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Félix Bracquemond
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A leader of the French etching revival in the mid-19th century, Félix Bracquemond is also known for his pioneering decorative designs, particularly for ceramics, but also tapestries, jewelry and furniture. Bracquemond’s works were greatly influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e (“floating world”) prints, from which he appropriated images and ideas for his etchings and ceramic designs. Bracquemond’s artistic education began when he came to the attention of the painter Joseph Benoit Guichard (1806-1880), who taught the boy drawing, and later encouraged him to learn etching. He first exhibited in the official Salon in 1852, and exhibited again at the Salon in 1853. He received critical praise for his etching, Le Haut d’un battant de porte (The Top of a Half-door, Beraldi [Ber.] 110, Bouillon [Bou.] Ac 1), showing three dead birds and a bat tacked to a door, which he exhibited in the 1855 Exposition Universelle. He began providing prints for publication in journals in 1855, first to L’Artiste, a collaboration that would last until 1864. From the 1850s he actively pursued etching, creating numerous portraits, landscapes, depictions of birds and other animals and reproductions of works of old masters and contemporary artists. About half of his 900 prints were reproductive images. The Louvre commissioned Bracquemond to create a reproduction of its portrait of Dutch theologian Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543), which he completed in 1863 (Ber. 39). Despite the official commission, Erasmus was rejected by the Salon. He exhibited the print at the competing Salon des Refusés, the famous exhibition of works rejected by the Salon jury. His Erasmus was so popular that it was exhibited at the official Salon the following year. With publisher and art dealer Alfred Cadart (1828-1875), Bracquemond assisted in founding the Société des Aqua-fortistes (The Society of Etchers), which published five original etchings each month from September 1862 until August 1867. Bracquemond provided seven prints for the series. He continued to exhibit his prints to great acclaim for the rest of his career, winning Salon medals in 1866 (bronze), 1868 (bronze), 1872 (silver) and 1881 (gold) for his graphic art. His portrait of Edmond de Goncourt (1882, Ber. 54) is among his best works, and La nuée d’orage (The Thunder-cloud, 1878-1887, Beraldi 219) has been compared to works by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). Among other honors, he was made a member of the Legion of Honor in 1882. Bracquemond’s had learned the technique of enamel painting for ceramics in 1860. The merchant François-Eugène Rousseau (1827-1891) commissioned him in 1866 to create the design for a dinner service. Drawing on images from Japanese prints, Bracquemond created a revolutionary design, the first example of Japonisme in French decorative arts. Le Service Rousseau (the Rousseau Service, Ber. 530-554) received popular acclaim at the Exhibition Universelle of 1867 and enjoyed great commercial success. Charles Haviland (1839-1921) hired him in 1872 to be the artistic director of a new Haviland studio in Auteil, near Paris, where he worked until 1881. Bracquemond’s design of a gigantic vase honoring George Washington caused a sensation at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition in 1876. He designed another dinner service with Japanese motifs in 1876 and anticipated the art nouveau style with a third dinner service designed in 1879. During the 1860s he became well integrated into the group that gathered with Édouard Manet (1832-1883) at the Café Guerbois, including the critic Philippe Burty (1830-1890) and such artists as Edgar Degas (1834-1917). He married the Impressionist painter Marie Quivoron-Pasquiou (1840-1916) in 1869. At the urging of Burty and Degas, Bracquemond exhibited at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. He also exhibited at the 1879 and 1880 Impressionist exhibitions. Always involved with his fellow artists, Bracquemond was a founder of the Société des Peintres-Graveurs (Society of Painter-Printmakers) in 1889 and was its first president, and was a founder of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1890. By 1890 Bracquemond’s health had begun to decline, and he channeled his creative energies towards drawings for decorative works, rather than the heavy work of etching. He created a variety of decorations and decorative objects for Baron Joseph Vitta (1833-1914) from 1894 until 1911, many of which are fine examples of art nouveau, and designed tapestries and furniture for the Manufacture des Gobelins. After being honored with the Grande Médaille d’honneur for his graphic art at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, Bracquemond was further honored by a lretrospective of his works at the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1907. (TNB 3/2011) Selected bibliography: Rappard-Boon, Charlotte van. Félix Bracquemond. Exhibition catalog. Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum, 1993. Weisberg, Gabriel P., et al. Japonisme: Japanese Influence on French Art, 1854–1910. Exhibition catalog. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1975.