Friday, July 31, 2009


When writing the other week about the portfolio Douze poètes, douze peintres, I should have noted that the idea of matching a group of poets and printmakers was hardly new, dating back at least to Sonnets et eaux-fortes, published by Alphonse Lemerre in 1869. Among the artists contributing to that work were Manet, Corot, and Millet; Victor Hugo insisted on being included among the artists rather than the writers.

Since that time enterprising publishers have kept coming up with similar ideas. Two notable examples in my collection are Variations sur l’amour (1968) and its companion volume Variations sur l’imaginaire (1972). Both were published by Philippe Lebaud, under his unenticing-sounding fine-press imprint Club du Livre, and each pairs 20 writers and 20 artists. All the illustrations are original colour lithographs.

André Masson (1896-1987_
Les incertitudes de Psyché
Lithograph 1968, printed by Fernand Mourlot

Unlike most livres d’artiste, the two volumes of Variations were published as bound books, with lavish leather bindings, rather than as folded and gathered sheets in a chemise and slipcase. Both were published in editions of 190 copies: 20 on Japon nacré, 30 on Auvergne, and 140 on Rives. The first 50 copies were accompanied by an additional suite of the lithographs, printed on Rives. All the lithographs in the suites and in the books were hand-signed by the artists, and all the texts were signed by the authors.

Jules Cavaillès (1901-1977)
Lithograph 1968, printed by Fernand Mourlot

André Planson (1898-1981)
Ann de Saint-Jean
Lithograph 1968, printed by Jacques Desjobert

Both of my copies are on Japon nacré (pearlised japan paper), and both have one of the 50 extra portfolios of loose lithographs. I’m not going to post all 40 images, but I thought a selection would make an interesting comparison with Douze poètes, douze peintres. Interestingly only one artist features in both Douze poètes and Variations, André Minaux.

André Minaux (1923-1986)
Les amants
Lithograph 1968, printed by Fernand Mourlot

The artists in Variations sur l’amour are Yves Brayer, Jules Cavaillès, Jean Commère. Lucien Coutaud, Leonardo Cremonini, Léonor Fini, Paul Guiramand, Félix Labisse, Édouard Mac’Avoy, André Masson, Blasco Mentor, André Minaux, Marcel Mouly, André Planson, Édouard Pignon, Michel Rodde, Georges Rohner, Maurice Sarthou, Pierre-Yves Trémois, and Ossip Zadkine.

Leonardo Cremonini (1925- )
De l'autre côte du miroir
Lithograph 1968 (dated '66 by artist), printed by René Guillard

Leonardo Cremonini
Urgence du désert
Lithograph 1972 (dated '71 by artist), printed by Fernand Mourlot

The artists in Variations sur l’imaginaire are Gilles Aillaud, Enrico Baj, Lucien Coutaud, Leonardo Cremonini, Maurice Delmotte, Fred Deux, Bernard Dufour, Joachin Ferrer, Léonor Fini, Jean Hélion, Jacques Hérold, Félix Labisse, Jacques Lamy, Stanislao Lepri, François Lunven, André Masson, Jacques Monory, Cesare Peverelli, Man Ray, and Georges Rohner.

Enrico Baj (1924-2003)
Lithograph 1972, printed by Michel Cassé

Man Ray (1890-1967)
Imagination-subversion ou l'image y nait
Lithograph 1972, printed by Clot, Bramsen, et Georges

The reason for the relatively small overlap between the two volumes (only Coutaud, Cremonini, Fini, Labisse, Masson, and Rohner) contribute to both lies in the differing themes of the texts. Whereas Variations sur l’amour was a natural choice for lyrical postwar colourists such as Jules Cavaillès, Paul Guiramand, André Minaux, and André Planson, and for artists drawn to erotic themes, such as Léonor Fini, Blasco Mentor, and Pierre-Yves Trémois, the artists responding to the thought-provoking texts in Variations sur l’imaginaire are all Surrealists or Hyper-realists.

