Friday, February 27, 2009

Arthur Zimmerman - the Bob Dylan of the vélodrome

An interchange yesterday with Karen at L’Affichiste about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec started me looking at various books and articles. Opening a copy of the Revue de l’Art ancien et moderne from 1901, a laid-in piece of paper fell out. I recognised it as a lithograph by Lautrec. It obviously did not belong in the Revue, though it was carefully placed beside an article on the artist by André Rivoire. It had four pinholes in the corners (one corner a bit eaten away as a result), and a couple of minor flaws where water has splashed on the paper. On the reverse is an ink instruction from the former owner, possibly to himself but more likely to a servant (or a wife?) to insert it in the Revue, where I found it. It is a print that has lived a little, but overall it’s a very nice thing.

Could it really be a genuine Lautrec lithograph? Or is it a reproduction of some kind? Looked at under a glass, it is certainly a lithograph – but even so… Some research was (and still is) needed. Luckily I possess the catalogue raisonné of Lautrec’s graphic works by Götz Adriani. This told me at once that my lithograph was not the first state of 1894, printed in black, of which only 3 impressions are known. Phew!

Then it tells of a second state, “The image transferred to a new stone with new lettering, not designed by Lautrec: ‘Zimmerman/ et sa machine’.”

So I did begin to get a little excited. Of this second state, printed in what is variously described as grey, olive green, or olive black on buff-coloured wove paper, Adriani tells us, “Size of edition not known”. It was printed in 1895 to accompany an article by Lautrec’s friend Tristan Bernard in La Revue Franco-Américaine. References are given; Delteil 145; Adhémar 83; Adriani 98; Wittrock 111. To which one can add Adriani 94, the number given in this 1988 catalogue.

In “Size of edition not known”, a whole can of worms is opened up. Adriani continues, “50,000 were announced as illustrations for the June 1895 edition of La Revue Franco-Américaine; the first 45 were printed on Japan paper.”

Which is all very well, but if 50,000 copies were printed, where are they? As my wife’s grandmother would have said: 50,000 copies, my fat foot.

I simply don’t believe this figure. No copy has come up for auction since 1996; only four copies have been offered at auction since 1990, which is as far back as I can look. No bookseller has a single copy of La Revue Franco-Américaine for sale. I have been able to find one copy of this lithograph for sale from an established dealer who specialises in Lautrec, and who estimates the edition size at 400 copies, dating it “before 1906”.

It’s a wonderful drawing, I think. Adriani quotes Lautrec’s friend Paul Leclercq on this print, which depicts the American superstar cyclist Arthur Zimmerman, leaning on his bicycle in his racing jersey: “Through this lively image I can see Lautrec, armed with his litho chalk, bending over the stone, and I can still hear him eulogizing on the benefits of sports training, with the short, vivid and trenchant expressions which he used to such effect.” Lautrec loved cycle racing, and often went to the races with Tristan Bernard, a writer who also managed the Vélodrome Buffalo and the Vélodrome de la Seine, and edited Le Journal des Vélocipédistes.

So I am still unsure about this print. I am 99% confident it is a genuine 1895 second state. But how rare is it? What’s its value? Is it worth paying a paper restorer to smooth out the couple of droplets-worth of damage? Do I keep it? Do I sell it?

Who knows?

Thanks to the digital magic of PK at Bibliodyssey, at least we can now see what it would look like with the splashes restored (though actually the tiny dark marks are either flecks in the paper or spatters of ink, so would have to stay!):

Thursday, February 26, 2009

L'estampe moderne

In the 1890s various French publishers issued lavish albums of original prints. There was L’épreuve, edited by the artist Maurice Dumont monthly between December 1894 and December 1895; L’estampe originale, a quarterly edited by André Marty between 1893 and 1895; L’estampe moderne, published in five fascicles between November 1895 and March 1896 under the editorship of Loÿs Delteil; and the publication I am considering today, also called L’estampe moderne, published monthly between May 1897 and April 1899.

