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Henri Gabriel Ibels
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Best known for his designs for posters and illustrations in journals, Henri Gabriel Ibels was also a painter and etcher, creating landscapes and pastels in lively colors. Largely self-taught, he studied at the Académie Julian (with Pierre Bonard (1867-1947), Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) and Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940), among others) and the École des Arts Décoratifs from 1886 to 1887, becoming a member of the Nabis group (named after the Hebrew word for “prophet”) from its inception in 1889. While his art reflects the style of Paul Gauguin (1843-1903) and he associated with the Symbolists, Ibels focused on the lives of the residents of Paris and the bars, theaters and circuses that entertained them. Like his friend Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Ibels caricatured Parisian society with drawings published in a variety of journals starting in 1891, particularly for L’Escarmouche, leading some to describe him as “Le Nabi journaliste.” With Lautrec and the Nabis, he exhibited in the first Symbolist exhibition in 1891, and continued to exhibit with them for the rest of the decade at Le Barc de Boutteville gallery and other locations. Ibels worked in a wide range of media beyond painting and illustrations for journals, including fine prints, newspapers, posters, books, albums of prints, theatrical programs, song sheet covers and designs for stained glass. He designed illustrations for several books, including Emile Zola’s (1840-1902) novel La Terre. In 1892 Ibels began creating lithographs for the covers of song sheets, creating over ninety covers within a few years. Ibels and Lautrec each contributed eleven lithographs to illustrate the album Le Café-concert with text by Georges Montorgueil (1857-1933), published in 1893, with Ibels providing the cover illustration. Ibels, together with Lautrec and 72 other artists, contributed prints to André Marty’s (1857-?) L’estampe originale, a set of ninety-five prints published by Marty in installments from 1893 through 1895; Ibel contributed a color lithograph, Au Cirque (At the Circus) and an etching, Les Paveurs (The Street Pavers, both IFF 9). In 1894 Ibels convinced art dealer Siegfried Bing (1838-1905), the European distributor for Tiffany’s glass works, to commission stained glass panels designed by Ibels, Lautrec, Bonnard, Vuillard and other Parisian artists. The panels were shown at the 1895 Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. In 1898 Ibels founded and provided illustrations for the journal Le Sifflet (The Whistle) to support Captain Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) during the uproar over his false conviction for spying for Germany and to oppose Jean-Louis Forain’s (1852-1931) journal Psst… Ibels was actively involved in the Parisian avant-garde theater, designing programs for the eight plays of 1892-1893 season of André Antoine’s (1858-1943) Théâtre Libre and another for the1894-1895 season, serving as director of costumes at Antoine’s Théâtre de l’Odéon and providing playbills for other houses. From time to time Ibels was a professor of art in various schools, a theater critic, a lecturer and an author of plays. An exhibition of his works was mounted in the gallery La Bodinière in 1894. Ibels continued to publish lithographs and other works until 1930. He was made a member of the Legion of Honor in 1913. (TNB 5/2010) Selected bibliography: Boyer, Patricia Eckert. Artists and the Avant-Garde Theater in Paris 18878-1900, pp. 46-61. (Exhibition catalog.) Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1998. Boyer, Patricia Eckert and Phillip Dennis Cate, L’Estampe originale: Artistic Printmaking in France, 1893-1895. Exhibition catalog. Zwolle, Netherlands: Waanders Publishers; Amsterdan: Van Gogh Museum: 1991. Cate, Phillip Dennis and Patricia Eckert Boyer. The circle of Toulouse-Lautrec; An exhibition of the work of the artist and his close associates. Rutgers: The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 1985. Cate, Phillip Dennis. “From Redon to Rivière: Albums of the 1890s,” in Pat Gilmour, ed., Lasting Impressions: Lithography as Art. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988.