Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Original etchings by American Artists

I’ve posted before about Sylvester Rosa Koehler and his role as godfather of the American Etching Revival – the revival that consolidated (in the late 1870s and 1880s) around the New York Etching Club. Now I have a copy of one of his rarest and most sought-after publications, Original Etchings by American Artists, published in 1883 by Cassell and Company. There is no indication that I can see of any limitation, but the print-run must have been quite small, both because the book is so rare now and because it is very large and would have inevitably have been extremely expensive when issued. I say book, but my copy has completely disintegrated, mostly through time, and also because 4 of the 20 original etchings have been previously removed. Luckily, the remaining etchings are all in very good condition, and I also have all of Koehler’s informative if sometimes rather waffly text. The four missing plates are The Inner Harbor, Gloucester by Stephen Parrish; The Ponte Vecchio by Joseph Pennell; A Cloudy Day in Venice by Samuel Colman; and A Tower of Cortes by Thomas Moran. Fortunately the rest of the Moran clan have been left for me, so I have a highly atmospheric Long Island landscape by Thomas’s wife Mary Nimmo Moran (with a wincingly twee title, taken from a Scottish ballad), and a true masterpiece by his brother Peter, Harvest at San Juan, New Mexico.

Mary Nimmo Moran, "'Tween the Gloamin' and the Mirk, When the Kye Come Hame"
Etching, 1883

Henry Farrer, Winter Evening
Etching, 1883

John Austin Sands Monks, Twilight
Etching, 1883

Of the three twilight scenes above, that of Mary Nimmo Moran is my favourite. Despite the Scottish title, the scene is on Long Island, where Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran habitually spent their summers.

Kruseman van Elten, The Deserted Mill
Etching, 1883

R. Swain Gifford, The Mouth of the Apponigansett
Etching, 1883

James D. Smillie, At Marblehead Neck
(also known as A Bit at Marblehead Neck)
Etching, 1883

James Craig Nicoll, The Smugglers' Landing Place
Etching, 1883

George H. Smillie, An Old New England Orchard
Etching, 1883

J. Foxcroft Cole, The Three Cows
Etching, 1883

Original Etchings by American Artists shows a snapshot of American printmaking at a crucial time; all of the etchings were made especially for this work, and many are dated 1883 in the plate. The artistic and technical skill on display is very impressive, even if Koehler’s insistence that each etching is a masterpiece needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Impressionism hasn’t yet made any impact, and the key influence on the American landscapes, which predominate, is the plein-air Barbizon School. There are a couple of whimsical subjects: Church’s take on an Aesop fable and Gaugengigl’s faux-Meissonier fiddler. There are also four European scenes, one in Florence and one in Venice that have been removed, plus scenes in London and the Hague by Platt and de Haas. Of these, Platt's Whistler-esque scene of barges on the Thames at Woolwich seems to me particularly noteworthy.

Frederick Stuart Church, The Lion in Love
Etching, 1883

Ignaz Marcel Gaugengigl, And Drive Dull Care Away
Etching, 1883

Charles Adams Platt, Canal Boats on the Thames
Etching, 1883

Mauritz Frederick Hendrik de Haas, Fishing Boats on the Beach at Scheveningen
Etching, 1883

There are also three plates of particular interest for American social life and culture rather than landscape. Frederick Dielman’s The Mora Players, shows Italian immigrant children playing the ancient finger-counting game of mora or morra, in which the winner is the one who correctly guesses the total number of fingers simultaneously displayed by the two players. Koehler writes, “Italian bootblacks playing ‘mora,’ and yet a thoroughly American scene, enacted on a New York sidewalk!”

Frederick Dielman, The Mora Players
Etching, 1883

Thomas Waterson Wood, His Own Doctor
Etching, 1883

Thomas Waterson Wood’s His Own Doctor shows “an exhorter in a Methodist church and a ‘professor’ of white-washing” self-medicating against a fever. Wood’s African-American scenes show him to have had a keen sympathy with his subjects. However, to me his portrait of an infirm elderly African-American overplays the comic element. The hint of caricature detracts from the sharp observation of details such as the quilt robe.