L'estampe moderne numéro 1, cover design by Alphonse Mucha

L’estampe moderne was edited by Charles Masson and H. Piazza, and printed and published by Imprimerie Champenois, Paris. Each monthly instalment came in a paper cover (which itself incorporated an original lithograph by Alphonse Mucha), and contained four original lithographs. Each issue cost 3 francs 50 cents if purchased in Paris (4 francs elsewhere), or you could subscribe by the year for 40 francs in Paris, 43 francs elsewhere. Subscribers were tempted with two extra lithographs a year, the “planches de prime”.

Girardot's Femme de Riff beneath its tissue guard

Each lithograph had its own tissue guard, printed with extracts from poetry or contemporary literature of relevance to the image. Most of the lithographs were printed directly on the main sheet of thick wove paper, but some were printed on various papers and then tipped on the backing sheet. In all cases the sheet is stamped with the blindstamp of a woman’s head in the bottom righthand corner.

The L'estampe moderne blindstamp

As this information is quite hard to come by, I am going as best I can to set out here the contents of the 24 issues of L’estampe moderne, though as I only have 21 of the folios (and am therefore missing 12 plates and one planche de prime) the information is going to get hazier towards the end. I’ll give the first number in full, but I won’t illustrate all 87 of the plates I have; for those interested they are all listed on Idbury Prints, along with biographies of all the artists.

Numéro 1, mai 1897

Alphonse Marie Mucha, Incantation: Salammbô (première prime)

Louis-Auguste Girardot, Femme du Riff

Maurice Réalier-Dumas, Corinne

Louis Malteste, Marchande de lacets

René Ménard, Automne

Numéro 2, juin 1897

Alphonse Marie Mucha, Salomé
Émile Berchmans, Renouveau
Armand Berton, Rieuse

Georges de Feure, Retour

Numéro 3, juillet 1897
Paul Balluriau, Crépuscule

Gaston de Latenay, Le parc

Marcel Lenoir, Invocation à la Madone d’onyx vert

Louis Rhead, La femme au paon

Numéro 4, août 1897

Gaston Darbour, Jeune fille aux coquelicots

Henri Héran, Fleur de mai
Émile-Auguste Wéry, Bretagne
Charles Léandre, Noël

Numéro 5, septembre 1897
Henri Bellery-Desfontaines, L’illusion
Antonin Calbet, L’inconnue
Maurice Eliot, Printemps

Armand Point, Légende dorée

Numéro 6, octobre 1897

Charles Doudelet, La chatelaine
Auguste François Marie Gorguet, Andante nocturne
Armand Rassenfosse, Danse
Paul Jouve, Le jugement de Paris

Numéro 7, novembre 1897

Marc-Henry Meunier, L’heure du silence

Henri Jacques Édouard Evenepoël, Au square
Alphonse-Jacques Lévy, Rabbi-Elischa l’aveugle
Jacques Wély, Fleur de Lande

Numéro 8, décembre 1897

Franz M. Melchers, La phalène des iles de la mer
Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, Belle d’antan
Lucien Simon, Les marguilliers
Henri Boutet, Dans les coulisses

Numéro 9, janvier 1898
Edmond François Aman-Jean, Sous les fleurs
Camille Bellanger, La blanchisseuse
Paul Albert Laurens, Le bain des nymphes

Gustave-Max Stevens, Solveig

Numéro 10, février 1898

Auguste Donnay, Artemis

Auguste Louis Lepère, Loups de mer
Albert Émile Artigue, Albine
René François Xavier Prinet, Manon

Numéro 11, mars 1898

Hans Christiansen, L’heure du berger

Robert Engels, Le passant
Jeanne Jacquemin, Saint Georges
Ernest Laurent, Soir d’octobre

Numéro 12, avril 1898

Louis Rhead, Jane (deuxième prime)

