We’ve looked at many fin-de-siècle artists who made their livings making commercial work for magazines and journals and some who made a living selling fine art prints. But how many artists have we looked at who considered themselves painters who begrudgingly made prints to support themselves? Auguste Lepère was all three.
A contemporary critic wrote of his frustration: “To the world, and especially the foreign world, the name of Lepère is chiefly familiar from his engravings and notably his woodcuts. The artist himself, however, considered these merely as auxiliary to his oils. ‘I am, above all, a painter’, he would say remindfully if a suggestion were made to attribute preeminence to his plates and blocks. For originally he had taken up engraving as a breadwinning makeshift, and it was much against his wish that the popularity they won robbed him of the time he would for choice have spent at the easel.”
Well, you can’t control what the viewer thinks or likes, can you? Lucky for us, Lepère was an amazing printmaker. He did it all: wood engraving, woodcut, etching, lithograph. Mostly the subjects are everyday life in and around Paris. They range from laundresses and dock workers to a new middle class enjoying a day off in the park. Today, as we are just emerging from a year in lockdown, these Parisian scenes are a balm to my soul. I can’t wait to get on a plane and go enjoy a croissant with my cafe au lait.
I happen to love Lepère’s wood engravings, especially those printed on an almost translucent Japanese tissue paper. So delicate. They always stunned students in the study room. I’d hand them a loop and tell them to look at, say, the smoke emanating from a smokestack and their jaws would drop. I included details here, grabbed as best as I could from the web. Take a look at some of them. And there’s a wood block, too. Amazing mark making.
Don't miss the Cleveland Museum's sets of studies and the final woodcut toward the end. These all date to 1914 and appropriately reflect the turmoil of World War I. Bucolic escapes are no more. Lepère died toward the end of the war.
Ann's art blog
A small corner of the interwebs to share thoughts on objects I acquired for the Baltimore Museum of Art's collection, research I've done on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17, experiments in intaglio printmaking, and the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.