Hermann-Paul: Elegant Racism

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

René Georges HERMANN-PAUL (1864-1940)

China ink, watercolor and colored pencil on thin wove paper, 1899.
Preparatory drawing published in Le Figaro, November 30, 1899, number 334, page 3.
Annotated “Figaro 3 col” & “pour cesar” (?) in blue pencil.
Signed in ink.
Sheet: 9 ⅞ x 12 ⅞ inches.  Image: 8 x 8 ⅝ inches.

Hermann-Paul remains to this day a prolific creative mind whose artistic importance is generally understated.  The reason for this injustice is simply that he was active for so long, and that he expressed himself in very different ways.  He is often known primarily for creating elegant and whimsical color lithographs, such as Les Petites Machines à Ecrire, published by L’Estampe Originale.

His relentless work as an illustrator on the other hand is not well known.  And yet, Hermann-Paul drew thousands of illustrations for famous publications such as Le Rire, L’Assiette au Beurre and Le Cri de Paris. Our drawing was published in Le Figaro on November 30th, 1899.  At the time Paris was in the grips of Exposition fever.  The capital was putting the finishing touches to the massive construction that was to show off its primacy among European cities.  National pride was running high, not least because Paris had avoided war and major insurrection for 30 years by then.  It lent the City of Lights cockiness towards outsiders.

In our drawing an “Englishman” is showing up at an upscale shop, tourist guide in hand.  The massive cashier looks down on him, arms crossed, from behind his desk.  The size of his ledger and of the pulpit itself, combined with his unwelcoming attitude of the teller, belittles the visitors.  The garçon de magasin is standing, apparently ready to serve customers.  He is no taller than the foreign visitor, yet his squinting eyes seem to dare the opposing figure to ask for something. The caption in Le Figaro reads “Nationalisme – Un Anglais!… Est-ce qu’il aurait l’aplomb de nous acheter quelque chose ?… ” (Nationalism – An Englishman! Does he have the confidence of actually buying something?).  While the foreigner’s face is not visible to us, his discomfort is palpable.  He stands at attention, as if frozen, and clearly gazes above the garçon’s head, afraid to make eye contact.  His boyhood cap, his casual cuffed plaid pants, and loose rain jacket clash with the formality of the store’s dress code.  We feel for this foreigner, a hapless victim of Parisian chauvinisme, who unwittingly walked in, likely poorly advised by his travel guide.  Hermann-Paul masterfully captures the moment, and the three attitudes, in just a few strokes of china ink.  He even adds color, while his drawing was to be reproduced only in black.  Since the drawing was reproduced photomechanically it is likely that color was added after the drawing came back from the printer’s.  Hermann-Paul commonly colored his drawings at that time, whether or not they were to be printed monochromatically.

Staying Connected with the Gallery

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

At the core, Armstrong Fine Art has never wavered from its mission to find great works of art, and to present them to a discerning audience of art collectors.  However, the logistics of doing so has changed.  Today most of you no longer stop into the gallery, or even have the opportunity to visit us at shows around the country.

Digital tools and the internet have, on the other hand, enabled art dealers to present objects ever more accurately and vividly.  Those who have bought from me in the past few years know that I take pride in my research and present images that are as true to the object as is possible.  It is now my intention to share much more of this information with each of you.

The gallery’s blog will increasingly feature images, and research that relate to works of art, as they become available, whether or not they sell right away.  It is my hope that the increased visibility of the gallery’s activities will spur each of you, who read these words, to be engaged with Armstrong Fine Art, more deeply, and on a more personal level.

Take a look on the gallery’s Facebook page to see new acquisitions, gain insight into particular works, etc.  I am always looking for conversations related to art.  Talk to me, or read the gallery’s blog, Twitter feed, or Tumblr page.

Textures in Aquatint

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Aquatint, which is an intaglio printmaking technique (generally in copper or zinc) is used to add tonal quality to a composition.  Instead of using lines, like it is done in straightforward etching, aquatint provides the ability to give prints “grayscale”.  While it was often used in black and white printmaking, it really came to life as a technique in color printmaking.  It remains today, for those inclined to create “painterly” prints, a technique of choice.

Personally, what attracts me to aquatint, is the texture.  Not only are the colors, or black, saturated; the overall compositions also feels fare more dimensional than it is in lithography, or with a silkscreen.  The fact that the plate embosses the sheet, and that the ink is raised above the surface of the paper, lends aquatints a strength that cannot be replicated in most printmaking techniques.  It is, in that sense, comparable to strong woodcuts, which will also emboss the paper, and leave clear traces of the matrix used to create the image.

I enlarged a few aquatints, for close inspection.  Note the “dots”, or ink “puddles”.  The latticework of the resin, which is cooked onto the plate before being etched, is very discernible; and its dimensionality is eye-catching.

While there are a few informative videos online showing what aquatint really is, I find that nothing completely satisfies my curiosity.  In the end, Wikipedia’s entry is still the most informative, in my opinion.

Portrait of Anatole France by Edgar Chahine

Monday, February 8th, 2016


Edgar CHAHINE (1874-1947)
Anatole France
Drypoint on tan Arches laid paper, 1900.
Reference: Tabanelli 41 i/ii.  Artist’s proof from the first state of two, aside from an edition of 40.
Before the plate was cut down in the second state, and printed in a small edition as such.
Signed and annotated “à Monsieur Roger-Marx – bien respectueusement” in pencil.
Provenance: Roger Marx, with his monogram stamp (Lugt 2229).
Plate: 9 ¾ x 15 inches.

