National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 19, 1972

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Click figure 1 here for an enlarged image

Click figure 2 here for an enlarged image

Cézanne, Vollard, and Lithography: The Ottawa Maquette for the "Large Bathers" Colour Lithograph

by Douglas W. Druick

Résumé en français

Pages  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  

            12  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18 

*This article will not attempt an analysis of the meaning of the Large Bathers, an undertaking which would entail a study of the Bathers at Rest (fig. I) and related compositions of the 1870s. Interpretation of Cézanne's "bather" compositions has been the object of several studies, the most notable of which is Theodore Reff's "Cézanne's Bather with Out-stretched Arms," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 59 (March 1962), pp. 173-190.

A black-and-white lithograph heightened with water-colour, the Large Bathers (fig. 2) in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada is one of a very small group of works executed by Cézanne in the latter half of the 1890s when he was involved in the publishing projects of the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. It was prepared by the artist to serve as a maquette, or model, to guide the printer Auguste Clot in the preparation of the colour lithograph (figs 3, 4). (1) Very little is known about the maquette in Ottawa or about the four other watercolour and lithograph maquettes (figs 5, 6, 7, 12) which are attributed to Cézanne. Essential to their understanding is a knowledge of the artist's lithographs themselves. But the only works by the artist which come as close as the maquettes to having been critically ignored are the black-and-white lithographs used in their preparation and the colour prints for which they were executed. Therefore an investigation of the Ottawa maquette necessitates the prior study of two little-known but intimately related aspects of the artist's oeuvre.*

Cézanne was not, it seems, very interested in print-making. Of the five etchings (2) and three lithographs which constitute his entire output of prints, none can be said to reflect a desire to explore the possibilities of unfamiliar media. Rather, both the etchings and the lithographs were in large part the result of special conditions under which they were executed. The artist's production of etchings, all of which were done at Auvers during the summer and autumn of 1873, can be directly related to the preoccupations of the company in which he found himself. (3) Surrounded as he was by three print enthusiasts - Pissarro, Dr Gachet, and Armand Guillaumin - Cézanne was coaxed into making prints. His reluctance to use the medium is apparent from the fact that all five prints are basically soft-ground etchings prepared by tracing completed sketches.

When, almost twenty-five years later, Cézanne again made prints, the motivation was similarly related to a particular set of circumstances: his association with Vollard and the latter's rôle in the Print Revival of the nineties. It is in Cézanne's relationship with his dealer that it is possible to discover why he again became involved in print-making. The peculiar nature of Vollard's activity within the current revival explains both the medium of these later prints and the particular significance of the lithograph and water-colour maquettes in the context of print-making during the last decade of the nineteenth century. A study of the Ottawa maquette must, therefore, begin with a review of the developments in the Print Revival and the rôle played by Vollard.

In 1895 Vollard, having just opened a gallery in the rue Lafitte, decided to commission and publish original prints by important contemporary artists. (4) The revival of interest in prints, and particularly the vogue for colour lithography, was then at its height. The generative force in the popularizing of original graphics had been the periodical L'estampe originale, (5) which had disseminated prints by contemporary artists representative of a variety of stylistic trends. published and directed by André Marty, L'estampe originale had appeared as a series of nine fascicules, or installments, issued quarterly beginning in March 1893. While the publication included prints in various media, it had been particularly effective in gaining popularity for lithography and, more specifically, lithography in colours. This was a significant development within the history of nineteenth-century print-making. At the time Marty began his venture, etching generally overshadowed lithography as an artist's medium, and colour lithography, in particular, continued to suffer the stigma of its use in commercial printing. The bias of the publication in favour of lithography, however , is reflected in its contents: of the ninety-five prints which comprised it, sixty were lithographs, twenty-seven of which were in colour.

There is no information to document the immediate reaction to Marty' s venture, (6) nor to determine whether financial problems were involved in its termination after nine issues. (7) However, in the first issue of L'estampe et l'affiche, which appeared in March 1897, André Mellerio, a leading critic and spokesman of the Print Revival, referred to the "succès inattendu" (8) of L'estampe originale. There is reason to believe that this success was commercial as well as artistic. It seems therefore that the publication had been conceived as a short-term project. (9) Furthermore, that Marty gave up management of the Journal des artistes in 1894 in order to devote all his energies to prints indicates that the popular response to his publication was favourable and that business was good. (10)

In any event, L'estampe originale became the prototype for a series of publications, the most important of which were to be L'épreuve, the Vollard albums, and L'estampe moderne. In the case of L'épreuve, founded late in 1894, a combination of larger output and lower price (11) seems to have involved a lowering of the standards established by Marty's publication. (12) L'estampe moderne, a decidedly commercialized venture, did not appear until the spring of 1897. Thus, with the demise of L'estampe originale early in 1895, there was no publication on the market of comparable content and quality. Vollard's decision of the same year to issue albums of miscellaneous prints by contemporary artists of different schools obviously reflects his intention to take up where Marty left off.

The first of these albums, published under the title Les peintures-graveurs, appeared in July 1896. (13) The influence of L'estampe originale is evident in several important aspects of this publication. Of the twenty-two artists who each contributed a single print to the album, twelve had worked for Marty. (14) Vollard also seems to have had L'estampe originale in mind both in establishing the price of his publication (15) and in fixing the edition at one hundred signed and numbered impressions. Here too lithography was the featured medium. Significantly, however, colour lithography now played a more dominant rôle than in the earlier publication: ten of the thirteen lithographs were in colour. The important departure from both L'estampe originale and L'épreuve was the manner in which the prints were marketed. They were issued as a complete recueil rather than serially in fascicules. Furthermore, the official publication of the portfolio in July was signaled by a week-long exhibition of the twenty-two prints at Vollard's gallery. (16)

Next Page | critical and commercial failure 

  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  

12  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18

Top of this page

Home | Français | Introduction | History
Annual Index | Author & Subject | Credits | Contact

This digital collection was produced under contract to Canada's Digital Collections program, Industry Canada.

"Digital Collections Program, Copyright © National Gallery of Canada 2001"