La Halte des Bohemiens


Jean-Emile Laboureur (1877-1943) engraving La Halte des Bohemiens, 1938, signed and numbered (73/108) in pencil. References: Godefry, Sylvain Laboureur 539. Third state of three, edition of 108 in this state, about 120 in all states.  Published by the Societe de Peintres – Graveurs, and with their blindstamp lower left. In excellent condition, with full margins (tiny nick bottom margin edge); archival mounting. 12 3/4 x 11, the sheet 19 x 14 3/4 inches.

A fine impression of this tour-de-force of modernist engraving.

La Halte des Bohemiens is one of Laboureur’s larger plates, an ambitious undertaking for the artist who was just over 70 at the time; in fact he fell ill while working on the print, and it is one of his last (and his last major engraving). The subject was inspired by an encampment of Bohemians between Herbignac and Asserac, near Penestin.

Jean-Emile Laboureur traveled to Paris in 1895 intending to study law at the Sorbonne, but found himself drawn to the famed Academie Julian, and although he never officially matriculated there, he became immersed in the Parisian art scene.  Laboureur traveled widely, staying for periods in the US and London, and studying classic art and printmaking in Italy and Germany. Although he had moved back to Paris by 1910, a time when analytical cubism was emerging in the work of Picasso and Braque, he continued working in an abstract, modernist mode, waiting until about 1913 or shortly thereafter to invent a cubist idiom all his own.  His experiments with engraving, started about 1915. Few modern artists use engraving, for although it doesn’t require much equipment, it is far more difficult and time consuming than etching. But engraving became his method, and the clear, clean engraving line seemed to complement Laboureur’s cubism.

In La Halte Laboureur creates a work of extraordinary complexity. Many of the figures are carrying on activities – the woman at the left hovers over a boiling pot on a fire, a boy carries a pail, another walks a monkey; the old man is weaving a tall basket; a young girl carries an infant. An older woman stands in the doorway, and a younger one faces us. Throughout his career Laboureur loved to create beautifully engraved trees and plants, and he populates this grove with a range of wonderful examples.