This is a portrait of the famous French author Anatole France.  The friendship that tied Chahine to Anatole France was very much predicated on the fact that France spoke up for the Armenian cause at a time when most politician fell silent.  Anatole France is also one of the most vocal defendants of human rights in his time, having invented the word “xenophobe”!  The fact that he defended Dreyfus, and that he denounced the Armenian ethnic cleansing, is what brought these men together.  They remained friends all of their lives.  Photos of Chahine, and his wife, spending time at the home of an elder France, along with his wife, have survived.

This impression comes from the collection of Roger-Marx, without a question one of the most influential art critics of the time in Paris.  Chahine specifically signed and annotated this impression when he gave it to the art critic.  Roger-Marx then stamped it with his collector mark.  As early as 1900, Roger-Marx gives Chahine glorious marks for his paintings.  In an article in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts he comments on Chahine’s focus on “the drama of reality, rather than on the enchantment of dreams”.  Having barely lived in Paris for four years, such an endorsement was certainly critical to Chahine’s career.  The fact that the early paintings seen by Roger-Marx show the toils of the poor, rather than the riches of the wealthy, stresses the fact that Chahine has been sensitive to the suffering he certainly witnessed in Constantinople.  As such these themes connect him to the Armenian suffering.

This particular impression, of this particular composition, is a work at the crossroads of artist’s career.  It ties his past, in the shared passion with Anatole France for Armenia, with the future provided by the endorsement of Roger-Marx.

Toulouse-Lautrec: Redoute au Moulin Rouge (From the archives)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

From the Archive.  Everyday, I research objects, and write up information pertinent to their interpretation and enjoyment.  Once the object sells, the information is lost to the world…  “From the Archive” is my way of leaving traces of this work, this knowledge, in hope that it can be of use or interest to someone.


In the foreground of this lithograph by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), titled Une Redoute au Moulin-Rouge, a dancer rides on a donkey.  It has been speculated that it is La Goulue, the stage name for Louise Weber (1866-1929).  She was then the most famous “act” in Montmartre, and her cancan, a particularly rowdy dance known as chahut (literally “ruckus”) drew crowds to Le Moulin Rouge.  While her features in this lithograph do not reflect contemporary photographs exactly, they are very close to other portraits by Toulouse-Lautrec of La Goulue at that time (Ill. 1, below, portrait of La Goulue, by Lautrec).

To her left, in the image’s right edge, Cha-U-Ka-O[1], the clowness who was often depicted by Lautrec, rides on a horse (Ill. 2, below, detail of a portrait of Cha-U-Ka-O, by Lautrec).

Both are part of a parade that was meant as a mockery of the Franco-Russian Alliance, which had been in the works since 1892 and was ratified by both nations at the end of 1893 and early in 1894.  This rapprochement was regarded as one of convenience, against the alliance of Germany with Austria-Hungary (the so-called Dual Alliance).  Many artists found it preposterous to the point of making fun of it.  Of course, the irreverent Moulin Rouge just had to make a parody of a military parade, by assembling all of its characters into an eclectic assortment of mock soldiers showing their “might” (Ill. 3, below, an advertisement by Roedel, for this event).

The rearguard is made up of a man and a woman who likely were meant to be the personification of France and Russia.  The woman in a worker’s apron, and who likely personifies Russia, looks robust and healthy.  She easily outflanks her male skinny companion.  This couple is also depicted in another lithograph by Toulouse-Lautrec that same year (illustration below).  In this image, “France” is clearly shown as a scrawny man, who smokes, reads Paris Sport and wears the typical blue de travail (workers shirt, typically blue) and the accompanying soft casquette (cap).

Our impression of this whimsical composition shows only the left side of this composition (Ill. 4, below, the full composition, as it was published).

According to Wittrock there were only three known proofs with only the left or the right half of the image printed.  We can trace this very impression back to the collection of Heinrich Stein in Germany in the 1920’s.  While the complete composition, printed in an edition of 50 does very occasionally surface on the open market, our impression is likely unique and has been kept in nearly perfect condition for all of these years.

Description of our print, as illustrated at the top of this entry:

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Une Redoute au Moulin Rouge

Lithograph printed in black ink on wove paper.  1893.
References: Delteil 65; Adriani 54; Wittrock 42.
Extremely rare impression apart from the edition of 50, with only the left half of the image printed.  Wittrock records only three known proofs with only the left half or the right half of the image printed.
Signed with the artist’s red monogram stamp (Lugt 1338).
Image: 11 ¼ x 9 ½ in. (287 x 242 mm).
Sheet: 15 x 11 ⅛ in. (383 x 283 mm).

• Collection of Dr. Heinrich Stinnes, Cologne (D).
• Auctioned by C.G. Boerner, Nov 10-11, 1932, Leipzig (D).
• Private collection, France.
• Armstrong Fine Art, catalogue, 2000.
• Peter Bartlett, New York, NY.


[1] Cha-U-Ka-O, the name of a famous clowness at the Moulin Rouge was a play on the words chahut and chaos, literally “ruckus” and “chaos”.  This name is indicative of how rowdy the entertainment at that establishment really was.  Women, such as the two mentioned here, presented forms of entertainment not seen elsewhere in Paris.  This brought throngs of people to Montmartre, in search for thrills that could not be found in the central districts of the capital.



Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014




















Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864 Albi – Malromé 1901)

La Revue Blanche

Color lithograph printed in olive green, blue, red and black inks, with brush and spatter techniques, 1895.
Printed on two joined wove sheets, as usual, linen-backed.
Image: 50 ¾ x 36 ½ in; 1289 x 927 mm.
References: Delteil 355; Adriani 130; Wittrock P16a, 1st state of three.

