Friday, November 29, 2013

Hermann Struck: a German-Jewish etcher

I've just discovered that the house of Hermann Struck in Haifa has this October been turned into the Hermann Struck Museum, with an opening exhibition of his etchings. I'm thrilled to think this brilliant and influential etcher is at last getting his due. So I thought I would share the Hermann Struck etchings I have. Struck was born in Berlin in 1876. His birth name was Chaim Aaron ben David, and his Jewish heritage is central to his work - most of the original works below have Hebrew inscriptions or Stars of David incised in the plate in drypoint. An early Zionist, Hermann Struck settled in Palestine, in what is now Haifa, Israel, in December 1922. All of my works date from before this time (although I give the date of his portrait of Chagall as 1923, that is the date of publication, and presumably the actual work was made in or around 1922). Evidently Struck had an active life as artist, mentor, and teacher in Israel, but I don't have any direct evidence of this to show.

Hermann Struck, Porträt eines alten Mannes
Etching, 1901

Hermann Struck, Canal Grande
Etching, 1903

Hermann Struck, Bildnis R.B.
Etching, 1905
Does anyone know who R.B. was?

Hermann Struck,  Alte Jude aus Jaffa
Etching, 1905
The sitter is Struck's father
(I believe probably the same subject as Porträt eines alten Mannes)

Hermann Struck, Marc Chagall
Etching, published 1923
(probably 1922)

Hermann Struck studied at the Berlin Academy, and learned etching under Hans Meyer. Like many other accomplished etchers, he etched plates after the work of others as well as his own originals.

Hermann Struck after Olof Jernberg, Zur Erntezeit
Etching, 1901

Hermann Struck after Max Liebermann, Bildnis des Baron Berger
Etching, 1906

Hermann Struck died in Haifa in 1944. In his lifetime Hermann Struck was highly respected as an etcher, and taught the craft to other artists, including Marc Chagall, Max Liebermann, and Lovis Corinth. His important book on the art of etching Die kunst des radierens went through several editions, each illustrated with original prints.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Secrets of the absinthe drinker: the life and art of Marcellin Desboutin

You might not recognize the name of Marcellin Desboutin, but you would know him if you saw him in the street. His is the bearded, dishevelled face staring despairingly out at you from a table in the artists' café La Nouvelle Athènes in the painting  L'Absinthe (Dans un Café) by Edgar Degas. The women sitting next to him is the actress Ellen André; like the rest of the Impressionists, Degas preferred to use members of his immediate social circle rather than paid models. Once you have committed Desboutin's face to memory, you will chance upon it again and again in works by Degas and other artists, including Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Falguière; often he is smoking a pipe. His tramp-like appearance made him the ideal sitter if you wanted to paint a down-and-out old drunk.

Marcellin Desboutin, Desboutin dit à la bavette
(aslo known as Desboutin tenant sa pipe de la main gauche, or as L'auteur fumant, à mi-corps)
Drypoint, 1897
Ref: Clément Janin 67

Actually, Marcellin Gilbert Desboutin came from a well-off, cultured background. He was born in Cérilly in 1823. His mother was an aristocrat, and Marcellin was a wealthy young man whose dabblings in literature and art were enthusiastic hobbies rather than career choices. He bought himself a grand villa outside Florence, where he lived from 1854, dealing in old master paintings, gambling, and generally squandering his fortune. During this time, Desboutin maintained contacts with the Paris art world, and was particularly close to Degas. In Florence he met and encouraged the Italian Impressionist Giuseppe de Nittis, with whom he remained on close terms; there exists a drypoint portrait of Degas about which experts remain divided as to whether it is by Desboutin or de Nittis.

Marcellin Desboutin, Femme au toutou, ou au chien
Drypoint, c. 1878
Ref: Clément-Janin 101

Marcellin Desboutin returned to Paris in 1873, at the age of 50, having ruined himself with unwise investments. Here he returned seriously to art, both painting and printmaking. Desboutin specialized in portrait drypoints, often of fellow artists such as his friends Degas, Renoir, Manet, Morisot, Raffaëlli, Goeneutte and Guérard, but also of authors such as Dumas fils, Zola, and Verlaine. Desboutin's technique was to quickly sketch a portrait on copper with a drypoint needle, to catch his subject in as relaxed and lifelike a pose as possible.

