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May 25, 2019August 4, 2019

Fantaisie Franҫaise: Prints from the Vanderryn Collection

Creative energy burst forth from printmakers’ studios in France during the second half of the nineteenth century, as artists explored a range of stylistic impulses while pushing their chosen medium in new directions. Fantaisie Française: Prints from the Vanderryn Collection presents work by artists such as Rodolphe Bresdin, Félix Hilaire Buhot, Odilon Redon, and Félix Edouard Vallotton, each of whom expanded the possibilities of the original print. Using the myriad printmaking tools at their disposal (occasionally combined in unconventional ways), these artists expanded the print’s visual potential, making exciting new works that illuminated the spirit of many of the period’s numerous art movements. While demonstrating new approaches to printmaking in this period, the works on view also observe exchanges between visual artists and literary figures and present dynamic artistic reflections on a changing modern age. Whether focused on new modes of urban life or constructing nostalgic views of the countryside, these artists approached their intaglio, relief, and planographic work with both technical acumen and imaginative zeal, creating multiples that allowed participation in a robust market for prints at home and abroad.

For some of these artists, recognition in the art world came slowly, their appeal limited to the so-called amateur d’estampes, those persons who devoted their leisure time to the pursuit of activities directed toward cultivating culture and taste. To become an amateur d’estampes required close, careful, and repeated looking at prints of all kinds; only then would the page appear, in the words of critic and print enthusiast Roger Marx, “to be the artist’s inspiration itself, a spontaneous outpouring of living, breathing inspiration, inspiration which gloriously extracts from nothingness the image of life, the reflection of thought.”

In 2018, Jack and Margrit Vanderryn began donating their extensive collection of graphic works to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with their first significant gift focused on prints made in nineteenth-century France. Their gift forms the basis for this exhibition and its accompanying publication.

Image: Félix Hilaire Buhot, “La Dame aux Cygnes (Woman with Swans)” (detail), 1879. Etching, drypoint, aquatint, roulette, and stop-out, 5 3/16 x 7 1/16 in. (13.1 x 18 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Jack and Margrit Vanderryn, 2018.63.14