Provenance: Sagot-Le Garrec, Paris, sold in 1937
Mr. Swope, purchased from the above
Peter Bartlett, New-York
Thence by descent

This is a very fine and well preserved impression, with fresh colors.   The first state of this famous poster, with the remarque of the skating woman in the lower left corner, and before letters, is regarded by Wittrock as extremely rare at the time his finished his catalogue raisonné of the prints, thirty years ago. According to La Revue Blanche archives, an art and literary magazine, it was printed in this state in only fifty copies; possibly for some subscribers. However, as was not unusual at that time, the announced edition may not have be completed.  The fact that only four impressions were known to be in public collections according to Wittrock’s entry, makes the 50 copies in the first state highly unlikely.  We only know of two more impressions: the present one, and one in a private collection in Japan.  Even the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, in Paris, does not have a first state impression in its collection.  The second state, which is even rarer (possibly unique), does not have the remarque; while the third state has the letters and the address of La Revue Blanche.  Along with Le Divan Japonais, La Revue Blanche is unequivocally Lautrec’s most famous poster.  The unusually elegant Nabis lines, as well as the strong and simple colors, show the artist’s uncanny ability to distill the essence of his composition.

This poster had been commissioned by the Revue as its annual advertisement. It is in fact the portrait of Misia Natanson, seen skating in a long blue polka dot winter coat.  Misia was the wife of Thadée Natanson, co-editor of La Revue Blanche.  The famous 19th century novelist Marcel Proust said of Misia’s salon, that it was the epitome of society life in Paris at that time.  She succeeded in gaining the contributions of numerous avant-garde writers, composers and artists for the magazine.  Lautrec was a frequent visitor to the Natanson home from 1893, as were Paul Valéry, Octave Mirbeau, Alfred Jarry, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton, Claude Debussy, and later, André Gide and the young Colette.  The remarque of the poster probably shows Liane de Lancy skating, at the Palais de Glace which was opened in 1884.  She was a famous and beautiful skater at that time.

Our copy was sold to a “Mr. Swope”, an American dealer or collector, on December 14, 1937 by the Galerie Sagot-Le Garec in Paris.  According to the Galerie archives (kept since 1903), this was the only one impression before letter that they had ever had, providing another proof of its rarity.  After all, Edmond Sagot, founder of this famous Parisian gallery in 1881, is thought to be the first art dealer to catalogue posters and offer them for sale.  Our impression later came in the hands of Peter Bartlett, who began collecting paintings, prints and posters in the early 1990s.  What started as a hobby quickly became a true passion for late 19th century artists. Over time though, Barlett’s passion became focused on the life and works of Toulouse-Lautrec.

Henri Riviere – Les Trentes-Six Vues de la Tour Eiffel

Thursday, May 9th, 2013


In the late 1880s, Henri Rivière had created several sketches of the Eiffel Tower as it appeared in the Parisian cityscape.  Since circa 1887 he had also been one of the pioneer artists to made use of photography for artistic purposes.  As a matter of fact it is likely that his photographic work prompted the illustrious Edgar Degas (1834-1917), who was a close friend of Rivière, to also take up photography later in life.

As the artist recollects in his memoirs (Henri Rivière, Les détours du chemin, souvenirs, notes & croquis, 1864-1951, Editions Equinoxe, Saint-Remy de Provence, 2004, p. 68-70) he and two friends who were active at the Chat Noir had gained access to the tower while it was being completed.  In these memoirs Rivière recounts the eventful ascent and descent, as his friend Jules Jouy, the famous Montmartre chansonnier, suffered from vertigo, and had to be taken down by crane in a cloth bag!  During this visit Rivière had completed a photo reportage of the final stage of the Tower’s construction.  He gave a set of 27 photographs to the Eiffel archive (now at the Musée d’Orsay).  The 39 photographs of the Tower, out of about 350 known photographs by the artist, show his fascination for this metal age symbol (see: Henri Rivière, graveur et photographe, Edition de la Réunion des musées nationeaux, Paris, 1988).  Henri Rivière is known mostly for his attention to soft landscapes, and it stands to reason that the angular Eiffel Tower would have disturbed his world vision.  The artist however, showed, with his interest in photography and in the Tower, that he was not averse to progress.  On the contrary; many of the images of the series of the Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower, show his fondness to this beacon of modern life in the Parisian landscape.  Chances are that this elegant landmark, visible from so many points of the French capital, appealed to him as a silhouette.  His activities for the Chat Noir cabaret, where he had been presenting elaborate shadow plays, made him acutely aware of the effects obtained in Japanese arts.  The flattening of the world into a single dimension, unconcerned with the depth of field, clearly appealed to him immensely (see “La Marche à l’Etoile” album at https://www.facebook.com/ArmstrongFineArt).  This interest in simplifying perspective is profusely clear in many compositions of the Views of the Eiffel Tower.  Circa 1900, after years of ever finer work in color lithography, he decided to translate these drawings and photographs into a series of prints: Les Trente-Six Vues de la Tour Eiffel.  The ambitious project was a collaboration between fellow artists and friends: Asrène Alexandre, the famous art critic, wrote the prologue; Georges Auriol contributed design, and typography; and Eugène Verneau, of course, printed the works.  It is almost certain that the edition projected at 550 was never completed.  After extensive research, it seems likely that the edition was terminated around 300 or even a little bit before that point.  Obviously the production of such an elaborate publication was expensive.  It is likely that after the initial purchases from regular customers, it was decided that finishing the edition was to be ruinous.

