Monday, August 29, 2011

Another side of Marcel Roux

It's now three years since I first posted about Marcel Roux, and I thought I had probably said all I had to say. But two recent acquisitions make me want to revisit this passionate and brilliant man. The first is one of Roux's rare individual etchings, L'échouée, as printed in the revue Byblis in 1923, after Roux's death, in brown ink on Lafuma wove paper. Most of Marcel Roux's original etchings were conceived and published in series, such as La Danse Macabre, Les Passions, Filles de Joie, and Les Sept Paroles; whether the enigmatic and dramatic L'échouée was intended to stand alone or to form part of a linked cycle, I do not know. I have to admit I don't quite know how to translate the title - the verb échouer means to fail, but I think this man may be intended to be shipwrecked, in which case the translation would be something like Washed Up; help from fluent French speakers will be gratefully received. No date is given, but I believe all Roux's etchings date from before WWI; he was unable to etch during the war, and afterwards his fatally weakened lungs couldn't bear the fumes from the acid.

Marcel Roux, L'échouée
Etching, pre-1914 (published by Byblis, 1923)

L'échouée was published alongside a moving essay by Marcel Roux's close friend Justin Godart, "Marcel Roux: graveur Lyonnais". Godart mentions three commissions for interpretative etchings from the Chalcographie du Louvre: Rembrandt's L'ange quittant la famille de Tobie and Le boeuf, and Botticelli's Venus. Roux was evidently not best pleased about the Venus (which he may never have executed) , expressing a preference for Rembrandt's Le bon Samaritain. I had thought until now that Marcel Roux's activity as an interpretative etcher was essentially confined to Rembrandt, whose etchings first inspired him and whom he described as the "Maître de ma jeunesse". But now I have acquired a series of twelve further interpretative etchings by Roux, which show a hitherto obscure side of his prodigious talent. These works date from 1911, and interpret paintings by Delacroix (including a bon Samaritain), Corot, Millet, and Daumier. Two of them (Corot's Baigneuse and La femme au tambourin) are on the Marcel Roux website, but unidentified. They come from what I believe must be the last great work to be illustrated with such etchings, the impossibly lavish exhibition catalogue Vingt Peintres du XIXe Siècle: chefs d'oeuvre de l'École Française. This was commissioned, printed, and published by Galerie Georges Petit. There is a text by Léon Roger-Milès, and 150 original etchings. The commissioning of the artists and art direction of the project appears to have been entrusted to Charles Waltner, so the general standard is very high, but the etchings by Marcel Roux are without doubt the stars of the show. There is nothing timid or restrained about them. Roux's mark-making is bold and vigorous, and exudes a sense of confidence. The plates are deeply-bitten, and the blacks are coal-black. Flicking through the pages there's no need to read the printed credit to recognize another Roux: they simply sing off the page.

Eugène Delacroix, Femmes turques au bain
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Eugène Delacroix, Arabe montant à cheval
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Eugène Delacroix, La mise au tombeau
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Eugène Delacroix, L'éducation d'Achille
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Eugène Delacroix, La délivrance de la princesse Olga
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Eugène Delacroix, Le bon Samaritain
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Eugène Delacroix, Tête de vieille femme
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Jean-François Millet, Le repos
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Jean-François Millet, La fuite
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Camille Corot, Baigneuse
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Camille Corot, La femme au tambourin
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Honoré Daumier, Une partie de dames
Etching by Marcel Roux, 1911

Given Marcel Roux's deeply religious sensibility, it comes as no surprise that he should respond so passionately to the Biblical subjects of La mise au tombeau and Le bon Samaritain, and his eye for social satire was well suited to Daumier, but I do find myself surprised and touched by the tenderness of the two etchings after Millet; this is a note not sounded in Roux's own work. Of the dozen etchings, I think the most completely successful is L'éducation d'Achille, which strikes me as a very powerful treatment of a difficult subject. The etchings were printed on thick BFK Rives wove paper, in an edition of 650 copies, of which these are from no. 324. I suspect the first 50 copies were printed on Japon, though this is not explicitly stated.


Unknown said...

Thanks for more on MarcelRoux,Neil.I recently bought(and sold)aportfolio of six coloured woodcuts from the atelier of the printer Marthe Fequet,limited to 30copies only,with an original gouache inscribed to Fequet.Alas,I fear I shall never see another one!But subsequently I acquired from the same source three more gouaches,one dated 1916,one large black and white woodcut,inscribed,and and inscribed copy of his edition of Poe's "Descente dans le Maelstrom",for which he used the name Marc Roux.I also have a flyer for his album of 16 woodcuts"Gestes",with text by Raymond Duncan,self-published from his own atelier ,9,Rue Falguiere,Paris.This book I have never seen...and I want it!

Neil said...

Hi Martin, lovely to hear from you. You are way beyond me in knowledge of these obscure Marcel Roux items - I didn't know about the coloured woodcuts from the Fequet atelier, or the album Gestes, and I don't think the Musée Marcel Roux know about them either! I have no idea why he is credited as Marc Roux on Descente dans le Maelstrom - I have a feeling it was the publisher who decided to call him Marc not Marcel - maybe that was how he was known by his friends. Fascinating uncovering the tracks of these long-lost artists...

Christine said...

Collectors, I have a copy of the rare Gestes coming to auction at Swann Auction Galleries on December 1, 2016 in our Art, Press & Illustrated Books sale! I found this site while researching it for the description. I will have it on the website once the catalogue is finished in early November ( It's a lovely copy and is number 30 of 100 (from a total edition of 125).

Christine von der Linn
Senior Specialist
Art, Architecture, Press & Illustrated Books
Illustration Art
Swann Auction Galleries
104 East 25th St.
New York, NY 10010
(212) 254-4710 ext. 20