Les Baigneurs (grande planche) ( The Bathers, large plate). 1896-c.1898. Druick I; Venturi 1157. Lithograph printed in colors. 16 3/4 x 20 1/4" (42.6 x 51.5 cm); sheet: 19 x 24 13/16" (48.3 x 63 cm). A iich impression with strong colors printed on the full sheet of 'MBM' countermarked laid paper. Publisher: Ambroise Vollard, Paris. Printer: Atelier Clot, Paris. Housed in a 27 x 31-inch elaborate wood carved gold leaf fame. $40,000.
In 1895 Parisian publisher and gallerist Ambroise Vollard gave Cézanne an exhibition that was instrumental in promoting his work and establishing his reputation. This show coincided with the revival of color lithography in France in the 1890s, and Vollard was among those art entrepreneurs who commissioned and published prints for portfolios. Cézanne created a lithograph for one of Vollard's early portfolios and two more for another, never-realized project. One of the latter was The Large Bathers, based on his best-known painting at the time and one of numerous works depicting this subject. To make the color lithograph, Cézanne painted in watercolor over a black-and-white proof of the composition, then entrusted master printer Auguste Clot to help him re-create the same color effects through lithography. This and other collaborative efforts between artist and printer were common print workshop practice.
Ronald Alley writes: This lithograph was made for the dealer Ambroise Vollard, who asked a number of artists who were not engravers by profession to make engravings for publication and published two large albums of miscellaneous prints under the titles Les Peintres-Graveurs and La Deuxime Année de l'Album d'Estampes originales de la Galerie Vollard. In both cases the edition was limited to 100. The first album, issued in July 1896, contained twenty-two etchings, woodcuts and lithographs by Bonnard, Denis, Fantin-Latour, Renoir, Vuillard and others. The second, published in December 1897, comprised thirty-two prints, including a colour lithograph by Cézanne of a small composition of bathers (Venturi No.1156). The 'Large Bathers' was intended for inclusion in a third album, together with Cézanne's only other lithograph, a self-portrait (Venturi No.1158). However neither of the first two albums sold very well, so the third series remained unfinished.
Cézanne, who had had no previous experience of making lithographs and evidently agreed to undertake these on the insistence of Vollard, relied to a large extent on the expert help of the printer Auguste Clot. Both the colour lithographs of 'Bathers' were made in two stages. First he made a lithograph in black to serve as a keystone. Then he hand-coloured an impression in watercolour for the printer to follow in preparing the colour stones. Douglas W. Druick, on whose findings this entry is heavily dependent, has shown that whereas the drawing for the 'Small Bathers' was done directly on the stone, that for the 'Large Bathers' was made on transfer paper (as was the one for the 'Self-Portrait'). One of the reasons for this, apart from the fact that it was a much easier procedure, was that in making the 'Large Bathers' Cézanne was closely copying the composition of an earlier oil painting, the 'Bathers at Rest' (Venturi No.276, now in the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania). If he had drawn straight on to the stone, he would have had to reverse the composition for printing, whereas this was not necessary with the use of transfer paper. Three impressions hand-coloured by Cézanne are known: in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the collection of Mrs Florence Weil, St Louis, Missouri, and one formerly in the collection of Alphonse Kann, Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Clot appears to have used the one now in the National Gallery of Canada.
The impressions apparently intended for the album all have an inscription 'Tirage à cent exemplaires no. | P. Cézanne' (with the numbers written in from 1 to 100) in the bottom right margin, but the Tate's print is without an inscription. Druick has shown that there were actually two different states of this colour lithograph, one with the inscription and one without, and that each was printed from a different set of colour stones. Moreover the inscribed and numbered state, which he believes to be the first, was printed from six colour stones (ochre, blue, orange, green, yellow, red), whereas the second was printed from only five (no orange). Thus although there are colour variations within the editions, the first printing is predominantly green in tonality, the other predominantly blue. There seem to be at least 100 impressions of both editions. The reasons for making a second edition are not recorded, but this may have been partly because some collectors objected to the rather obtrusive inscription on the original state; or else the two states can be regarded as alternative attempts, each successful in some respects and less so in others, to simulate Cézanne's handling of watercolour in terms of lithography. However it is also possible that the second edition was printed on Vollard's instructions after Cézanne's death, perhaps about 1914. There are also a few impressions in black and a number of trial proofs, including impressions without the blue stone.
It has usually been assumed that the 'Large Bathers', being intended for Vollard's third album, was begun in late 1897 or 1898, but Druick has suggested that the first stage in black may precede the 'Small Bathers', which must have been made during Cézanne's stay in Paris from the autumn of 1896 until April 1897. It seems very likely that Cézanne would have made his first lithographs by the easy method of using transfer paper and then subsequently have gone on to draw directly on the stone. Also the black impressions of the 'Large Bathers' have the appearance of being finished works, whereas the black stage of the 'Small Bathers' is much sketchier and was obviously made as a frame-work for the colour. Druick concludes therefore that the 'Large Bathers' was begun before the 'Small Bathers' but as a lithograph in black; and that the success of the 'Small Bathers' colour lithograph (which received favourable comments when published) led Cézanne to turn it into a colour lithograph by hand-colouring impressions for the guidance of the printer. This would mean that the 'Large Bathers' was probably made over the period 1896-c.1898.
Melvin Waldfogel has suggested that Cézanne's decision to make an exact copy of the composition of a much earlier painting the 'Bathers at Rest' of c.1876-7 was connected with the first public exhibition in 1897 of the collection of paintings, largely Impressionist, which Gustave Caillebotte had bequeathed to the French Government. Two of the paintings by Cézanne in the Caillebotte collection were accepted by the Government, and two rejected: one of those rejected was the 'Bathers at Rest'. Thus Cézanne, by making a version in colour lithography for widespread distribution, could be said to be both celebrating the official recognition of his work and rebuking the Government for its lack of judgement in refusing two of his pictures. Also it could be regarded as a tribute to Caillebotte, not only for having made the bequest but for having helped to finance the third Impressionist exhibition of 1877 in which 'Bathers at Rest' was shown for the first time. Druick points out however that the transfer drawing for the lithograph was probably executed before the opening of the Caillebotte exhibition early in 1897 and that, if Waldfogel's argument is correct, it is strange that the print was not included in the album published in December 1897, while the issue was still current. 'Bathers at Rest' may have been chosen simply because it was at that period Cézanne's most famous work. Vollard, who may have had a say in the choice of subject, had already featured it in the window of his gallery during Cézanne's one-man exhibition of 1895. in the window of his gallery during Cézanne's one-man exhibition of 1895.
Published in: Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.105-7, reproduced p.105
The son of a prosperous banker, Paul Cézanne turned from law to art after being drawn into the artistic circle of his friend, poet Émile Zola. Primarily a painter and draftsman, Cézanne was not a prolific printmaker. His complete output of prints consists of nine works in both etching and lithography. His first experiment with printmaking came in the summer and fall of 1873 when he was working in Auvers, surrounded by serious print enthusiasts: fellow artists Camille Pissarro and Armand Guillaumin; and Cézanne's host, the Impressionist patron and famed Vincent van Gogh subject, Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet. Under their influence and encouragement, Cézanne executed five etchings, but he discontinued printmaking after parting company with them. It would be twenty years before he made another print.
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