Saturday, 6 August 2016
Théophile Chauvel’s etching of the Forest at Fontainebleau after Théodore Rousseau
Théophile Chauvel (aka Théophile Narcisse Chauvel; Théophile-Narcisse Chauvel) (1831–c1914) after Théodore Rousseau (1812–67)
“Une mare—Forêt de Fontainebleau”, 1874, printed by François Liénard (1860s–1880s; fl. c.) and published in “L'Art”, 1876.
Etching on laid paper with 3.8 cm chainlines and trimmed at, or within, the platemark (as published in “L'Art”).
Size: (sheet) 28.4 x 39.8 cm; (image borderline) 24.6 x 29.6 cm
Lettered in the plate below the image borderline: (lower left) “Th. Rousseau, pinx.” / “L'Art.”; (lower centre) “UNE MARE - FORÉT DE FONTAINEBLEAU.” / “Collection de Mr. William T. Blodgett.”; (lower right) “Th. Chauvel, sc.” / “F.çois Liénard, Imp. Paris.”
IFF 31 (Inventaire du Fonds Français: Bibliothèque Nationale, Département des Estampes, Paris, 1930)
The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“A pond in a clearing of the forest at Fontainebleau; a figure standing by the pond, at centre, surrounded by trees; after Théodore Rousseau; published in 'L'Art', 1876. 1874” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3350959&partId=1&searchText=Chauvel+Rousseau&page=1)
Condition: richly inked and well-printed impression in pristine condition.
Chauvel is one of my favourite nineteenth century etchers in term of his ability to display skill without resorting to impersonal formulaic approaches to representation.
Although Chauvel was a regular exhibitor at the Salon from 1858 to 1904 and was awarded the prestigious Legion of Honour in 1896, he is best known for his graphic interpretations of other artist’s paintings, such as this print after a painting by Théodore Rousseau, rather than for his own compositions. Regardless of his reputation as a reproductive etcher (i.e. an artist that “translates” paintings into etchings), Chauvel could draw like an angel—presuming angels can draw—and one only has to examine his line work in portraying the intricacies of Rousseau’s cloud formations to understand what I mean. For instance, in this etching he is able to illustrate the transparency of clouds rendered in oil paint and could do this in a way that a viewer could visualise the form of the cloud mass as well as subtle movements within the mass. Simply amazing!
Chauvel’s skill as an etcher is even acknowledged by FL Leipik—a writer who is not shy in offering unapologetic, blunt assessments of artists in his “A History of French Etching” (1924). Leipik saw in Chauvel an artist who, “though eclectic, does not convey the impression of slavish imitation” (p. 128). Leipik also insightfully proposes that if “sensitive adaptability prevented Chauvel from working in a fashion of his own, it fitted him eminently for the interpretation of others” (ibid).