L’Estampe Originale: Promoting Printmakers in the Late Nineteenth Century

L’Estampe Originale, a series of nine print albums published by André Marty from 1893-95, represented the zenith of the print trade in the late 19th century. Publishers and dealers used the portfolios to promote a variety of artists’ work to subscribing collectors, and artists were given creative license as to the style, medium, paper type and size of the prints. Swann’s March 5 auction of 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings offers three excellent examples of L’Estampe Originale prints.

Camille Martin, L’Estampe Originale, 1894. Estimate $1,500 to $2,000. At auction February 12.
This design was used as the cover for L’Estampe Originale‘s fifth portfolio.

As exemplified in Camille Martin’s (1861-1898) L’Estampe Originale poster, 1894, lithography was considered modern and stylish at the time. Technological advances in the late 1800s allowed for the first color and large-format printings, and artists such as Paul Ranson (1864-1909) and Maxime Maufra (1861-1918) took advantage of the medium, while others implemented a variety of printing methods. 

Paul Ranson, Tigre dans les Jungles, color lithograph, 1893.
Estimate $20,000 to $30,000. At auction March 5.

An 1890 exhibition of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints at the École des Beaux-Arts further spurred an interest in printmaking and informed many artists’ styles. The Paul Ranson color lithograph Tigre dans les Jungles was published in the inaugural L’Estampe Originale album in 1893. Ranson led Les Nabis, a brotherhood of young, rebellious artists who were inspired by decorative arts and traditional Japanese prints and rejected the use of Renaissance perspective. They embraced two-dimensional surface patterns and unimpeded areas of pure color.

Maxime Maufra, Route de Gaud, ou Le Chemin au Bord de la Mer, color lithograph, 1893.
Estimate $3,000 to $5,000. At auction March 5.

Maxime Maufra’s color lithograph Route de Gaud, ou Le Chemin au Bord de la Mer was published in the third L’Estampe Originale portfolio in 1893. Maufra had exhibited his work in the 1886 Impressionist salon, though he retained autonomy from the group in the years following, and focused on his own interpretations of nature. Maufra’s publication in L’Estampe Originale came just one year before his first solo exhibition in Paris.

Félix Vallotton, Le Bain, woodcut, 1894. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000. At auction March 5.

Le Bain was one of two woodcuts that Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) contributed to L’Estampe Originale. This second print of Vallotton’s was a part of the eighth–and second-to-last–album published by L’Estampe Originale in 1894. Also inspired by Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Vallotton contributed to the 1890’s resurgence of woodcuts as an artistic method rather than a commercial reproductive tool.