Peter Moran Harvest at San Juan, New Mexico
(also known as Threshing Grain at San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico Territory)
Etching, 1883

Peter Moran’s Harvest at San Juan is to me an incredibly beautiful, important, and moving work. Peter Moran was one of the first artists to come to terms with the American Southwest, and in this etching he responds with grace and respect to the ancient cultures of the Pueblos. There is nothing here of the comedy to be found in Thomas Waterman Wood’s His Own Doctor. Nor is there any false romanticism. Sentimentality and guilt have no place in this etching, which focuses completely on the spiritual weight of the here and now. The centripetal force of this composition intrigues and delights me. Sylvester Rosa Kohler explains the scene thus: “The Indians use horses instead of oxen to thresh their wheat, and they are just driving them into the threshing circle indicated by the upright poles. The ground occupied by the horses is the cleaning floor, the raised ground which forms part of a circle in the foreground, is the earth banked up in levelling the floor, and the refuse of several years threshing.” Peter Moran seems to have instinctually understood that he was observing something with more meaning than a simple harvest, for he invests the scene with a thrilling sense of significance. The traditional method of threshing depicted seems to have been discontinued from 1920, replaced by the use of a threshing machine.

The setting for Harvest at San Juan is the New Mexican Pueblo now officially known by its Tewa name of Ohkay Owingeh (“place of the strong people”). This was the birthplace of the great 17th-century Pueblo spiritual and political leader Po’pay (or Popé), who briefly united the Pueblos against Spanish rule. I have, quite separately from my print collecting and dealing, a strong interest in Native American culture, and Peter Moran’s etching speaks eloquently to me—as eloquently as the Tewa “Song of the Sky Loom”, as translated by Herbert Joseph Spinden in his Songs of the Tewa:

Oh our Mother the Earth, oh our Father the Sky,
Your children are we, and with tired backs
We bring you the gifts that you love.
Then weave for us a garment of brightness;
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness
That we may walk fittingly where birds sing,
That we may walk fittingly where grass is green,
Oh our Mother the Earth, oh our Father the Sky!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Edouard Chimot and the Lost Girls of Montmartre


It’s a while since I posted about the master of the Art Deco nude, Édouard Chimot. Of course if Chimot were simply a depictor of the nude, there wouldn’t be much to say about him—boudoir pictures are boudoir pictures, and that’s it. But Chimot is a much more complex artist than that—one in whom the twin themes of Eros and Thanatos, Love and Death, are inextricably intertwined.

Édouard Chimot, Le café-concert maudit
Colour etching with aquatint for La montée aux enfers, 1920

Of course Love sells better than Death, so sensuous nudes inevitably predominate in Édouard Chimot’s work. But his obsession with prostitutes, drug addicts, and good girls gone bad, means that the spectre of death and destitution hovers behind and around Chimot’s nudes, turning them from decorative erotica into perverse memento mori. They are women “soumises à leurs passions mortelles et délicieuses”, as the critic André Warnod put it.

Édouard Chimot, La Mort
Etching with aquatint for L'enfer, 1921

In my previous post, The fast rise and long slow fall of Édouard Chimot, I mentioned that Chimot had apparently been commissioned in 1903 as architect of the Villa Lysis in Capri, for the dissolute Baron Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen. It seems from the current Wikipedia entry on the Villa Lysis that this is not quite the case, based on a study of Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen’s correspondence with Chimot; Chimot’s role was more likely that of interior decorator. In a comment on my earlier post, Martin Stone notes that “he was also the art director of Fersen's review Akedemos (1909-1910).” The inscription above the door of the Villa Lysis, AMORI ET DOLORI SACRUM, certainly shows that Édouard Chimont and Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen were kindred spirits, for the same words could also be inscribed above Chimot’s work: A Shrine to Love and Sorrow.


