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PUBLISHED BY AMBROISE VOLLARD: LEGENDARY FRENCH ART DEALER, FRIEND AND PATRON OF THE IMPRESSIONISTS AND POST-IMPRESSIONISTS
FEATURING A MAGNIFICENT EXAMPLE OF EDVARD MUNCH’S FIRST EVER COLOUR LITHOGRAPH ALONGSIDE 21 PRINTS BY HIS CONTEMPORARIES INCLUDING BONNARD, VUILLARD, REDON, RENOIR
TO BE OFFERED AT AUCTION IN #london | SEPTEMBER 17 2019 ESTIMATE £500,000-1,000,000
One of the most important art dealers and publishers of the 20th century, Ambroise Vollard was largely responsible for the validation of lithography as an art form, as well as the propagation of the greatest Impressionist and Post- Impressionist artists. Issued in Paris in 1896, his first ever multi-artist portfolio Les Peintres-Graveurs comprises 22 prints by the likes of Pierre Bonnard, Odilon Redon, Théo van Rysselberghe, Auguste Renoir, and Edouard Vuillard. A champion of unrecognised artists, Vollard took chances on international and young talent.
At the heart of his portfolio is an exceptional impression of one of Edvard Munch’s most famous motifs, Angst (or Le Soir). Produced in collaboration with the eminent Parisian printmaker Auguste Clot, the subject was the first colour lithograph ever produced by Munch, who went on to become one of history’s most prolific and successful printmakers.
This complete example of Les Peintures-Graveurs comes to the market after its rediscovery in a private European collection. The present album was purchased in 1920’s Paris by the current owner’s family and has remained in their collection since, never before exhibited publicly. Initially produced in an edition of 100, its sale on September 17 will mark the first time the complete portfolio has ever appeared at auction. Even in Vollard’s lifetime, albums were split and prints were sold individually. To date, no institution or private collector has been able to obtain the full album.
Severine Nackers, Head of Sotheby’s Prints Department in #london, said:
“The discovery of this complete portfolio is just astounding. As far as we know, it is the only complete example still in existence. It is only the second portfolio published by the young Vollard, who elevated lithography, and the work of many radical artists from across Europe, to international acclaim. Among these was #edvardmunch, whose impression of Angst is so powerful, and has been known to achieve upwards of half a million pounds at auction in a single lot. Vollard showed astonishing foresight, and the portfolio stands testament to the work of one of history’s greatest publishers, and to the history of printmaking as a whole”.
AMBROISE VOLLARD (1866-1939)
One of the most illustrious art dealers, collectors, patrons, and publishers of all time, Ambroise Vollard’s contribution to art history is legendary.
Vollard opened his first gallery with an exhibition of drawings by Edouard Manet, following which he used his entire fortune to stage Paul Cézanne’s debut exhibition in November 1895. This radical exhibition attracted many more artists, all of whom he encouraged to create prints for his first Album des Peintres-Graveurs.
Vollard was just 30 years of age when Les Peintures-Graveurs was published, thus, the portfolio marks the beginning of a publishing career that changed the way generations of artists expressed themselves and gave rise to many of the most famous Impressionist names we know today. His choice of artists was considered radical; The Société Française des Peintres-Graveurs had decided to exclude foreign artists, yet Vollard saw their potential. The portfolio not only gave the Parisian audience the opportunity to see works from across Europe, it also attracted international collectors to his gallery.
At the time of Vollard’s death in a car accident in July 1939, just weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War, he had built a legacy unlike any other. His gallery was the epicentre of Parisian bohemia, and his mansion on the rue Martignac held over 10,000 artworks. Of hiscollection, artists Jacques Emile Blanche and Maurice Denis remarked:
‘Are you aware of the enormity of the estate? Discoveries everywhere, valuable things, never sold nor noted, discoveries under piles of canvases, priceless, surpassing all calculation, the heirs in incredible disorder, lawsuit after lawsuit will follow.’ Renoir once affectionately addressed him as ‘my sympathetic slave driver’, while Picasso said that ‘The most beautiful woman who ever lived has never had her portrait painted, drawn or engraved any oftener than Vollard’.
A LEGACY OF PRINTMAKING
Vollard’s love of publishing was to become his greatest passion, and the enormous wealth he earned by dealing pictures was invested into publishing projects.
In his early years Vollard viewed as an outsider with little experience of the art market. However, as an outsider, he was undeterred by the conventional view of lithography as a reproductive medium and engaged the master printmaker Auguste Clot to work with his commissioned artists for an album of lithographs printed in colours.
Vollard provided the artists with the finances and technical support to experiment; the younger generation embraced lithography, but the older generation found it difficult. Renoir, for instance, produced an etching for this portfolio, but later went on to make several very famous colour lithographs with the assistance of the highly skilled Clot. The very rare, complete portfolio of the first album comprises 13 lithographs (11 printed in colours), four etchings (two printed in colours), two drypoints (both printed in colours), two woodcuts (one printed in colours) and one embossing.
EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944), ANGST, 1896
Perhaps the greatest stroke of fortune for Vollard was the arrival of Norwegian artist #edvardmunch. Munch moved to Paris in 1896, a year after debuting his now iconic composition: The Scream. The local audience and highly conservative Norwegian critics panned the exhibition and rejected his work. However, the French art journal, La Revue Blanche, published a laudatory review of the exhibition and even reproduced the lithographic rendition of The Scream in their December edition that year. Spurred by the positive review and encouragement from patrons, Munch travelled from Kristiania to Paris in the hopes of finding a more accepting artistic environment
In Paris, Munch discovered new sources of inspiration. Most notably, the woodcuts of Paul
Gauguin and Felix Vallotton, and their experiments with colour in printmaking. He also
had the opportunity to work with the master printer, Auguste Clot. By this time, Munch had already mastered intaglio techniques and had also recently learned to create and transfer lithographic images in Berlin. At the encouragement of one of his patrons and ardent supporters, Julius Meier-Graefe, the Parisian dealer and publisher, Ambroise Vollard, invited Munch to contribute to the forthcoming first album of Les Peintres-Gravures. For the album, Munch selected Angst to be re-envisioned as a lithograph in colors under Clot’s supervision.
First explored as a drawing in 1889 and a painting in 1895, Angst is largely considered an advancement on The Scream. In January 1892, Munch famously recalled a vision in which, when out walking with two friends, he found himself alone as the sky above the Oslo fjord turned a ‘bloody red’ and was ‘streaked with tongues of fire’. This vision would provide the basis for The Scream, which made record-breaking prices when sold at Sotheby’s #london as an oil painting in May 2012, and as a lithograph in June 2016 (estimate £800,000-1,200,000, sold for £1,805,000).
Indeed, clear parallels can be drawn with Angst. Just as The Scream shows a lone figure trembling beneath the tempestuous, unforgiving Oslo sky, Angst shows the same scene with multiple viewers on the road, staring eerily out toward the viewer. Impressed by the result, Clot encouraged Munch to pursue colour lithography further. They went on to collaborate in the master printer’s studio, creating similarly saturated, evocative themes such as Jealousy and Moonlight.
The upcoming sale of Munch’s Angst at Sotheby’s closely follows the British Museum’s exhibition Edvard Munch: Love and Angst – the largest show staged about the artist in fifty years which focused solely on the artist’s mastery of printmaking.
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