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

Bulletin 19, 1972

Annual Index
Author & Subject

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

by Douglas W. Druick

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Appendix: A 

A similar decision to select printing materials which would enhance the physical presence of the print, but at the same time aggravate the problems of colour printing, is represented in the choice of tusche rather than crayon to execute the colour stones. While tusche permitted the lithographer to better capture the character of watercolour brushstrokes, it nevertheless posed problems which do not arise with crayon. Duchatel noted that drawing on the stone with tusche is deceptive. (11) When using tusche washes, it is difficult to predict with accuracy the value at which a given wash will print; one cannot, as with crayon, use the colour of the image on the stone to estimate printing values. (12) Furthermore, stabilizing the image on the stone is a more difficult procedure in the case of tusche washes than with crayon. It is difficult to calculate the strength of the gum arabic and nitric acid solution (that is, the "etch") which, when washed on the stone, will produce the desired chemical separation between the printing (image) and non-printing (non-image) areas of the stone. If the solution is insufficiently acidic, the image areas will become increasingly dark over the course of printing. (13) If, on the other hand, the solution is too acidic, the fatty deposits which constitute the printing image on the stone's surface will be undermined and, as a result, the image areas will not accept the desired amount of printing ink. (14) In view of these problems, Duchatel closed his section on tusche by stating:

En général, ce procédé est plein de surprises et d'imprévus; il est donc nécessaire pour ce genre de travail plus que pour tout autre, que l'artiste assiste au tirage des épreuves d'essai, afin que sur ses conseils l'imprimeur puisse faire sur la pierre, à mesure qu'il tire des épreuves, toutes les modifications jugées nécessaires, soit diminuer avec un pinceau et de l'eau gommé acidulée [the "etch"] les parties qui viennent trop fortes, soit faire monter celles qui ne viennent pas au ton voulu. (15)

During the course of printing a work like the Large Bathers colour variation can be effected by changes in the paper, the stones or the printing ink. (16) In the case of the Large Bathers the paper does not appear to have been a major factor in the colour variation. The same brand of paper appears to have been used for all impressions. While slight differences in paper colour may have resulted from using sheets from different shipments, and while subsequent colour alterations have undoubtedly resulted from conditions of preservation, these are merely contributing rather than primary causes.

Changes in the stones and inks can often be accidental, reflecting either carelessness or technical inability on the part of the printer. Clot' s reputation as a skilled printer of colour lithographs, and the attention apparently devoted to this particular project, oppose our calling into question either his practice or his technique. Rather it is most probable that it was his scrupulousness and desire to improve the appearance of the print which led him to purposefully induce colour changes during the course of the printing.

Clot sought the transparency and freshness of water-colour. In the printed image, colour depends on both the colour of the ink used in the printing and the amount of ink accepted by the stone. Comparison of the pure ochre areas in the sky in various impressions make it clear that Clot slightly altered his inks. Furthermore, it seems probable that Clot also experimented with alterations of the ink-receiving properties of the colour stones.

Examination of the print indicates that Clot used a rather concentrated tusche in preparing the colour stones (particularly in the first state). It seems that he did not wish to rely on the use of a dilute tusche to achieve watercolour effects because of the technical problems outlined above. He apparently preferred to manipulate the amount of printing ink received by the stones in the manner of reworking suggested by Duchatel. Periodic treatment of the stones with an etch solution would indeed account for the fact that the amount of ink printed by a single colour stone sometimes varies considerably between impressions (this seems particularly true in the second state). Since so many of the colour areas in the print are the result of a sequence of superimposed printings, the possibility for colour variation would have been enormous.

Considerations of quality aside, the Large Bathers thus emerges as a work whose experimental nature is seemingly without precedent in the Lithography Revival of the nineties. Prior to the nineties, variation had been considered permissible in other print media, notably etching. In this medium, different for its own sake developed into an aesthetic during the time of the Etching Revival. Indeed the variations which could be extracted from a single plate by means of exploring differences in paper, colour of ink, and surface wiping, became central to the notion of artistic printing which emerged during the 1860s. Although single stone lithographs were sometimes printed up ill different colours, and artists such as Fantin-Latour sometimes had their lithographs printed on both white and coloured papers, a comparable aesthetic did not exist in lithography. On the contrary, it is generally true that in this medium, the idea of the print as essentially an exactly repeatable visual statement was retained over the course of the nineteenth century.

It would be very misleading, however, to imply that the nature of the variations in the Large Bathers are exactly comparable to the variations found in etchings by artists such as Whistler. Although it is the case in both the Large Bathers and the Whistler etchings that some impressions appear more successful than others, in the lithograph the variation was not exploited for its own sake. Rather it was the by-product of a continual search for the completely successful impression. While the ends are not, then, identical, the lithograph is nevertheless remarkable in that it apparently reflects the bold decision to issue an edition which records the search for, rather than the duplication of the successful image. This degree of exposure of the working process marks an apparently singular event within the history of the medium in the nineteenth century.

It is a more difficult problem to provide an explanation for the questions raised by the two states of the print.

Next PageAppendix A continued

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