Édouard Chimot, L'enfer
Etching with aquatint for L'enfer, 1921


When speaking of the art of Édouard Chimot in the context of this post, I am speaking only of the work created before the Wall Street Crash. Anything published after 1931 (allowing for projects already in the pipeline to emerge) is the work of a lesser, lighter artist. The intensity and complexity of Chimot’s work in the 1920s is completely missing.


Édouard Chimot, Ce sont les autres qui meurent
Etching with aquatint for L'enfer, 1921


All the images in this post are etchings with aquatint published between 1919 and 1922, the years when Chimot exploded onto the Paris art scene. These established him as a central figure in the world of printmaking and fine press publishing. He was the artistic director of the publications of both La Roseraie (the atelier and publishing house of Roger Lacourière) and of Les Éditions d’Art Devambez. In the latter role, especially, Chimot was crucial to the artistic development of many important artists of the twenties.


Édouard Chimot, Les Après-Midi de Montmartre
Etching with aquatint for Les Après-Midi de Montmartre, 1919


Édouard Chimot, Le rouge et le noir
Etching with aquatint for Les Après-Midi de Montmartre, 1919



The etchings that made Chimot’s name, published in 1919 as Les Après-Midi de Montmartre, are precious evidence of Chimot’s pre-war work. They were made in 1913, but publication was delayed by the Great War. You can see that the hairstyles and clothes (when worn) are quite different from the 1920s etchings. The difference in style is not huge, but in these early etchings one can still see the influence of Symbolists such as Félicien Rops, Louis Legrand, Armand Rassenfosse, and Henri Thomas. Édouard Chimot was to take the aesthetic of these artists into the twenties, and blend it seamlessly with the glittering curves of Art Deco.


Édouard Chimot, Moulin Rouge
Etching with aquatint for Les Après-Midi de Montmartre, 1919


Édouard Chimot, La fille et sa mère
Etching with aquatint for Les Après-Midi de Montmartre, 1919



The Après-Midi de Montmartre etchings were printed on a hand press by Eugène Delâtre, in an edition of 170 copies. I love the connection they make right back from the post-war world into the dying days of the Belle Époque.


Édouard Chimot, Opium
Etching with aquatint for Les Après-Midi de Montmartre, 1919


Édouard Chimot, Épave
Etching with aquatint for Les Après-Midi de Montmartre, 1919



After the war, Édouard Chimot established himself in an atelier in the rue Amphère in Montmartre. The atmosphere there is well described by Chimot’s close friend, the poet Maurice Magre, in Magre’s introduction to Chimot’s edition of Jean de Tinan’s La Petite Jeanne pâle. Magre writes, “L’atelier de Chimot est un coin de Paris où Montmartre d’aujourd’hui se condence à certaines heures, se cristallise, donne tout son comique, toute sa couleur et parfois toute sa peine. C’est toujours la pensée d’un individu qui crée et qui groupe. C’est la pensée de Chimot, son amour pour cette forme de l’existence parisienne qui a créé le miroir vivant, aux facettes varies, qui donne en tournant ces images qui ne sont jamais banales et qui toutes sont representatives.”


Édouard Chimot, Soirs d'opium
Colour etching with aquatint for Les soirs d'opium, 1921


Édouard Chimot, Est-ce celle que j'aime
Colour etching with aquatint for Les soirs d'opium, 1921


Édouard Chimot, Dans la fumée bleue
Colour etching with aquatint for Les soirs d'opium, 1921




Chimot’s “living mirror” of Bohemian life in Paris is never more truly reflective than in his etchings for Maurice Magre’s 1921 collection of poems, Les soirs d’opium. These colour etchings with aquatint were, like the similar etchings for Magre’s La montée aux enfers a year earlier, printed by Eugène Delâtre with Chimot’s assistance. Édouard Chimot was not by nature a colourist, and the wonderfully subtle tonalities of the etchings for both these projects are probably attributable to Delâtre, a master printer of colour etchings à la poupée. Certainly Chimot never achieved any colour effects like this again.