The significance of this series cannot be overstated.  The sheer ambition of it has to be acknowledged.  As Armond Fields elegantly put it in is seminal book about the artist: “Rivière completed another important project, one which had occupied his time on and off since 1888: recording the building of the Eiffel Tower.  He had completed his sketches in the 1890’s, and had made two of the images into woodcuts, but had abandoned cutting the rest of the images.  There were thirty-six separate images, each to be printed in five colors with a total of 550 sets produced, 99,000 separate printings were required.  Rivière decided to translate the images into lithographs, and in 1902, Les Trente-Six Vues de la Tour Eiffel appeared. […]  The work was loosely based on Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Fujiyama, and is one of the greatest examples of Japonisme.  The combination of a Japanese style depicting and urban, technological, Western object makes it a perfect example of how French artists synthesized their Japanese influences.” (Henri Rivière, Armond Fields, Gibbs M Smith, Salt Lake City, 1983, p. 30).  And as Arsène Alexandre clearly states in his introduction, the Tower is only an excuse to depicting the beauty of Paris: “Here, it is a matter of telling the flabbergasting beauty of Paris, to tell it again to the ungrateful and undisturbed Parisian who always forget it, and to tell it in all its forms and all its colors.  To make of this album a memento of this beauty to the people of today and a testimonial for those who come after us.”.  To view the complete set of 36 prints and judge for yourself, go to https://www.facebook.com/ArmstrongFineArt and find the album dedicated to Les Trentes-Six Vues de la Tour Eiffel.

Etching from a catalog, April 2013

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Paul-Albert BESNARD (1849-1934)

Philippe Besnard au Bord du Lac d’Annecy

Etching and aquatint printed on laid paper with a winged dove watermark, 1888.  Reference: Godefroy 76.  Second state of three, with the aquatint added, but before oxidation spots appear throughout the image.  Extremely scarce in this state, according to Godefroy.  Signed in pencil.  Plate : 6 ¼ x 9 ¼ inches.

It is unclear how much time Albert Besnard spent around Annecy Lake, but it is certain from the repeated depictions of family members that it was one of the family’s favorite destinations.  In his paintings and prints alike the lake is depicted, sometimes in designated locations such as the town of Talloires.  Besnard’s attraction for the region surrounding this lake in the French Alps went so far as to inspire him to write a long ode to it in 1930, titled simply Annecy.  In this etching, Besnard’s young son Philippe, the fourth of five boys, is depicted with long hair, as was common for young boys at that time.  Philippe wears a wide brim hat, suggesting a sunny day.  He turns back to face his father, in a fleeting pose that suggests the influence of early photography.


Félix BRACQUEMOND (1833-1914)

Léon Cladel

Etching on wove paper, 1883.  Refs: Beraldi 21, BN-IFF 398.  Third state of three; from a small edition.  Signed in ink.  Small traces of oxidation in the margins.  Two small stains in the left corners on the recto due to glue remains from prior hinges on the verso. Scare in such good unrestored condition.  Plate: 12 ¾ x 10 ⅜ inches.

Léon Cladel (1834-1892) was a French novelist and a follower of Charles Baudelaire, who discovered Cladel and wrote the introduction to Cladel’s first published book.  Bracquemond often engraved portraits for illustrational purposes, and often after photographs or paintings.  The portraits of Camille Corot and Edouard Manet come to mind.  In contrast to these commissioned portraits, Bracquemond also proved to be one of the best preimpressionist etchers of portraits, with famous renditions of Edmond de Goncourt and Alphonse Legros, to name just two examples.  In this portrait the sitter’s trade is clearly indicated by the quill, the ink pot, the papers and the book on the table.  While not neglecting formal details such as the wedding band, Bracquemond stresses the author’s personality.  The walking stick, the folding map, the hat, the coat, and the pose all suggest a man on the move.  The intense gaze also focuses on the writer as an observer, not one to be writing platitudes from the comfort of a cozy interior.  Our impression is rich and has remained in its original condition.  The line is velvety and the ink tone throughout is rich.


Félix BUHOT (1847-1898)

La Place des Martyrs et la Taverne du Bagne

Etching, roulette, soft-ground and drypoint on thick wove paper, 1885.  Refs: Bourcard/Goodfriend 163, Bonafous-Murat 289.  Third state of three.  Inscribed in pencil in the right margin “plus enveloppé” and “ton un peu plus chaud – transparent”.  Signed with the large red owl stamp (Lugt 977).  Provenance: J.H. de Bois, with his green monogram stamp (Lugt 739).  Mild discoloration, soft creases, and hinge remains recto and verso. A beautiful and warm impression in overall good, unrestored condition.  Plate: 13 ¼ x 17 ⅝ inches.

It is surprising how little has been said about this famous intaglio by Buhot.  The artist is at the height of his art in 1885 and is known to many in Paris as one of the foremost etchers.  This large plate is unequivocally one of the most appealing in Buhot’s œuvre and one of the last great compositions before the artist slides into a debilitating depression which eventually claims his life.  Taverne du Bagne offers a wealth of information about its subject matter.  The tavern was opened on October 6, 1885 by Maxime Lisbonne, a theater promoter and café owner, who had returned five years earlier from exile.  Lisbonne, a Commune leader in 1871 had been on the wrong side of history and spent ten years in prison in New Caledonia.  Buhot’s print depicts the tavern and shows the name of Maxime Lisbonne on the façade, together with his comment Et cependant on en revient (and nonetheless one returns from it).  To hammer home the whimsical point that both he, Lisbonne, and the patrons of his establishment, do escape from prison eventually, Dante Alighieri’s famous words Voi che entrate lasciate ogni speranza (you who enter, abandon all hope), can be made out as well.  Buhot clearly dates his print November 1885 in the plate, just one month after the tavern opened.  This establishment, which was meant to entertain the public by giving the impression of being a jail, only lasted six months.  Patrons were served by “inmates” who carried around their ball in chain.  Beer was served in hollowed out balls as well, and patrons were given a certificate of release upon leaving the tavern.  Lisbonne was both interested in the success of his tavern, and in keeping the plight of the many Communards exiles in people’s minds.  The margins in Buhot’s print show a castle-like dungeon; two inmates with their ball in hand, one serving a beer; an old bearded one-legged convict; a clawed dragon which likely refers to the claws compared to chains in the poem in the lower margin; a prison guard; Christ’s head and the whips used to torture him…  Everything in Buhot’s margins, including the poem, likely by Lisbonne, reminds the viewer of the hardship, torture and pain endured by Communards during their ten year exile.

