Femmes au Tub (Women Bathing), second state

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Adolphe Beaufrere (1876-1960), Femmes au Tub (Women Bathing), c. 1902, colored woodcut, signed in pencil lower right, also with the artist’s red monogram stamp lower left. Reference: Morane B-1; Musee des Beaux Arts de Renne 1. On brown Japon paper. Printed in dark brown, orange, tan and light blue. With margins, 12 7/8 x 8 1/2, the sheet 15 1/4 x 10 inches. In generally good condition, soft creases, various soiling and handling folds, as characteristic of a working proof. No edition is known.

A fine impression of this great rarity, Beaufrere’s first woodcut and arguably his greatest work in printmaking.

This impression has much more detailing than the impression shown in Morane and our other impression (see illustation below); although it is not entirely clear how this was done, the most probable hypothesis is that Beaufrere used an additional block for this impression; the added block would allow for the additional detailing. Also, areas of the print are painted in (in both impressions), including the bath water, the top of the woman’s dress at the left, and her blouse over her head. The stripes on the wall may also be painted in, in a light blue shade.

We know of only one other impression of Femmes au Tub appearing on the market in recent history (also available, see entry on this site); the impression in the Musee des Beaux Arts de Rennes is presumably the impression appearing in Morane’s catalog raisonne (it appears to have condition problems, including scattered ink markings and creases, far exceeding those of the present impression). Morane does not call for any proposed edition. One surmises that Beaufrere made this print as a kind of experiment with various woodcut techniques, but although aesthetically it was a great success no edition was made.

Beaufrere was born at Quimperle, in Brittany, and though he traveled widely he re-connected with this area throughout his life. As a teenager he decided that he wanted to become an artist and he traveled to Paris where, shortly after his arrival, he encountered the eminent Gustave Moreau, who took him on as a student. Moreau encouraged him to study old master prints, especially the prints of Rembrandt and Durer, which were available in the Cabinet des Estampes in Paris – this was to be critical in his development. He was also influenced by the stirrings of modernism in Paris at the time, as well as the Japanese woodcut tradition and the French frenzy with Japonisme, of course evident in Femmes au Tub.

Beaufrere began printmaking near the end of his formal training, and Morane indicates that Femmes was made at this time, in 1902; he made a number of other woodcuts, but soon focused more on etching and engraving, as well as painting (curiously, one of his printmaking teachers at that time was the Canadian etcher Donald Shaw MacLaughlan). He began showing his prints, with some success, but after his marriage in 1905 his new wife convinced him to move out of Paris and back to Brittany, a move having a mixed effect on his career – contacts with other artists became fewer, but he did maintain gallery relationships, and the French countryside and it’s inhabitants would provide a continuing source of inspiration.

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Beaufrere – bathers, first state