Marcellin Desboutin, Norbert Goeneutte
Drypoint, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 111

Marcellin Desboutin, Renoir, les jambes croisées
Drypoint, 1877
Ref: Clément-Janin 208

Marcellin Desboutin, Willette, en Pierrot
Drypoint, 1896
Ref: Clément-Janin 241

One of Desboutin's portraits of artists, that of Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, uses a very interesting mixed technique, invented by Félicien Rops and used infrequently by artists such as Louis Legrand and Desboutin. Based on a painting by Desboutin now in the Musée d'Amiens, this print involved making a héliogravure plate after a painting (as in this case) or an etching that needed to be reduced in size (as in the case of Legrand's La parole divine, my only other example of this process); the artist then worked on top of the heliogravure with a drypoint needle, thus producing a strange hybrid between a reproduction and an original print. The composition in the background is part of Puvis's Bois sacré.

Marcellin Desboutin, Puvis de Chavannes, portrait et composition
Drypoint on héliogravure
Ref: Clément Janin 204

Another artist portrait, that of the etcher Jules Jacquemart, strikes me as possibly originating in a photograph, though Jacquemart was still alive when it was made, so I may be wrong - certainly neither the publisher, the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, nor the cataloguer, Clément-Janin, suggest this to be the case.

Marcellin Desboutin, Jules Jacquemart
Drypoint, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 141

It's interesting to compare the vivacity of Desboutin's portraits from life, such as those of Goeneutte and Renoir, with the eight drypoint portraits of singers and dancers for the anonymous work L'Opéra, Eaux-fortes et Quatrains in 1876 (the author was Henry Cohen). Seven of these are drawn after photographs rather than from life, and although they have great charm, they are much stiffer and more conventional than the free depictions of his friends; the exception is the portrait of Léontine Beaugrand. On all eight the printer, Vve Cadart, has misspelled the artist's name as Desboutins.

Marcellin Desboutin, Charles-Amable Bataille
(bass-baritone 1822-1872)
Drypoint after a photograph by Pierre Petit, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 186

Marcellin Desboutin, Mlle Baux
(soprano, dates unknown)
Drypoint after a photograph by Pierre Petit, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 187

Marcellin Desboutin, Léontine Beaugrand, danseuse
(ballerina, 1842-1925)
Drypoint from life, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 188

Marcellin Desboutin, Rosine Bloch
(mezzo-soprano, 1844-1891)
Drypoint after a photograph by Pierre Petit, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 189

Marcellin Desboutin, Auguste-Acanthe Boudouresque
(bass, 1835-1905)
Drypoint after a photograph by Pierre Petit, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 190

Marcellin Desboutin, Eugène-Charles Caron
(baritone 1834-1903)
Drypoint after a photograph by Pierre Petit, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 191

Marcellin Desboutin, Pedro Gailhard
(bass, and future director of the Opéra, 1848-1918)
Drypoint after a photograph by Pierre Petit, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 192

Marcellin Desboutin, Rita Sangalli, danseuse
(ballerina, 1850-1909)
Drypoint after a photograph by Luckhardt, 1876
Ref: Clément-Janin 193

Despite his late start, Desboutin achieved some fame and success as an artist in the Bohemian circle of Manet and Degas; he exhibited six works at the Second Impressionist Exhibition. The catalogue of his works in Clément-Janin's La Curieuse Vie de Marcellin Desboutin lists 246 original prints and 30 "gravures de réproduction" after artists such as Israëls, Fragonard, and Rembrandt; there's also an impressive list of paintings, showing Desboutin to have been hard at work at his art from 1873 to his death.

Marcellin Desboutin, Les travailleurs de la mer (also known as Les amarreurs)
Drypoint after a painting by Jozef Israëls, 1889
Ref: Clément-Janin 1 (gravures de réproduction)

From 1880 Desboutin lived mostly in Nice, where he died in 1901.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Where even the grass is poor: the drypoints of Jean-Francois Raffaelli

After my last post about Auguste Lauzet, I thought I might stick with the Impressionist theme, and discuss a truly neglected artist, Jean-François Raffaëlli. He's someone who seems to have fallen through the cracks of art history, so much so that though his paintings and prints turn up, all his sculptures seem to have vanished into thin air. I imagine someone will come across them in a junk shop at some point, and have a eureka moment. The interesting thing about Raffaëlli is that when he exhibited with the Impressionists, he wasn't one; after he'd been cast out by them, he became one. This is especially true of his etchings and drypoints, in which he exhibits an exquisite Impressionist sensibility. La gare du Champ-de-Mars, near the bottom of this post, is just about the perfect Impressionist print.