Our impression presents the tavern on a dark night, lit by an invisible fire on the right, the lights filtering through the small windows of the tavern, as well as by the lanterns and street lights.  Both of these latter light sources have been highlighted by Buhot with the use of a blade to scratch ink away and reveal the white of the paper.


Henri SOMM (1844-1907)

Le Magicien – Index Page

Etching printed on laid paper with a coat of arms, 1878.  Ref: Beraldi 14.  Early state, before letters.  Rare as such, possibly unique.  Used as a content page in “L’Eau-Forte en 1878”, published by the widow of Alfred Cadart.  Mild discoloration in the margins and a few tears, well away from the image.  Plate: 12 ⅜ x 9 ⅛ inches.

We add a proof of the published state with letters: etching on D & C Blauw laid paper.  Two short tears in the right margin,  both into the plate.  Small margins.  Plate: 12 ½ x 9 ¼ inches.

There are many interesting art historical elements worth noting in this frontispiece by Henri Somm.  First of all, the subject is focused primarily on etching.  The woman in the center, the painter’s model, stands in front of large flasks which would have contained etching acids.  In the foreground an etching bath is clearly indicated thanks to the attribute of the feather, used to brush away bubbles and impurities from the plate surface as it is bitten by the acid.  On both sides numerous etchings are dispersed and evoke the content of the album.  Somm went as far as to sketch a few of the etchings actually found in the album!  Such a compilation of original prints by one of the foremost publishers of etchings in Paris clearly indicates that collectors were interested in owning large numbers of prints by diverse artists. Finally it is interesting to note that the album was published by Cadart’s widow.  In a tradition going back to the Middle Ages, wives of successful craftsmen often took over their late husbands’ shops, as long as they could find skilled workers, and if no son was in line to take over operations.


Edgar CHAHINE (1874-1947)

Le Bar Américain

Drypoint & aquatint printed in two tones on thick wove paper, 1900.  Reference: Tabanelli 59 ii/ii.  One of only few artist’s proofs printed in color, aside from the edition of 50 printed in black only.  Unique as such.  Signed in pencil.  A few printer’s creases, as is common in impressions printed by Chahine; only optical in raking light.  Plate: 16 x 11 ⅜ inches.  $4,200.

Edgar Chahine is often thought of as a color printmaker, which is surprising considering very few prints he made were actually printed in color.  It has to be noted that he never actually bothered to learn to create color compositions with more than one plate.  The few compositions that were actually printed in color were obtained from a single plate inked à la poupée.  Our color impression, which belonged to the artist’s son for many years, is particularly interesting.  By using light brown ink, the artist reduces the two women on the left to background figures.  While the woman printed in black clearly dominates, the color contrast also enhances the impression that the older generations to her right are fading fast.  The subject of courtesans is also noteworthy at this stage of Chahine’s career.  The first fifteen years of his oeuvre are clearly focuses on street life in Paris, and the downtrodden in particular; but elegant subject matters also enter his artistic vocabulary circa 1900.  Here, prostitution and elegance go hand in hand.  The slow decay of beauty is vividly evoked in the juxtaposition of three generations.



Edgar CHAHINE (1874-1947)

Lerand dans le Role de « Rodin » du Juif Errant

Embossed transfer drawing on japon paper, 1903.  Ref: related to Tabanelli 109.  This is the drawing used to transfer the
artist’s initial concept onto the copper plate used to create an intaglio print.  Signed in pencil, lower left.  Sheet: 20 ½ x
13 inches.

We add an impression of the print.  Aquatint, soft-ground etching and drypoint on Van Gelder Zonen laid paper, 1905.
Ref: Tabanelli 109 ii/ii.  From an edition of 40, of which 20 were signed and numbered on japon paper.  Signed and
numbered “17/40” in pencil.  Plate: 18 ¼ x 10 ¾ inches.

This portrait of Léon Lerand, an actor who was active in Paris from at least 1889 until 1913, is striking.  The low vantage point is unusual for a portrait.  The simple shaded outline drawing is transformed into a brooding composition in the print.  Not surprisingly, Edgar Chahine depicts Lerand in motion.  The subject of “Rodin”, from the novel “Le Juif Errant” by Eugène Sue (first published in 1844) was adapted for a play in 1849.  The subject of a Jewish man, shown wandering, ready to leave at a moment’s notice, was prevalent in popular culture.  The idea of a Jewish diaspora, always on the move was very much engrained in European culture.  It must also have resonated with Chahine, who was Armenian and who had taken refuge in Paris from Turkish repression.

Our drawing, which was the ultimate composition for the print from 1903, was used as a vehicle of transfer.  The sheet of japon paper is clearly embossed throughout.  Chahine, who was a fervent user of soft-ground etching, clearly shows his technical hand in this drawing. The artist applied a layer of soft-ground to his copper plate, then covered it with a sheet of tissue (which would be used to remove the ground, once the outline was traced), and then placed this drawing on top.  Chahine then traced the key strokes of his drawing with a rounded point to transfer the drawing exactly to the soft ground on the copper plate.  The catalogue raisonné of fine art intaglio of Chahine’s work, by Marcello and Rosalba Tabanelli, mentions a first state, before aquatint.  Despite our inability to locate a visual of this first state, it is quite likely that it is a first bite of the copper plate with this very outline.  The Tabanellis were unable to trace more than one early state, while more are likely to exist.  Their catalogue, however, clearly mentions a “very rare first state, before the grain of aquatint”; basically before any shading.

