Wednesday, October 17, 2012

64. Twelve (no: eleven) woodcuts

Bassenge Buchauktionen in Berlin-Grunewald issues hefty catalogues of books, prints, art, manuscript material and objects since its foundation in 1953. The catalogue of Moderne Literatur & Kunstdokumentation has been published in conjunction with the hundredth auction on 20 October 2012.

Title-page of Twelve woodcuts in black and color (1891-1893)
In it, a copy of the rare portfolio with woodcuts by Lucien Pissarro is described as number 3534, Twelve woodcuts in black and colors, also known as the First portfolio. Work on this was begun in 1891 and Ricketts and Shannon decided with Pissarro to issue the portfolio as a Vale edition. Pissarro wrote to his father Camille (14 January 1892) that only 12 copies would be printed. During 1892 he printed the colour woodcuts (which went back to designs that he made in the previous year) and it seems that the portfolio was issued a year later, in January or February 1893, although its title-page has '1891'. Art dealer P. Durand-Ruel (according to a letter from Camille to Lucien Pissarro, 27 February 1893) prefered the landscapes to the figures and argued that the price was prohibitive (6 guineas). The Dutch art critic and artist Jan Veth wrote about the portfolio on 5 March 1893, and especially liked the colouring of 'First steps', depicting a girl leading a younger girl. This woodcut was printed in deep brown and hand-coloured in pink, blue, red, yellow, and green.

Lucien Pissarro, 'First steps' (woodcut)
Pissarro also added highlights in bronze powder (looking like gold) on several woodcuts, such as 'April' and 'Le tennis'.
Lucien Pissarro, 'April'
The Berlin set - estimated price 5000 - is not complete. It lacks the woodcut 'Le tennis'. Remarkably, the same set was auctioned at Haarlem in May of this year at Bubb Kuyper Auctions. However, the set remained unsold with an estimate of 5000 to 7000. The same set had been auctioned almost ten years earlier at Van Gendt Book Auctions in Amsterdam (Print auction No. 87, 19 June 2001), when it sold for 4200 Dutch guilders (approximately 2000) to a Dutch collector. The set may have been in Dutch collections before that 2001 auction, as it was listed in catalogues of the art dealer Van Wisselingh between 1895 and 1904. The price at the time was 100 Dutch guilders.

A complete set of this portfolio was listed by Sims Reed in 2002 and 2003 for £16.000.