Édouard Chimot, Volupté
Colour etching with aquatint for Les soirs d'opium, 1921


Édouard Chimot, Rosaire de souvenirs
Colour etching with aquatint for Les soirs d'opium, 1921


Édouard Chimot, À une amie
Colour etching with aquatint for Les soirs d'opium, 1921




Les soirs d’opium was published in an edition of 513 copies by L’Édition (Georges Briffaut); the etchings are printed on wove paper with the watermarks MBM and J. Perrigo.


Édouard Chimot, La petite Jeanne pâle
Colour etching with aquatint for La Petite Jeanne pâle, 1922


Édouard Chimot, Noctambulisme
Etching with aquatint for La Petite Jeanne pâle, 1922


Édouard Chimot, Quatre heures du matin
Etching with aquatint for La Petite Jeanne pâle, 1922





La Petite Jeanne pâle, already mentioned above, was published in 1922 by Éditions Léo Delteil in an edition of 393 copies. The etchings were not printed by Delâtre, but at La Roseraie by Philippe Molinié and Eugène Monnard under the direction of the artist.


Édouard Chimot, Sa mince visage parmi l'ébouriffment des cheveux de soie frisée
Etching with aquatint for La Petite Jeanne pâle, 1922


Édouard Chimot, Les rideaux d'arbres dépouillés rétrécissent doucement l'horizon
Etching with aquatint for La Petite Jeanne pâle, 1922



Édouard Chimot only spent a very few years at peak velocity. His art is at its best in these few years after the Great War. After about 1922, Chimot’s work becomes slowly more facile and crowd-pleasing. He remains a really interesting artist right through the 1920s, with flashes of real brilliance, especially in etchings close to his heart, such as those for Maurice Magre’s Les belles de nuit in 1927. But if you are looking for the purest of the impure, look no further than the art of Édouard Chimot, 1919-1922.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tears of rage, tears of grief: Käthe Kollwitz and her circle

Käthe Kollwitz and Paula Modersohn-Becker are the two most famous female artists in early twentieth-century Germany, but they were by no means alone: there are plenty of interesting women working alongside them. Gabriele Münter, Jacoba van Heemskerck, and Marianne von Werefkin are just three of the more well-known names. As I've recently acquired two etchings by Kollwitz, I thought I'd post these alongside some work by other female artists of the period with less of a public profile.

Käthe Kollwitz was born Käthe Schmidt in Königsberg in 1867. She made her initial studies at an art school for women in Berlin, where her teacher was Karl Stauffer-Bern; she then went to the Women's Art School in Munich. From 1891 she lived and worked in Berlin, where her husband Karl was a doctor. Kollwitz is widely recognised as one of the most important etchers of her day. Her art expresses a profound sympathy with the lives of the poor, as in her early masterworks for the series The Revolt of the Weavers.


Käthe Kollwitz, Der Sturm (The Riot)
Etching for The Revolt of the Weavers, 1897
Ref: Klipstein 33

Two further themes in the work of Käthe Kollwitz are her loathing of war and the suffering it brings (she herself lost both of her sons to the great conflicts of the twentieth century), and her profound self-questioning, in a sequence of some 50 self-portraits. I can't think of any artist other than Rembrandt who has examined themselves with such unflinching honesty as Käthe Kollwitz. The sense of anguish in the self-portrait below is almost tangible.