Our drawing is overall in very good condition, considering its use.  Please note flattened creases in the bottom right corner, a short tear in the bottom left margin, some loss of fiber on the verso due to removed hinges, and ink smears throughout the back of the sheet.  These smears are traces of the printer’s ink, coming from fresh impressions rubbing off.  It attests of the drawing’s use throughout the process of the creation of the print.  Our impression of the intaglio is in very good condition, aside from hinge remains on the verso.


Norbert GOENEUTTE (1854-1894)


Drypoint on laid Arches paper, 1891.  Refs: Duvivier 77 iii/iii, Knyff 97.  Signed with the artist’s red monogram stamp (Lugt 1182).  The sheet very mildly toned throughout, and slightly more inside the opening of a prior mat window.  Reverse foxing, mostly visible on the verso.  Hinge and glue residues on the verso.  Overall, the tone of this print is attractive and condition issues do not detract from the great appeal of this scarce print.  Plate: 12 ½ x 7 ¾ inches.

Norbert Goeneutte died very young and did not marry.  While many artists used their wives and children as subjects, as did Albert Besnard, the portraits of family members for Goeneutte are those of his mother, his sisters and his brothers.  Yet a few of his etched portraits, despite naming the models, remain mysteries as to the identity of the sitter.  Extensive research into the identity of Maud led to figures such as Maud Hunt Squire, who would have been just eighteen years old in 1891, and is not known to have visited Paris before 1902.  It is unlikely that their paths would have crossed by then.  However, a very likely candidate is Kathleen Maude Doane, the wife of American painter Childe Hassam.  Hassam and Mrs. Maude, as the painter often referred to her in correspondence, spent a few years in Paris at the end of the 1880’s.  Considering the established influence of Goeuneutte’s painting on Hassam, it is quite likely that the two painters knew one another.  It is therefore not to be excluded that Goeneutte would have met Maude and made a portrait of her.  Let this conjecture be a seed planted in the minds of those who know Hassam’s work well, so that they may do further research, and discredit or confirm this hypothesis.

Marcellin DESBOUTIN (1823-1902)

Henri Rochefort, Journaliste

Drypoint on M B M laid paper, 1880.  Ref: Clément-Janin 214 ii/iii.  Second state of three, before a background was added.  Edition of circa 20 in this state.  Very scarce.  Plate: 11 x 7 ¾ mm.

This portrait of Rochefort is one of Marcellin Desboutin’s strongest intaglios.  It has to be noted that the two men were cousins and good friends.  The date of 1880 for this portrait is also pertinent.  Rochefort, had been in exile for seven years and had just returned to Paris after the amnesty of July 11, 1880.  He had been sent to New Caledonia for his political role in the tumult of the early 1870’s (see also the comment for the print by Buhot in this catalogue).  In 1874, he and two other prisoners had been the only men ever to escape from one of these islands.  While Rochefort became an increasingly divisive figure later in life, in 1880, upon returning to France, his homecoming was heroic.  So much so that Edouard Manet painted this famous escape in an oil titled L’Evasion de Rochefort, which now hangs at the Musée d’Orsay.  As a letter from Marcellin Desboutin from the summer of 1880 clearly shows, Desboutin had met with his cousin and convinced him to help Manet with his painting of this subject.  It is very likely that Desboutin made his portrait of Rochefort around that time.  This arresting bust is one of very few close-up intaglio portraits by Desboutin of such a size.  Many other of his portraits either show full figures in which the pose is equally important to facial expression, or they are quite a bit smaller.

Jean-Émile LABOUREUR (1877-1943)

Cortlandt Street, New York

Etching on laid Imprimerie Ch Wittmann paper, 1908.  Ref: Sylvain Laboureur 75.  Second state of two.  Edition of 30.  Signed, numbered “11/30”, and dedicated “à Monsieur le Consul de France à …, hommage bien sincère” in pencil.  Plate: 11 ⅞ x 7 inches.

This view of Cortland Street is likely taken from the intersection with Broadway, looking east.  Both the Singer Building, which dominates in the distant background, as well as the City Investing Building, are clearly recognizable.  As New Yorkers with an interest in history will tell you, both early skyscrapers were razed to make room for One Liberty Plaza, which still stands today.  Jean-Emile Laboureur spent about 4 years in the United States, most of which in Pittsburgh.  He did however also paint and etch a handful of subjects in New York, a few of which were in lower Manhattan.  In this composition Laboureur successfully juxtaposes the human bustle at street level, with the majesty of the buildings that surround it.  There is no doubt that the size of skyscrapers in New York must have impressed the young artist from provincial Nantes.

Maxime LALANNE (1827-1886)

A Bordeaux

Etching on thick aqua-fortistes laid paper, 1866.  Ref: Villet 25 i/vi.  One of few impressions in the first state of six, before all letters.  Plate: 9 ¼ x 12 ⅜ inches.

This is a view of Bordeaux from the neighborhood of La Bastide, which lies on the other side of the Garonne River.  To this day, standing on the Quai des Queryies, one can enjoy a similar vue onto the river and the prominent Basilique and independent Clocher Saint-Michel.  Interestingly, Lalanne did not bother to reverse his composition to present a geographically accurate rendition.  The Pont de Pierre, the bridge which spans the river, indicates Lalanne’s specific location when he drew this composition.  From there, he would have had the bell tower on the right and the basilica on the left, and not the other way around, as it is in this etching.  This proves that Lalanne’s intentions were to create an artistic object, rather than a topographic one.

