IFPDA Executive Director Jenny Gibbs invited Jennifer Ramkalawon, Curator, British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings, to choose a list of her favorites from among the online booths of IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair.
I was delighted to be invited to select works from the 2020 IFPDA print fair. Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of outstanding works in the booths, I felt I could only make sense of what I’d seen by curating a small selection of prints that caught my eye. It was a useful visual exercise for me - it’s a totally personal choice, based on current curatorial interests and sheer curiosity because at every print fair I am always delighted to rediscover old friends and discover new ones.
I’ve recently been dealing with French nineteenth-century prints in the British Museum’s collection, so was pleased to see the presence of three of my favourite printmakers from that period represented at the fair. Jules Jacquemart, Félix Buhot and Félix Bracquemond are hardly household names but were all celebrated at the time for their incredible dexterity as etchers. Etchings were enjoying a revival in the1860s and Alfred Cadart, aParis publisher, addressed the growing demand for etchings by setting up the ‘Société des Aquafortistes’ (Society of Etchers) in 1862 by publishing volumes of prints designed to promote etchings and Jacquemart’s print appeared in Cardet’s first volume. I find the wealth of detail and intensity of line in Jacquemart’s jumble of discarded footwear absolutely astonishing. Félix Buhot’s witty print celebrates the superiority of etching. Engraving is dead, its time is over and its funeral takes place on the left with the engraver’s tool, the burin, held aloft by a mass of putti escorting it to heaven. A modern etching press hurtles towards the viewer on the back of a steam train, heralding a new era of printmaking. Bracquemond’s masterpiece of etching is full of exquisite details, from the ornate mirror frame in the background to the silk cravat of the sitter, Edmond de Goncourt. Note the delicious detail, bottom left, of a tiny wisp of cigarette smoke.