Photograph by Manuel of Jean-François Raffaelli in his studio,
 a drypoint needle in his hand, and a copperplate before him.
Wearing a bowler hat.

Jean-François Raffaëlli was one of the most innovative printmakers of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. He is especially celebrated for his mastery of colour etching, which he championed at a time when conventional snobbery insisted that colour prints were vulgar and not worthy to be exhibited alongside the purity of black-and-white.

Jean-François Raffaëlli, Le terrain perdu
Drypoint, 1894
Delteil 16 ii/ii
Black plate only, with plate tone; the first state was in colour

Born in Paris in 1850 to an Italian father and French mother, Raffaëlli was essentially a self-taught artist, though he did spend some time studying under Gérôme at the Beaux-Arts, Paris. Raffaëlli soon rejected history painting and found his own subject matter in the poor of Paris. He was hailed as the artistic equivalent of Zola, and the city counterpart of Millet.

Jean-François Raffaëlli, Le rémouleur
Drypoint, 1907
Delteil 76 iii/iii
Third state in black only, after the plate had been cut down

Jean-François Raffaëlli, La neige (soleil couchant)
Drypoint, 1907
Delteil 77 v/v
Right portion, after the plate was cut in two, in black only
This and the following image were once part of the same composition (which can be seen here)

Jean-François Raffaëlli, La neige (soleil couchant)
Drypoint, 1907
Delteil 77 v/v
Left portion, after the plate was cut in two, in black only

Although in the 1870s Jean François Raffaëlli was working in an essentially realist mode, his art was greatly admired by Degas, with whom he mixed at the Bohemian artists’ café La Nouvelle Athènes (the kind of milieu depicted in the drypoint Les rapins, The artists). It was Degas who invited his friend to exhibit at the 5th Impressionist exhibition of 1880. Raffaëlli seized the opportunity to exhibit with the avant-garde, and showed 34 paintings, pastels, and drawings. The following year he showed another 33 works. Some of the established Impressionists were less than impressed with this attempt to take over the show, and Caillebotte and Pissarro made sure he was not invited again.

Jean-François Raffaëlli, Sous la pluie
Drypoint, 1909
Delteil 86 ii/ii
A self-portrait of the artist buffeted by the elements

Jean-François Raffaëlli, Les rapins
Drypoint, 1909
Delteil 87 ii/ii
Black plate only

Jean-François Raffaëlli, Au coin de la route
Drypoint, 1909
Delteil 88
Unique state

It was not really until Raffaëlli took up etching around 1890 that he fully embraced the Impressionist aesthetic. The catalogue raisonné of his prints by Loÿs Delteil lists 183 prints, of which all but 5 are etchings or (more commonly in later years) drypoints. Interviewed in New York in 1894 for The Art News, Raffaëlli said, “a few years ago I took up etching. I did not know anything about the engraver’s technique. I simply bought a few books on etching, studied them, bought the material, experimented, and eventually I made some etchings as good as anybody else.” One technique that interested Raffaëlli was that of leaving the copper plate only partially wiped, to achieve a background grey known as plate tone; this is particularly effective in a plate such as Le terrain perdu, where the lower half of the plate has plate tone representing the land, and the upper half representing the sky is wiped clean. The fact that this causes problems for the printer is illustrated by my copy of Le terrain perdu, which has a couple of inky fingerprints in the margins!

Raffaëlli started experimenting with colour etchings in 1889, around the same time as Henri Guérard and Mary Cassatt; when the Société de la gravure originale en couleurs was founded in 1905, Raffaëlli was its first President.

Jean-François Raffaëlli, La gare du Champ-de-Mars
Drypoint, 1911
Delteil 90 ii/ii

Jean-François Raffaëlli, Le chiffonier
Colour etching, aquatint and drypoint, 1911
Delteil 97

Jean-François Raffaëlli was the illustrator, with original etchings, of perhaps the most severely limited printed book of all time, an edition of Germinie Lacreteux by the de Goncourt brothers published in an edition of precisely three copies. Raffaëlli was a significant figure in the Paris literary world; Joris-Karl Huysmans partly based the figure of the artist in À vau-l'eau on him.