This is an extremely fine impression, in a scarce first state.  While published states with letters are quite common for Lalanne etchings, early proofs have become very difficult to find, especially in such fine, unrestored condition as ours.


Louis LEGRAND (1863-1951)

La Mort n’a pas Faim

Etching, aquatint and drypoint printed in brownish black ink on tan wove paper, c. 1895.  Refs: Exsteens 102, Arwas 118 (ill. p. 125).  From the edition of 25, unsigned (which may generally be the case, as the Arwas illustration suggests).  Plate: 5 ¼ x 11 ⅜ inches.

Women and female nudity are central topics in Legrand’s prints.  While many women are depicted elegantly dressed or undressed, quite a few nudes show the artist’s appeal for nudes with moralizing subtexts.  In our composition, death simply looks the bare chested women in the eye, as such indicating that it cannot be tempted easily.  Legrand, however, was no dupe and clearly made every effort to titillate his male audience, rendering explicit nudity, even when it was cloaked in morality.  Legrand had been taught many technical etching tricks by the Belgian master, Félicien Rops.  Rops was unequivocally the foremost artist in Paris devoted to depicting pornography, and some of his visual language definitely passed on to his pupil.  Legrand ran into trouble with the law for some drawings reproduced in the press, and was incarcerated after failing to pay a fine.  It did not stop him from catering to an avid following of etching collectors who were looking to spice up their private collections; quite on the contrary.


Louis LEGRAND (1863-1951)

Les Deux Petites Vachères

Etching and aquatint on simili-japon paper, 1898.  Refs: Exsteens 138; Arwas 156 ii/v.  An impression of the second state of five, before additional shading and before the two girls were cut out of the plate.  Plate: 5 ¾ x 12 ½ inches.

Once the plate was cut out, to be used as such in the Livre d’Heures de Louis Legrand, nothing remained of the original composition, safe for the two shepherdesses.  Our state, and this particular impression, is very unusual for Louis Legrand.  He is known for his early states which often present whimsical remarques.  However, he rarely used his etched plates to try out effects in a monotype manner.  Being so well versed in the use of aquatint, if Legrand wished to render an atmospheric effect, he would resort to this technique to obtain it.  Our impression is something different altogether.  To achieve the muddy effects in the ground and the band of fog at the horizon, Legrand inked his plate heavily and wiped it selectively.  This manner, for which Count Ludovic Napoléon Lepic is famous, is quite unusual for Louis Legrand.  As such our composition is quite unique in the artist’s œuvre and visually very successful.


Gustave LEHEUTRE (1861-1932)

La Rue des Chats à Troyes

Etching and drypoint on tan laid paper, 1908.  Refs: Delteil 80 v/vi (?); BN-IFF 84.  Edition of 20.  Signed and numbered “20 ép / n° 14” in pencil.  Plate: 12 ⅛ x 5 ¼ inches.

The original name of Ruelle des Chats, a dead-end street in Troyes, was Rue Maillard.  It is said that the name change occurred when local inhabitants remarked cats could jump from a roof on one side of the street to the other.  This particularly narrow street still exists today and is one of many picturesque alleys that attract visitors to Troyes.  This etching, executed in 1908, is reminiscent of picturesque printmaking of the second half of the 19th century.  As such it bridges the historic divide of etched cityscapes as a genre: while intended to present the collector with a view of exotic destinations in the 19th century, the picturesque etching of the 20th century is more of a nostalgic creation.  As etching increasingly became an obsolete reproductive media in the 20th century, printmakers who had experienced its heyday, such as Leheutre, used the media with renewed vigor to prove its originality, and its superiority to other media, in particular photography.

Henri LEROLLE (1848-1929)

Paysanne Portant Deux Seaux

Etching on D & C Blauw laid paper, 1879.  Ref: not in BN-IFF.  A very fine impression, in perfect condition, before letters.  It is unclear whether this plate was ever published.  Rare.  Plate: 12 ½ x 9 ¼ inches.

Henri Lerolle is one of those few men at the center of the artistic revolution in Paris in the last quarter of the 19th century.  He married one of three Escudier sisters, who came from a wealthy family.  Quickly he and his wife became ardent supporters of impressionist painters and of composers and musicians.  Both of Lerolle’s daughters married sons of Henri Rouart, who is arguably the most influential patron of the first generation of impressionists, such as Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot and Auguste Renoir.  Lerolle was also a painter in his own right.  However, he did not choose the radical approach to painting, which he so admired in artists such as Degas.  He owned thirteen paintings by the master.  While Lerolle’s paintings let much light into their compositions with a palette that echoes the second generation of impressionists, he paints in a traditional style.  Most of his compositions depict outdoor peasant life, reminiscent of pre-impressionists.  The combination of compositions that were widely accepted by the 1870’s, with colors similar to those seen in the painting of the new generation, made his paintings collectible at the time.  Lerolle’s etchings are extremely scarce, with the exception of one published by L’Epreuve in 1895.  It is almost certain that he only made a handful.  In these works, much as in his painting, a traditional subject is combined with a modern esthetic.

Henri GUERARD (1846-1897)

Avenue Trudaine

Etching on thin laid paper, 1872 (?).  Ref: Bertin 239.  Faint scattered foxing throughout the sheet; not nearly as prominent as our reproduction suggests.  Trimmed to the platemark, as is often the case for Guérard’s own proofs.  Sheet: 9 x 6 ½ inches.

