MANET, Edouard (1832-1883)
Paris: Published by A. Cadart et Luquet, 79, rue de Richelieu, 1863. Etching. Printed on watermarked laid paper. Second state before letters. Full sheet in excellent condition. Image size: 11 x 8 1/16 inches. Sheet size: 21 11/16 x 14 3/8 inches.
This is a rich early impression before letters, of Manet's famous print "The Gypsies."
One of the most influential artists of the impressionist movement, Manet is also regarded as one of the most important printmakers of the modernist era. This famous etching reproduces a painting that Manet executed in 1862. This print is the only evidence we have of the composition of the work, since the original oil only exists today in separate fragments. According to Harris, we know that the oil painting must have resembled the composition of the etching, because a contemporary cartoonist penned a sketch of the work when it was on display in Manet's one-man show at the Pont de L'Alma. This image is considered one of the boldest etchings of Manet's oeuvre, and technically it is a tour de force, with its deeply bitten lines, and open hatching. This effect creates a lively play of light across the surface, producing a dynamic tension within the image that is truly compelling.
In this finished state, Manet has reworked the whole plate, adding additional lines and hatching to reinforce the dark shadows within the image. He has added foliage and other details that did not exist in the trial proof state of this print, creating a sense of depth within image, which was lacking in the earlier plates. Harris does not describe this state, listing only a lettered impression published by Cadart for the Societe des Aqua-Fortistes publication in 1862 and 1863. She mentions a few known impressions before letters for the 1863 Manet portfolio, but these images were printed on chine. Harris describes later printings published by Cadart in 1874, Gennevilliers in 1890, Dumont in 1894, and Strolin in 1905 where the lettering has been effaced, but this cannot be a pull from those publications since the impression is so rich and the frontispiece states that it is the 1862-1863 edition. This rich impression is most likely a proof printing published by the Societe des Aqua-Fortistes before title and publication details. This rare image is a true collector's item from one of the greatest masters of modern art. It not only epitomizes Manet's revolutionary work but also demonstrates his skill as an engraver.
Between 1862 and 1866, the Societe des Aqua-Fortistes produced a five-volume collection of artists' etchings entitled "Euax-Fortes Modernes." Printed on laid paper made especially for the series, this outstanding collection is one of the seminal publications to spring out of the etching revival in France. The Societe des Aqua-Fortistes was the French equivalent of the Etching Club in England and similarly it aimed to produce a collection of high quality etchings by the leading artists of the period. Like the Etching Club, the Societe des Aqua-Fortistes sought to raise the prestige of the medium from a reproductive technique to a fine art. Although the etching revival began somewhat earlier in England, the French movement exerted a far greater influence on the medium, and included a wider range of prominent artists. The Barbizon painters were among the earliest French artists to participate in the etching revival, and their superb prints helped raise the medium to new heights of genius. This unique publication, which included works by Manet, Corot, and Delacroix, is an outstanding example of fine art printing at its best.
Beraldi, Les Gravures du XIXe Siecle, Guide de l'Amateur d'Estampes Modernes , vol. IX, p. 207, no. 4, i/I; Harris, Edouard Manet, Graphic Works; A Definitive Catalogue Raisonne, no.18, ii/ii.