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Félix Hilaire Buhot
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Valognes, France
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Death Place: 
One of the leading French printmakers of the late 19th century, Félix Hilaire Buhot was also an accomplished illustrator and painter. During his relatively-short productive career, Buhot created inventive and experimental etchings, which he described as “sketches and paintings on copper.” After completing his secondary education in his native Normandy, he went to Paris in 1865 to study at the Lycée Henry IV. He left it the next year to study art with Isidore Pils (1813 or 1815-1875) at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he met Louis Monziès (1849-1930), who would later encourage him to pursue etching. Buhot took lessons in draftsmanship from Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1802-1897) in 1867 and studied with the marine painter Jules Noël (1815-1881) in 1868. He worked in 1869 creating lithographs, including covers for musical scores. With the encouragement of Monziès, Buhot took up etching and completed his first etched work in 1873 or 1874. His skills developed rapidly and in 1874 his first published etching appeared in the magazine Paris à l’eau-forte. Buhot published twenty-seven works in the journal, mostly landscapes of rural Normandy, before it closed in 1876. Buhot’s career as an illustrator expanded to the journal L’Art in 1875, where he published four etchings and thirty-five drawings. His book illustration career began in 1876 when he illustrated two novels by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly (1808-1889). He also illustrated poems by Victor Hugo (1802-1885) and Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). In late 1874 the art critic and collector Philippe Burty (1830-1890) commissioned Buhot to create etchings of objects in Burty’s extensive collection of Japanese art and artifacts. Buhot created ten etchings, six of which were accepted at the 1875 Salon. The set of etchings was finally published in 1883 as Japonisme – Dix Eaux-Fortes (Japanesque—Ten Etchings, Bourcard/Goodfriend [“B/G”] 11-20). During the late 1870s and for much the following decade, Buhot concentrated on original prints and painting. Many of his best known works depicted Parisian street scenes, such as his etching Une matinee d’hiver au quai de l’Hôtel-Dieu (The Cabstand, 1876, B/G 123), exhibited in the 1877 Salon and 1889 Exposition Universelle, and L’Hiver à Paris ou La Niege à Paris (Winter in Paris or Paris in the Snow, 1879, B/G 128), exhibited in the 1880 Salon. Buhot made three trips to London, creating etchings while in England and sketches that he used later as the basis for prints made in Paris, such as Une Jetée en Angleterre (A Pier in England, 1879, B/G 132) and his depiction of Westminster Palace (B/G 155). Buhot exhibited some sixty works, almost a third of his graphic œuvre, at the Paris Salons from 1875 through 1886, achieving great popularity. Frederick Keppel’s (1845-1912) 1888 exhibition of Buhot’s works in New York City led many American collectors to acquire his prints. Buhot actively supported Félix Bracquemond (1833-1914) and Henri Guérard (1846-1897), founders of the Société des Peintres-Graveurs (Society of Painter-Printmakers), in recruiting artists for the 1889 exhibition by the Société at the Galerie Durand-Ruel, at which he exhibited a large number of his paintings, drawings and prints. One feature of many of Buhot’s prints is his use of “remarques” (comments), small marginal sketches around the borders of the main image, which Buhot called “marges symphoniques” (symphonic margins). L’Hiver à Paris is a good example: Buhot placed five small scenes in the left and lower margins and a narrow decorative band along the right margin. The images in the margins elaborated upon the central image. Another characteristic of his prints is Buhot’s creativity in using a variety of printmaking techniques, including etching, drypoint, a roulette, spit bite, aquatint and burnishing. Buhot also experimented with a variety of papers, and sometimes treated the paper with watercolor, turpentine or even tea before printing to achieve the effects he desired. Buhot’s interest in printmaking waned after the mid 1880s. He continued to write the reviews and essays for Journal des arts he had started in 1884 until 1892. In 1887 he moved to Normandy, and later to Brittany, where he spent much of the rest of his life, traveling to Paris occasionally. By 1890 he suffered from depression; after creating an etching in 1891 and seven transfer lithographs in 1892, Buhot’s artistic output virtually ceased. His health worsened as his depression continued, and he died in Paris in 1898. The art historian Léonce Bénédite (1859-1925), director of the Musée de Luxembourg, organized a major retrospective of Buhot’s works at the Musée in 1902. (TNB 3/2011) Selected bibliography: Fisher, Jay McKean, Colles Baxter and Jean-Luc Dufresne. Félix Buhot, Peintre-Graveur. Prints, Drawings and Paintings. Exhibition catalog. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1983. Weisberg, Gabriel P., Phillip D. Cate, Gerald Needham, Martin Eidelberg and William R. Johnston. Japonisme: Japanese Influence on French Art, 1854–1910. Exhibition catalog. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1975.