This avenue in Paris is rendered as wide and expansive, in contrast to the narrow and dense neighborhood of Montmartre, in which it can be found.  The curved curb accentuates this effect.  Avenue Trudaine is one of Guérard’s early etchings and an unusually elaborate composition for the artist at that time.  As the artist progressed in his career, the original compositions coming out of his hands became increasingly complex and beautiful.  However, for many years Guérard was primarily focused on technical discovery and on creating precise etchings after other artists’ works.  In this original composition the atmospheric quality so central to impressionism is vividly rendered with the reflection of silhouettes on the wet pavement.  This is unusual for Guérard, who was generally uninterested by such effects in his print.  It is also worth noting that he chose to etch a modern view of Paris, showing us recently installed gas lights and a recently emancipated élégante, who is free to walk around a new neighborhood unaccompanied.  Guérard was generally drawn to the old and rustic.  Both his choice of effect and of subject matter, makes it likely that this composition was meant to emulate the work of contemporaries; friends and acquaintances, such as Félix Buhot or Norbert Goeneutte come to mind.

Henri GUERARD (1846-1897)

Échafaudages dans la Cale au Pollet, Dieppe

Etching, roulette & drypoint in brown ink on laid paper, before 1890.  Ref: Bertin 219.  Thirteenth and final state.  With the red monogram stamp (L. 3481).  In pristine condition.  Plate: 14 ¼ x 9 ⅞ inches.

Guérard refused to let himself be defined by subject matter.  However, if one can be regarded as prevalent in his œuvre, it is without question the seascape.  When not in Paris, Guérard could be found in coastal towns such as Monaco, Venice, Dieppe and Honfleur.  Many locations of these views were named by the artist; an even greater number simply use the sea as a subject matter, without any topographic reference.  By Guérard’s standards this is an animated view and the fact that he reworked it so laboriously, in thirteen states in all, proves it was a challenge for him to obtain the perfect balance in this appealing composition.

Henri GUERARD (1846-1897)

Diner Dentu, Première Invitation

Etching and roulette on tan laid paper, circa 1880.  Ref: Bertin 383.  Made out to “Henri Martin” and dated “27 février 1889” in ink.  Small margins, as is usual for this type of ephemera.  Plate: 4 ¾ x 6 ¼ inches.

Henri-Justin-Edouard Dentu (1830-1884) was a very active publisher and the principal publisher of the Société des Gens de Lettres.  In Paris of the To-Day, by Olga Flinch (translated into English by Richard Kaufmann) the author mentions that the dinners Dentu organized, and for which this print is an invitation, originated under the auspices of Baron Taylor.  The dinners started out as events given by the baron for authors he liked.  They were originally held at Bonvallet, on Boulevard du Temple.  By the time Dentu took over, they were being held at Notta, on Boulevard Poissonnière.  These dinners became opportunities for likeminded people to network.  This particular invitation is made out to the young painter Henri Martin (1860-1942), and it is dated February 27, 1889.  It is likely that Guérard and Martin knew each other personally, since both were painters and part of these dinners.  Close inspection also reveals the name of Emmanuel Gonzalès, father-in-law of Guérard, and Ferdinand de Lesseps, the promoter of the Suez Canal, and who is glorified in one of Guérard’s prints.  Clearly, participants to these dinners, which long outlasted their founders, belonged to a closely knit community.

James-Jacques TISSOT (1836-1902)

Sur l’Herbe

Etching and drypoint on cream laid paper, 1880.  Ref: Wentworth 50 ii/ii.  Provenance: Henri M Petiet (not in Lugt).  A very fine impression in good condition, aside from a water stain in the left margin, away from the image.  Plate: 7 ¾ x 10 ⅝ inches.

As in many etchings and paintings by Tissot, the central figure is Kathleen Newton, born Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly.  Netwon settled with Tissot in St John’s Wood in 1871, after he was forced to leave Paris for his involvement in the Commune.  Kathleen’s first marriage, which was arranged by her father, had ended in divorce when her new husband, Isaac Newton, discovered her romantic involvement with another man.  She had two children, Violet and Cecil, the latter thought to be Tissot’s son.  In this composition Newton is resting with her children in the garden in St John’s Wood.  Our impression is crisp and the shading in the children’s faces particularly attractive.  While the composition was most certainly conceived after a photograph, small details, such as the double bracelet on Newton’s right wrist and Cecil’s thumb sucking, give it a particularly heartfelt intimacy.

Rare Matisse Still Life

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

As many collectors stopped buying art at the onset of the Second World War, hardship came to a great many artists.  Henri Laurens (1885-1954), a close friend of Henri Matisse, found himself without a supporting patron.  Matisse had learned of the financial difficulties facing Laurens and had arranged to meet the latter at his studio in Paris in 1940.  Under the pretext of buying for a collector, Matisse purchased “Femme assise, le pied sur le genou” from 1932.  He brought it back with him to Nice where it remained in his atelier at the Hôtel Régina.  Laurens did not find out about Matisse’s ruse until years later, when he visited the old master with his wife in Nice.

This seated nude by Laurens was introduced in a number of still life drawings by Henri Matisse.  These compositions explore the simple elegance of the sculpture (a comparable drawing sold in France in 2011).  The curves of the woman’s body are echoed by the leaves of plants or by fruits.  In our composition, the arrangement is more complex than in the aformentioned drawing sold at auction last year.  Our horizontal arrangement sets the scene on a table.  It is animated, showing the wrought-iron design of the table, of fruit, of a fruit bow and a small jar.  The overall effect it dynamic, almost rhythmical.

This sculpture by Laurens is not the actual sculpture from the Matisse collection.

It is used only for comparative reasons.


Getting Started

Friday, March 16th, 2012

It’s about time I posted something on this blog, wouldn’t you say?

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