Saturday, 4 February 2017
Félix Buhot’s frontispiece etching for “I’llustration Nouvellle”
Félix Buhot (aka Félix Hilaire Buhot; Tohub) (1847–98)
frontispiece for “I’llustration Nouvellle”, 1877
Etching, aquatint, drypoint, roulette, lift ground and salt ground (etching) on cream laid paper trimmed at the platemark
Size: (sheet) 34.6 x 26.8 cm
Signed on plate: “F. Buhot inv. sc.”
The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Steam locomotive bearing the date '1877' entering a station, with cloud of putti coming out of the chimney; on the left, the funeral of the burin, with putti surrounding a large burin, and hovering above a funeral procession following a coach bearing the date '1876'; in the right foreground, a snake … Etching, aquatint, drypoint.” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3048822&partId=1&searchText=buhot&page=1)
The curator of the British Museum offers the following insight into the print’s meaning: “The print is an allegory on the merits of etching over mere reproductive engraving.” (ibid)
Bourcard 1899 124.IV (Gustave Bourcard 1899, “Catalogue descriptif de son [Félix Buhot] oeuvre grave”, Paris)
Condition: Superb, richly inked impression trimmed at the plate mark. There are remnants of mounting hinges (verso) and there are also a few spots (perhaps foxing).
I am selling this exceptionally rare print capturing the turmoil at a seminal point in the history of illustration for AU$260 (currently US$200.05/EUR185.46/GBP160 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this graphically strong and historically significant print by one of the major 19th century printmakers, please contact me (email@example.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
This print has been sold
This may be one of the most important prints of the nineteenth century. What I mean by this bold assertion is not that it is the best image created in the nineteen century but rather that it crystallises in graphic terms the change from the reproductive art of the engraver preceding the year 1876 to the “new” breed of artist—the painter-artist with an etching needle and a personal viewpoint.
At the time that this print featured on the cover of “I’llustration Nouvellle” in 1877, the image of the highly respected tool of the engraver, the burin, being carried from a hearse into its demise in the sky accompanied by a swirl of cupids, would no doubt have been very unsettling to the old guard of illustrators. Perhaps even more upsetting is the idea of progress, symbolised by the advancing steam train with the tool of the new illustrator—the etching needle—and the aspirations of a fresh ways of thinking: the avant-garde
For me, this print carries the same resonance of change. Years ago I never imagined that I would be making images without physical substance and the shock of the transition from analogue to digital is well represented by this steam train running over anything that gets in its way.
For those unfamiliar with Buhot’s prints, this artist is worth researching. What is especially interesting, is his approach of annotating images with marginal sketches: what he called his “marges symphoniques.” Regarding Buhot’s use of these marginal sketches, I wish to point out that they became a feature in his work after 1876—the year that the spirit of change symbolised by the locomotive shown here hurtles down the railway track to replace the engraving tradition.