Käthe Kollwitz,  Selbstbildnis, mit der Hand an der Stirn (Self-portrait, hand at the forehead)
Etching, 1910
Ref: Klistein 106 iib

Clara Siewert, who was born in 1862, was a close friend of Käthe Kollwitz, with whom she studied under Karl Stauffer-Bern. When Clara Siewert moved to Berlin in 1900 she lived in the same house as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Pechstein; she also good friends with Max Slevogt and Lovis Corinth. Clara Siewert was born in Budda, East Prussia, and died in Berlin.

Clara Siewert, Junges Mädchen (Young Girl)
Lithograph, 1908

Although (as with Kollwitz) much of her work was destroyed in WWII when her studio was hit by a bomb, the art of Clara Siewert is being rediscovered today, amid new interest in the work of women artists. There was a retrospective exhibition with catalogue in 2008: "Clara Siewert - zwischen Traum und Wirklichkeit" in the Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg. Like Käthe Kollwitz, Clara Siewert died in 1945, having lived through two cataclysmic world wars and endured the miseries of the Third Reich.

Sella Hasse, Kohlenlöschen im Schnee (Unloading Coal in the Snow)
Etching, 1913

The artist Sella Hasse was born in Bitterfeld in 1878, and died in Berlin in 1863. She studied under Walter Leistikow, Franz Skarbina, and Lovis Corinth. Sella Hasse was a socially-committed artist, who became a close friend of Käthe Kollwitz. Her work was declared "degenerate" by the Nazis. There is a collection of her paintings and watercolours in the Wismar Museum.

Erna Frank, Rue Berger in Paris
Lithograph, 1913

The etcher, lithographer and pastellist Erna Frank was born in Cologne in 1881. She studied under Paul Baum, and lived and worked in Berlin. In 1914 Erna Frank won the bronze medal at the international graphics exhibition the Bugra Leipzig. Erna Frank's etchings were published by Hermann Abell, Paul Cassirer, and J. B. Neumann, and in the Leipzig art revue Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst. The cityscape was her favored subject. Erna Frank died in 1931

Marie Gey-Heinze, Frühling (Spring)
Etching with aquatint, 1906

Despite the title of this blog post, I can't be sure that my next two subjects knew Käthe Kollwitz personally, but they would certainly have been aware of her art, as they were working at the same time, and contributing to the same art revues - so in the circle of influence, at least. The painter and printmaker Marie Caroline Gey-Heinze was born in Cologne in 1881. Born Marie Caroline Gey, she studied under Otto Fischer at the Dresden Academy. She married the Leipzig physician Paul Heinze and quickly made a reputation for herself under the name Marie Gey-Heinze with pastels and also with etchings such as Spring and Guinea-pigs (Meerschweinsen) published by Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst.

Marie Gey-Heinze, Meerschweinchen (Guinea-pigs)
Etching, 1908

Sadly, Marie Gey-Heinze's promising career was to come to an end when she shot herself at the age of 26, in her home in Oetzsch. There is a memorial Marie Gey Fountain in Dresden, designed by George Wrba.

Marie Stein, Porträtstudie (Portrait Study)
Etching, 1899

The etcher Marie Stein (Marie Stein-Ranke) was born in Oldenburg in 1873, into a Jewish family. Unable because she was a woman to study at the Düsseldorf Academy, she chose to study in the ateliers of Walter Petersen, Friedrich Fehr, and Paul Nauen. From 1896-1898 she lived and worked in Paris, before returning to Düsseldorf and becoming a successful society portraitist. Her closest artistic friend was the landscapist Georg Müller. In 1904 Marie Stein was awarded third prize in the annual competition of the revue Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, judged by Klinger, Liebermann, Köpping, Tschudi, Lehrs, and Graul.

Marie Stein, Bildnis (Portrait)
Etching, 1905

In 1906 Marie Stein married the eminent Egyptologist Hermann Ranke. Their life together was happy but blighted by the untimely deaths of their three children, and persecution by the Nazis because of Marie Stein's Jewish background. The bulk of her artist activity appears to date from before her marriage. Marie Stein-Ranke died in Nussloch near Heidelberg in 1964.

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.