Jean-François Raffaëlli, Le petit oiseau
Colour etching, 1915
Delteil 104 ii/ii
One of 100 hand-signed copies on Japon paper, the frontispiece for Loÿs Delteil, Le peintre-graveur illustré, tome 16, 1923

Raffaëlli died in Paris in 1824. As a painter he seems to have been almost forgotten, but his compassionate and heartfelt art has kept him at the forefront of Impressionist printmakers. His deep affinity with the poor and dispossessed means that many of his finest works depict rag-pickers, beggars and the like. Renoir noticed with amazement that painting the same Parisian banlieus the two artists saw things with such different eyes. For Renoir, everything was bathed in sunshine and delight, whereas “In his pictures, everything is poor, even the grass!”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Impressionist etchings of Auguste Lauzet

The art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel was born in Paris in 1831. In 1865 he took over his father’s picture-dealing business, which specialised in the work of the plein-air Barbizon School. Paul Durand-Ruel continued to support the Barbizon artists, but from the early 1870s, sensing a change in the air, he also cultivated a younger set of painters, influenced by Barbizon but going way beyond it in the freedom of their brushstrokes, the Impressionists. Durand-Ruel represented Degas, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, and Guillaumin among others, dominating the art market from his galleries in Paris, London, and New York. He established a new pattern of the gallerist as patron, the maker and breaker of careers, and manipulator of the market.

The 1892 book L’Art impressioniste d’après la collection privée de M. Durand-Ruel is a record of the Impressionist works that Durand-Ruel kept for himself. The whole book can be read online here .
It was written by Georges Lecomte, and the publisher on the title page is Typographie Chamerot et Renouard. I assume that the book was commissioned and financed by Durand-Ruel himself. I suspect that even though it is described as his private collection, these works would have been for sale to the right buyer; Durand-Ruel had used a similar tactic in 1873 when he published a partwork with etchings after 300 works he had in stock (mostly Barbizon, with some early Impressionist), entitled Galerie Durand-Ruel; recueil d'estampes gravées à l'eau-forte.

The main interest of L’Art impressioniste now lies not in the rather superficial text but in the 35 etchings after paintings in Durand-Ruel’s collection. These etchings were made by the painter, lithographer and etcher Auguste Marie Lauzet. Among many delights, they include 8 etchings after works by Claude Monet, about half of the total number of lifetime etchings after Monet, according to my reckoning. Monet himself never made a single print, so far as I am aware, though he did hand-sign the 20 lithographs made after his paintings by William Thornley in 1890, each published in an edition of only 25 copies.

Auguste Marie Lauzet was born in 1865. He was a close friend of Puvis de Chavannes, and made lithographs after the work of Puvis and Monticelli. These were published by Theo van Gogh at Goupil, and Lauzet was on friendly terms with both Theo and Vincent; he was one of the few mourners at Vincent van Gogh's funeral. The esteem in which Lauzet was held by the artists whose work he interpreted in etching is shown by the way they came to his aid when he fell ill in 1895. A sale was held at the Hotel Drouot on 9 May 1895 of Tableaux, Aquarelles et Dessins, Scultures, offerts par les Artistes à M. Lauzet. Monet, Degas, and Puvis de Chavannes were among those who donated canvases, and the catalogue stretches to 16 pages. The poet Mallarmé helped Lauzet’s lover, the Symbolist artist Jeanne Jacquemin, organise the sale, writing for instance to Whistler to solicit a contribution (Whistler sent an etching). Despite this help and support, Auguste Lauzet died in 1898, at the age of just 32 or 33.

The etchings Auguste Lauzet made for L’Art impressioniste d’après la collection privée de M. Durand-Ruel are his most important work as an etcher. I present them here, grouped alphabetically by artist, with minimal commentary. All works are etchings or drypoints by Lauzet, all published in 1892, and all printed on cream laid paper, in various shades of ink: various browns, some in black, some in sanguine, one in a blue-grey. I’ve tried to trace where these paintings currently reside, but have had mixed luck; any help from my readers will be much welcomed.

Eugène Boudin, Le Port de Trouville
(Sold by Durand-Ruel in 1899, now in a private collection)

John Lewis Brown, Chevaux de course
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Mary Cassatt, Jeune mère
(Now known as A Caress; New Britain Museum of American Art)

Mary Cassatt, Mère et enfant
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Edgar Degas, Chevaux au pâturage
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Edgar Degas, Avant la course
(Private collection)

Edgar Degas, Ballet de Don Juan
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Edgar Degas, Danseuse
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Jean-Louis Forain, Aux Folies-Bergère
(Marlene and Spencer Hays Collection, Nashville)

Stanislas Lépine, L’Esplanade des Invalides
(Sold at Sotheby’s, Paris, in 2008; presumably now in a private collection)