Léonor Fini (1908-1996)
Sphinx (Pseudo-sonnet avec un intermède)
Lithograph 1972, printed by René Guillard

Lucien Coutaud (1904-1977)
Figure de l'aire rouge
Lithograph 1972, printed by Jacques Desjobert

There are biographies of all these artists on the Idbury Prints website, so I won’t repeat all that information here. I’ll just note that each book has one posthumously-published lithograph (both, happily, signed by the artist before his demise). In the case of Variations sur l’amour the death of the Cubist sculptor Ossip Zadkine in 1967 at the age of 77, after a long and successful career, was probably not unexpected. His lithograph Haute mâlerie must be one of his very last works.

Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967)
Haute mâlerie
Lithograph 1968 (presumably executed 1966/67), printed by Maurice Pons

With Variations sur l’imaginaire, the loss was more shocking and abrupt. François Lunven was the shooting star of French art. His first works, shown at the Galerie Transart, Milan in 1970, caused such a sensation he was accorded a solo exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris the following year, but he killed himself on the eve of the show, at the age of just 29. Again, his lithograph Poète aux interstices must be one of the last works he created.

François Lunven (1942-1971)
Poète aux interstices
Lithograph 1972 (presumably executed 1970/71), printed by Michel Cassé

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The unknown art of Lill Tschudi

The Swiss artist Lill Tschudi (1911-2004) is now very well-known, and examples of her linocuts change hands at high prices. But the art that everyone knows stems from just one decade, 1929-1939, the heady decade after her initial studies under Claude Flight at the Grosvenor School of Art from 1929-1930. What happened after that? According to Margaret Timmers in Impressions of the 20th Century: Fine Art Prints from the V&A Collection (V&A Publications, 2001), “After 1939 – by which time linocut exhibitions were no longer popular – Tschudi’s work started to become more abstract: she wrote to Flight that as a result of the war she felt that she was no longer able to depict humanity with optimism and that pure abstraction was the only way left to her.”

Lill Tschudi was born in Schwanden in the Swiss canton of Glarus, where she lived most of her life. Inspired by the work of Norbertine Bresslern-Roth, Tschudi came to London to study the art of the linocut under Claude Flight. Flight in turn had been inspired by the work of the Viennese teacher Franz Cisek (who essentially invented the linocut), but took Cisek's monochrome work in a new colourful direction, inspiring a number of artists to create powerful and rhythmic Futurist colour linocuts in the 1930s; the most important members of this group are Claude Flight, Sybil Andrews, Cyril Power, and Lill Tschudi.

From 1931-1933 Tschudi, while staying in close touch with Flight, continued her studies in Paris, under André Lhote, and under Gino Severini at the Académie Ranson and Fernand Léger at the Académie Moderne. Between 1930 and 1939 Tschdi created 65 linocuts, many of them showing energetic scenes of skiers, hockey players, circus performers and the like.

After WWII Tschudi's work became almost exclusively abstract. Long neglected in her homeland, Lill Tschudi's art was brought back into public notice in 1979 by the book Tschudi: Vom Figurativen zur abstrakten Expression by Hans Neuburg. In 1986 Lill Tschudi was awarded the Swiss national print prize for her life's work. In 1998 came the first important retrospective, Lill Tschudi: Linolschnitte 1930-1997 at the Museum Schloss Moyland, followed by two further exhibitions at the Kunsthaus Glarus in 2001 and 2004. In the meantime Lill Tschudi's international reputation has continued to grow, and her prints have become increasingly sought after.

I have 32 original linocuts by Lill Tschudi, probably printed by the artist herself, reflecting a hitherto unknown side of her art. They were made in 1941 as a suite of loose prints to accompany a booklet by Ida Tschudi-Schümperlin and Dr. Jakob Winteler-Marty, published by the Historischen Vereins des Kantons Glarus, entitled Glarner Gemeindewappen (Municipal Coats-of-Arms of Glarus). All my images are original linocuts from this work.

How many copies of this special-interest work were published is unknown, but there cannot have been many, and it seems now of the greatest rarity.