Henry Detouche, Dans les ronces

Richard Ranft, L’écuyère
Fernand Louis Gottlob, La promise
Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, L’espérance

Numéro 13, mai 1898

Gaston Bussière, Brunnhild
Étienne Dinet, Jeux de fillettes à Laghouat
Henri Fantin-Latour, Immortalité
Auguste Roedel, La romance

Numéro 14, juin 1898
Jules-Gustave Besson, Au pays noir

Adolphe Giraldon, Lutèce

Henri Le Sidaner, La ronde

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Bal de barrière

Numéro 15, juillet 1898
Maximilienne Guyon, Maris Stella
Henri Martin, Dante rencontre Béatrix

Fernand Piet, Un marché en Zélande
Eugène Trigoulet, Le chemin de la mort

Numéro 16, août 1898
Eugène Delâtre, Kacia

Henry-Gabriel Ibels, Pantomime
Paul Leroy, Joueuses d’osselets
Manuel Robbe, Menuet d’automne

Numéro 17, septembre 1898
Jacques Baseilhac, La soupe à la chambrée

Charles Huard, Pêcheurs à la ligne
Jules Alexis Muenier, Le retour des champs
Paul Renouard, Avant le ballet

Numéro 18, octobre 1898

Henri Bellery-Desfontaines, L’enigme (troisième prime)
Louise Breslau, Fillette à l’orange
Maurice Desvallières, Porteurs d’amphore

Francis Jourdain, Les cygnes
Adolf Muller, Bouderie

Numéro 19, novembre 1898
Louis Borgex, Les sardinières
Jules Léon Flandrin, La chevelure
R.-A. Ullmann, Tristesse sur la mer

Angelo Jank, Le femme au perroquet

Numéro 20, décembre 1898
Fernand Cormon, Cité lacustre
Henri-Patrice Dillon, Polchinelle

Paul César Helleu, Parisienne
Victor Émile Prouvé, Le baiser

Numéro 21, janvier 1899
Firmin Étienne Maurice Bouisset, Bouquetière

Charles François Prosper Guérin, Sirène

Henri Jules Guinier, Nuit douce
François Joseph Guiguet, La lampe

The remaining plates are, in alphabetical order of artist
Donat-Alfred Agache, Impéria
Émile-Louis Bracquemond, Portrait
Edward Burne-Jones, Beauty
Raphaël Collin, Le depart
Marguerite Delorme, La poupée
Guillaume Dubufe, L’enfant
Jeanne Granes, L’aïeule
Eugène Grasset, Dans les bois
Louis Weldon Hawkins, Liseuses
Ferdinand-Jean Luigini, La servante
Luc-Oliver Merson, Salomé (quatrième prime)
Lucien Hector Monod, La voix des sources
Adolphe Willette, Valmy

Of the lithographs illustrated in this post, my own three favourites are Evenepoël, Au square; Ranft, L’écuyère; and Rhead, La femme au paon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Poster boys

Pierre Bonnard
Reduced-size lithograph reproduced by Fernand Mourlot, 1952

The lithographic poster was one of the defining artistic advances of the latter half of the 19th century, culminating in the wonderful graphics of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Pierre Bonnard was just making a name for himself in poster design, producing marvellous images such as France-Champagne of 1889 for the printer Ancourt, when he made the mistake of introducing Toulouse-Lautrec to Ancourt. As soon as Bonnard saw the wonders Toulouse-Lautrec was producing, he bowed out of poster art.

Jules Chéret showing one of his posters to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

But Toulouse-Lautrec, although he was artistically the towering figure of the French lithographic poster, was not the godfather of Belle Époque poster design. That title belongs to Jules Chéret. Chéret created over 1,000 posters. He also had his own lithographic printing shop, which opened in 1866 under his own name and from 1881 operated as a branch of the larger Imprimerie Chaix (the x is sounded, so it is pronounced something like sheikhs, I believe).