Édouard Manet, Venise
(Now known as The Grand Canal, Venice (Blue Venice); Shelburne Museum, Vermont)

Édouard Manet, Danseurs espagnols
(Now known as Spanish Ballet; the Phillips Collection, Washington)

Édouard Manet, La Femme à la guitar
(Sold by Durand-Ruel in 1894. Now known as The Guitar Player; Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington)

Claude Monet, Cabane de douanier à Pourville
(A drawing with practically the same name, Cabane de douanier près de Pourville, and a very similar look, was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2000, but I suspect this etching is after one of the various paintings in the Cabane des douaniers series, for which the drawing was a preparatory study)

Claude Monet, Champ de tulips en Hollande
(This is not the same painting as the Field of Tulips in Holland in the Musée d’Orsay, though presumably done at the same time, in the spring of 1886)

Claude Monet, Paysage à Antibes
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Claude Monet, Promenade, temps gris
(Now known as Morning at Antibes; Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Claude Monet, Rochers de Belle-Isle
(Musée des Beaux-Arts, Reims)

Claude Monet, Vue d’Antibes
(Now known as Antibes, Afternoon effect; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Claude Monet, Meules à Giverny
(I think this is probably Meules, grand soleil; Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington; but Monet made many paintings of these two particular haystacks, so as always, I may be wrong)

Claude Monet, Église de Varangeville
(Now known as Église de Varangeville, soleil couchant; Private  collection, I think)

Camille Pissarro, Sydenham
(Now known as The Avenue, Sydenham; National Gallery, London)

Camille Pissarro, Vue de Rouen
(Now known as Une vue de Rouen depuis cours la Reine; current whereabouts unknown to me)

Camille Pissarro, La Veillée
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Camille Pissarro, Retour des champs
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, La Fileuse
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La Femme au chat
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La Terrasse
(Now known as The Two Sisters  (On the Terrace); Art Institute of Chicago)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La Femme à l’éventail
(Hermitage Museum)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pêcheurs au bord de la mer
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Déjeuner à Bougival
(Now known as Luncheon of the Boating Party; Phillips Collection, Washington)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La Loge
(Now known as At the Concert; Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait
(Now known as The Daughters of Paul Durand-Ruel; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk))

Alfred Sisley, Paysage à Louveciennes
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

Alfred Sisley, La Seine à Moret
(Current whereabouts unknown to me)

By the time he died in 1922, Paul Durand-Ruel had established Impressionism as the key modern art movement, but it took fifty years of steadfast support, and the taking of breathtaking financial risks, to do so. Without him, life for the Impressionist artists would have been much harder; I feel there is a real historical importance to the Lauzet etchings as a record of which paintings, by which artists, he attached personal importance to. At a glance you can see that for Durand-Ruel the key Impressionists were Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Degas, with Manet included in the group by default, even though he never exhibited with them. Sisley seems a bit of an afterthought, with only two works illustrated. There’s nothing by Guillaumin, nothing by Cézanne, and of the female Impressionists just two works by Cassatt, with nothing by Morisot, Gonzalès, or Marie Bracquemond.

The balance has shifted somewhat from 1873 when Durand-Ruel published his Receuil d’estampes. In this, the three younger artists who are championed—anointed, as it were, as the leaders of the new art—are Monet, Sisley, and Pissarro. In the introduction by the critic Armand Silvestre, Monet is picked out as “le plus habile et le plus osé”, the ablest and the most daring of the group. The year before the First Impressionist Exhibition, Durand-Ruel is already promoting these three artists as important innovators, and Silvestre is already writing about their art with real insight and sensitivity. In Monet's handling of water, for instance, Silvestre particularly admires the way “des tons métalliques dus au poli du flot qui clapote par petites surfaces unies miroitent sur ses toiles”—the metallic tones of the shimmering flow, lapping in small discrete surfaces [i.e. blocks of colour, or brushstrokes], sparkle on his canvases. Here is Impressionism described before the term was coined, and described with wholehearted approval. Silvestre loves the way their paintings are flooded with light, and the way they evoke beloved landscapes rather than describe them. I’ve argued before, in my post on Armand Guillaumin, that critical reaction to the art of the Impressionists was by no means as uniformly negative as is usually assumed; Armand Silvestre’s tender appreciation of the art of Monet, Sisley, and Pissarro is another example of a sympathetic response to the Impressionist aesthetic.

There is an interesting and refreshingly jargon-free thesis on Durand-Ruel and the Impressionists by Marci Regan here for those who want to know more.