The linocuts were made after drawings by Ida Tschudi-Schümperlin (the artist's sister?). Until you see them, you might think them of extremely limited interest, but in fact they are images of great beauty and simplicity, and an extraordinary record of the love for her homeland that evidently occupied Lill Tschudi's mind during the dark days of WWII.

Poète maudit

My accountant just asked me to prepare my year’s accounts, so I was overtaken by an (unaccountable) urge to translate a poem by Paul Verlaine. Funny how that works....

Edmond Aman-Jean, Paul Verlaine
Lithograph, 1892
Published by L’Artiste in 1896
ref: Sanchez & Seydoux 1896-1

In this extraordinary lithograph, the Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) stares at us as if from beyond the grave. In fact, although desperately ill, he still had four years to live. The setting for this portrait is the Broussais hospital, where he was drawn by his close friend Edmond Aman-Jean (1860-1935) in January 1892. The painting Aman-Jean made after this visit is now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Metz, Verlaine’s birthplace. It can be seen here. To my mind, the lithograph that Aman-Jean made of the same subject is even more powerful, because of its haunted, ghostly quality. It reminds me of one of my favourite Verlaine poems, published in Sagesse in 1881, “Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit...”, which was written in prison, I believe, but could just as easily be written from hospital. There’s an interesting discussion of it, with various alternative translations, here. Here it is, in the original and in my attempt at an English version (you will have to imagine line indents in the second and fourth lines of each stanza, as I can't make these work in the blog format):

Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit,
Si bleu, si calme!
Un arbre, par-dessus le toit,
Berce sa palme.

La cloche, dans le ciel qu’on voit,
Doucement tinte.
Un oiseau sur l’arbre qu’on voit
Chante sa plainte.

Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, la vie est là,
Simple et tranquille.
Cette paisible rumeur-là
Vient de la ville.

—Qu’as-tu fait, ô toi que voilà
Pleurant sans cesse,
Dis, qu’as-tu fait, toi que voilà
De ta jeunesse.

The sky above the roof
so blue, so calm!
A tree above the roof
cradles its palm.

A bell in the sky out there
softly rings.
A bird in the tree out there
sadly sings.

My God, my God, that’s life,
simple, complete.
No sounds of strife,
just the hum of the street.

—What have you done, O you in there
weeping all day?
Say what you have done, you in there:
thrown your youth away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paris in black and white

Jean-Louis Boussingault was born in Paris in 1883, and died there in 1943. Despite the Occupation, a retrospective exhibition of his work was organized at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs the following year, with a catalogue by Jacques de Laprade. Also in 1944, a tribute was published to this great Parisian artist: Boussingault par ses amis, André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Luc-Albert Moreau, Valdo Barbey, et André Villeboeuf. The five friends often worked and exhibited together.

Jean-Louis Boussingault, La Tour
Lithograph, 1931

Boussingault had known Dunoyer de Segonzac and Luc-Albert Moreau since student days, in the atelier of Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian, and at the Académie de la Palette, where all three studied under Charles Guérin, Georges Desvallières, and Pierre Laprade. The trio shared a studio in 1907, in a Saint Tropez villa rented from Paul Signac.

Jean-Louis Boussingault, Talus
Lithograph, 1931

In 1925, Dunoyer de Segonzac, Moreau, and Villeboeuf purchased the villa Le Maquis, also at Saint Tropez, from the painter Charles Camoin. But despite the Mediterranean sun, and the association with Signac, Camoin and the Fauves, all these artists were wary of bright colours, preferring to work in black-and-white or in muted tones. The art of all these artists can be loosely defined as post-Cubist, post-Surrealist realism.

Jean-Louis Boussingault, De ma fenêtre
Lithograph, 1931

Jean-Louis Boussingault exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants from 1907, and at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Tuileries from 1909. He is best remembered now for his wonderfully evocative lithographs of Jazz Age Paris, published as D’Après Paris in 1931, in a total edition of 180 copies, hand-printed by Edmond Desjobert on Arches paper. Is it despite or because of the lack of colour that these images are so evocative and atmospheric?