Jules Chéret
Folies bergères
Reduced-size lithographic poster, from Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1884

Chéret was born in Paris in 1836, into a poor family. He went to England to be apprenticed as a lithographer, and when he returned to Paris he used his new skills to revolutionize French poster design and printing. He retired to Nice, and many of his vibrant and joyful posters, as well as his rather slickly sentimental paintings, can be seen in that city’s Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Jules Chéret
Reduced-size lithographic poster, from Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1884

The large-sized wall posters created by artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Chéret were printed in large numbers, and quite quickly the printers started to reserve quantities for sale to art lovers. But there was a problem: the sheer size of these posters meant few people were able to display them. Chéret solved this problem by creating reduced-size lithographs of posters by over 90 Belle Époque artists, printed by Imprimerie Chaix and issued in monthly portfolios of four posters at a time, under the title Les maîtres de l’affiche. Between 1895 and 1900 Chéret published 240 of these domestic-sized posters, plus 16 special lithographs for subscribers. About a quarter of the posters were by Chéret himself, but other artists included Toulouse-Lautrec, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, Félix Vallotton, Alphonse-Marie Mucha, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Charles Léandre, Adolphe Willette, and Maxfield Parrish.

Jules Chéret
La danse
Lithograph for the programme of the fête of 5 August 1900 at the Elysée Palace
Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1900

I have made a semi-conscious decision not to enter the poster market, but I have inevitably picked up a few along the way. From Les maîtres de l’affiche I have posters by two artists in whom I have an interest, Henri Jacques Édouard Evenepoël and Henry-Gabriel Ibels. Both of these artists also contributed to a similar monthly portfolio of original lithographs, L’estampe moderne, published from May 1897 to April 1899, which I will discuss in a coming post.

Henri Evenepoël
Anvers et son exposition
Les maîtres de l'affiche, pl. 116, 1898

Evenepoël was born in 1872 in Nice, to Belgian parents. His first studies were in the Brussels Académie, in the atelier of Blanc Gorin, but then he moved to Paris, where he studied alongside Rouault and Matisse in the studio of Gustave Moreau. Evenepoël’s art was influenced by Art Nouveau and also – especially in his organisation of space – by Nabis artists such as Bonnard and Vuillard. His close friendship with Matisse and other future Fauves suggests how his work might have developed, but we will never know, for in 1899 Henri Evenepoël died of typhoid fever at the age of just 27. When a devastated Matisse broke the tragic news to Albert Marquet, Marquet replied with a nonchalance that may pass either for peasant wisdom or extreme insensitivity, “Oh well, if people didn’t die, they’d have to be killed.”

Henry-Gabriel Ibels
Les maîtres de l'affiche, pl. 78, 1897

Henry-Gabriel Ibels, five years older than Evenepoël, was one of the founders of the Nabis, having studied with Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, Ranson, and Sérusier at the Académie Julian. Ibels was also a disciple of Gauguin. As a lithographer, Ibels benefited from the advice of his friend Toulouse-Lautrec, with whom he collaborated on an 1893 suite of prints, Le café-concert. Among his own pupils was the great etcher of Paris scenes, Eugène Bejot.

Jean Carlu
La République
Poster tipped in to Arts et métiers graphiques, 1933

The main point of difference between a poster and a stand-alone lithograph is that a poster incorporates lettering. In a great poster design, the lettering is integral to the composition of the image, and the letterforms reflect the artist’s aesthetic. In the 1890s, Art Nouveau typefaces wind themselves in sensuous curves around the image; forty years later, the blunt modernism of the type on Jean Carlu’s Cubist-inspired poster for La République announces the arrival of a very different, machine-age sensibility. Carlu was born in 1900, and only died in 1997. He trained as an artist after losing his right arm in an accident at the age of 18, and his many posters are distinguished by their elegant clarity of line and their mastery of form and space.