in Senlis, Oise. His own experiences in WWI marked him deeply; Time Magazine found him “after four years in the war, almost pathologically shy.”

William Malherbe, Le Divertissement macabre, 1925
Original copper engraving by Achille Ouvré (1872-1951) after a drawing by William Malherbe

William Malherbe’s artistic success came after he was taken up in the 1930 by the gallery Durand-Ruel, whose fortune had been made by its backing of the Impressionists. In 1939, at the age of 55, William Malherbe emigrated to the USA, where he lived on a farm in Vermont until 1948 when he returned to France. His exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery were highly successful, and his colourful post-Impressionist Vermont scenes, full of light and paint-flecked pleasure, are still highly sought-after. Some even consider William Malherbe an American artist, but his work is essentially rooted in the French post-Impressionist tradition of Bonnard and late Renoir.

David Jones (1895-1974) was, like William Malherbe, deeply marked by his experiences in the trenches in WWI, which he vividly re-imagined in his great long poem In Parenthesis. His copper engravings for an edition of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner include a classic Death and the Maiden scene, in which the maiden is literally “dicing with death”. It illustrates the point at which a skeleton ship appears:

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a gate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
“The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

David Jones, Life-in-Death, 1929
Original copper engraving

Jones made between 150 and 200 preparatory drawings for this, his last major series of engravings, which he executed in “simple incised lines reinforced here and there and as sparingly as possible by cross-hatched areas… I decided also that these essentially linear designs should have an undertone over the whole area of the plate.” This latter effect was achieved by not wiping the plates totally clean of ink before putting them in the press.

David Jones’ engravings for the Rime contain a lot of submerged Christian imagery, with the Ancient Mariner hanging from the mast like Christ on the cross, and the albatross equated to Christian depictions of the pelican in her piety. In the etching Calvary, executed in the dark days of 1942 by Alméry Lobel-Riche (1877-1950), the artist manages to fuse Christ and Death into one powerful image of desolation and defeat.

Alméry Lobel-Riche, Calvary, 1942
Original etching

In the interests of actually getting this post finished and up on the blog, I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves from now on; just ask if you want further information on any of the artists or images.

Hubert Yencesse, Love and Death, 1947
Original wood engraving by Hubert Yencesse (1900-1987)

Jacob Epstein, A Fantastic Engraving, 1940
Original lithograph by Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)

Jacob Epstein, The Two Good Sisters, 1940
Original lithograph

Mariette Lydis, Un cheval de race, 1948
Original etching with aquatint by Mariette Lydis (1887-1970)

Jean Carzou, Death with a flower, 1964
Original lithograph by Jean Carzou (1907-2000)

André Minaux, Skull, 1968
Original lithograph by André Minaux (1923-1986)

Pierre Jacquot, Death, 1980
Original lithograph by Pierre Jacquot (1929- )