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This beautifully crafted publication mirrors the elegance of the book arts it presents. It tells the story of Lucien Pissarro's innovative Eragny Press, a venture born of Impressionism and influenced by both the Arts and Crafts Movement of England and the Pre-Raphaelites.
Eragny, so important in the history of the private press movement, was created by Lucien, eldest son of Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro, and his wife, Esther, after they settled permanently in England in 1890. An illustrator, woodcut artist, and painter, he had first worked in Paris.
Lucien's range of expression, in his treatment of the word and book as art, is revealed in his own illustrations and books for such writers as Coleridge, Flaubert and Laforgue, and varied illustrations for ballads and poems. The book also includes works of William Morris' Kelmscott Press, Doves Press, and Vale Press, plus portraits and pastoral scenes by Camille that have seldom been reprinted. Excerpts from letters between father and son reveal the pushes and pulls between art schools that are more than a footnote to art history. Camille did not like the whiff of Pre-Raphaelitism detected in the illustrations, for instance. (The Ashmolean Museum is a foremost source for the study of French Impressionism.)
Lucien might well have given up and returned to France but was encouraged to remain by the support of Charles Ricketts, Charles Shannon, Reginald Savage and other leading artists. The press endured through hardships and threatened insolvency but an obstinate belief in the value of their work kept Lucien and Esther going until 1914 when the last Eragny book was published and illness, exhaustion, debt and war combined with many other obstacles closed down one of the earliest and most inventive of the private presses. The remainder of Lucien's long career belongs to the history of British painting.
This book, published to accompany an Ashmolean Museum exhibition in 2011, is a key new source for the study of the book and arts of the period.
"..these essays contribute to an understanding of Eragny Press books as something more than exquisite specimens of privately printed books. They become complex and collaborative products - the locus of many artistic movements, of historical and modern print- and bookmaking traditions, even of French and English cultures.
"...This catalog does surpass other publications on the Eragny Press with its abundant high-quality color illustrations. Color printing being a hallmark of Eragny Press, this catalog reveals the Pissarros' artistry with multiple views of individual titles, including many full-page and double-page spreads. It reproduces frontispieces, initials, illustrations, bindings, and decorative papers as well as additional artifacts from the exhibition, such as family photographs, preparatory sketches, trial prints, and wood blocks.
"...This slim, soft-cover volume seems to mimic an elegantly designed Eragny Press book in typeface and format. recommended for academic and museum libraries, in particular those with collections focusing on the history and arts of the book."
-Publication of Art Libraries Association of North America (ARLIS)
Reviews from the exhibition, all documented in the lush Eragy publication:
"This is delightful... whether you are interested in the technicalities of bookmaking or just enjoy looking at beautiful things."
-Daily Info, Oxford
".... Most of the books are here, open for us to scrutinize how he set about solving the problem of how to marry illustration with text to pleasing effect, and there is much additional material, too - photographs of the family, preparatory drawings and Lucien's sets of engraving tools.Lucien's books ranged widely in theme and time. He produced a selection of the fairy tales of Charles Perrault and even an edition of Milton's 'Areopagitica.' Some of these books are enormously intricate, exhausting labors of love... After the press closed, he went back to painting, somewhat in the Impressionist manner."
'... The exquisite handmade Eragny books are the central focus... These are beautifully printed using wood blocks designed by Lucien and cut by him and his wife with a degree of artistry which owed much to the influence of the English Arts and Crafts movement. These extraordinary illustrations, often printed in color and sometimes with added gold, accompanied the texts of French and English authors, ranging from classic to modern literature. The first book, published in 1895, was the fairytale 'The Queen of Fishes' by Gerard de Nerval, translated into English by Margaret Rust. Others include 'Un Coeur Simple' by Gustave Flaubert (1901) and 'Of Gardens' by Sir Francis Bacon, first published in 1625. To highlight the influence of the English art scene on Lucien's work and his concurrent artistic contribution in England, there are a number of books from several famous contemporary private presses, including William Morris's Kelmscott Press and Charles Ricketts' Vale Press.
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