Jean-Louis Boussingault, La gare
Lithograph, 1931

Boussingault’s career was surveyed by Pierre Mornand in Vingt-Deux Artistes du Livre in 1948; the same volume also contains essays on Dunoyer de Segonzac and Moreau. Mornand classes Boussingault “among the most powerful interpreters of the ‘aspects’ of Paris and of Parisian life.”

Luc-Albert Moreau, Seated prostitute
Lithograph, 1924

The same praise could be repeated word-for-word of Luc-Albert Moreau. Like Boussingault, Luc-Albert Moreau has slipped out the public consciousness since his death in 1948. He was born in Paris in 1882.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Black prostitute
Lithograph, 1924

Luc-Albert Moreau exhibited with the Moreau exhibited as a painter with the Cubists in 1912, and according to André Salmon in the long entry on Moreau in Bénézit’s Dictionary of Artists, “the shadow of Cézanne was always present in his studio.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Prostitute looking out of a window
Lithograph, 1924

Luc-Albert Moreau's lithographs of Parisian bars, restaurants, nightclubs, music halls, brothels and circuses reveal a comprehensive knowledge of the lively Paris underworld, including the gay and lesbian scene.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Gay couple dancing
Lithograph, 1928

I have one of 20 hand-signed suites of Moreau’s lithographs for Tableau de l’amour vénal by Francis Carco, printed by Marchizet on Japon impérial teinté; this book, a frank study of prostitution in Paris, was part of a series of “tableaux contemporains” on various subjects, published by the Nouvelle Revue Française between 1921 and 1929. Boussingault illustrated the Tableau des courses and Tableau de la vénerie, and Dunoyer de Segonzac contributed the Tableau de la boxe.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Drag queen
Lithograph, 1928

I also have on of 145 unsigned suites of Moreau’s lithographs of gay and lesbian life for Images cachées, also by Francis Carco. These were printed by Marchizet on Hollande van Gelder. These lithographs bring the world of Colette vividly to life, and it is no surprise that both Moreau and Carco were close friends of Colette.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Lesbian couple
Lithograph, 1928

After WWI, Moreau lived with the violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, the widow of the painter Jacques Jourdan, killed in the war. In the early twenties the couple moved to Mesnils to be near their close friend, the composer Ravel.

André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Eden Roc
Lithograph, 1965

André Albert Marie Dunoyer de Segonzac (1884-1974) is today the most celebrated of this group of friends, regarded as one of the finest French etchers of the twentieth century. Unfortunately I only have one rather untypical colour lithograph by Dunoyer, made for a tribute to Raoul Dufy, from one of 1000 suites printed by Mourlot on B.F.K. Rives.

Louis Valdo-Barbey, Paris
Etching, 1949

Louis Valdo-Barbey (1883-1965) I have already covered in an earlier post, so I will limit myself to just one of his etchings for De Londres à Venise, from one of 79 suites printed by André Steff on B.F.K. Rives.

André Villeboeuf, The path
Etching, c.1950 (from Novembre)

The last of my five artists is André Villeboeuf (1893-1956). Villeboeuf and Dunoyer de Segonzac collaborated with Édouard Vuillard on the book Cuisine; each artist contributed six original prints.

André Villeboeuf, Creation
Etching with aquatint, 1944

Villeboeuf issued a number of portfolios of prints in severely limited editions, such as Novembre, containing 9 etchings in an edition of just 24 copies, and also illustrated a handful of books with original etchings, including his Surrealist masterpiece Contes fantastiques, published in an edition of 240 copies. These extraordinary aquatints, bitten numerous times to achieve subtle variations of shade, take us on a phantasmagorical journey that owes much to the etchings of Goya, to whose art Villeboeuf was deeply attached.

André Villeboeuf, The Devil riding a comet
Etching with aquatint, 1944

André Villeboeuf died in Paradas, Spain, in 1956. In the same year he published the book Sérénades sans guitare, capturing his lifelong love of Goya and of Spain; the book was later published in English as Goya and Guitars.