Jean Fautrier

Dark Landscape

c.1945–c.1960–4, published c.1960–4

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Jean Fautrier 1898–1964
Original title
Paysage sombre
Etching and aquatint on paper
Image: 142 × 177 mm
Purchased 1985

Catalogue entry

Jean Fautrier 1897-1964

P77121 Dark Landscape c.1945 and c.1960-4, pub. c.1960-4

Etching and aquatint 142 x 177 (15 5/8 x 7) on Vergé d'Auvergne Ancien paper 296 x 389 (11 5/8 x 15 3/8); plate size 151 x 184 (5 15/16 x 7 1/4); printed by Jacques David, Paris and published by Michel Couturier, Paris in an edition of 50
Inscribed ‘Fautrier' b.r., ‘48/50' b.l. and ‘Paysage Sombre 1941/17' on back top centre in another hand
Purchased from Berggruen & Cie, Paris (Grant-in-Aid) 1985
Lit: Rainer Michael Mason, Jean Fautrier: Les Estampes, Geneva 1986, p.41 no. 67 repr., as ‘Paysage sombre' (second state); Jeremy Lewison, ‘The Prints of Jean Fautrier', Print Quarterly, vol.3, Sept 1986, pp.259-60, as ‘Paysage Sombre' (first state repr.). Also repr: Edwin Engelberts, Jean Fautrier: Oeuvre gravé Oeuvre sculpté, Geneva 1969, no. 1941/17, as ‘Paysage sombre'; Tate Gallery Report 1984-6, 1986, p.100 (col.)

‘Dark Landscape', printed in pink and grey, was one of eleven etched illustrations accompanying poems by Robert Ganzo published in a book entitled Orénoque in Paris. Mason explains that although the colophon states that it was published in 1942, the actual date of publication was probably 1945. While there is some evidence to suggest that the text was printed in 1942, by Durand in Paris, the etchings by Fautrier may not have been begun until the end of 1944 or the beginning of 1945, a matter which incurred Ganzo's displeasure and was the subject of embarrassment for the publisher Auguste Blaizot. The ‘dépôt légal' was made on 27 November 1945. For these reasons it seems clear that Engelberts was mistaken in stating that 1941 was the date of ‘Paysage sombre'.

P77121 is the second state of ‘Paysage sombre' and was published by Couturier in the 1960s (see entry for P77119). The first state (repr. Mason p.181 in col., upside down) differs principally in the way in which the central band of pink terminates abruptly on the right hand side (when viewed the correct way round) with an extended ‘finger'. In P77121 the ‘finger' is fleshed out so that it appears to be part of the main body of pink. In general the pink form is softened in the Couturier edition.

The first state of the image was used to head an untitled poem in Orénoque (p.19) the text of which is reprinted below:

Orénoque, fleuve qui roule
parfums et clameurs, à travers
des paradis et des enfers,
avec ton nom de femme sole
et tes couleurs de mascarade,
mais pur encore, et loin de vous,
Indes, théâtre pour les fous,
Europe triste, Orient fade!

[Orinoco, river which roams
fragrances and clamour, through
paradises and hells,
with your name like a drunken woman
and your colours of masquerade,
but still pure, and far from you,
the Indies, theatre for fools,
sad Europe, insipid Orient!]

It is likely, in view of the fact that the poems had first been published in 1937 and that the text for the 1942 [1945] edition was printed in 1942, that Fautrier knew the poems for which he would be providing illustrations. However there is no indication regarding who, among publisher, poet and artist, actually decided upon the combinations of poems and images. Nevertheless ‘Dark Landscape' has the luxuriance of the poem above which it is reproduced and the meandering lines are suggestive of ‘a river which roams'. Mason suggests, however, that the images in Orénoque may not have been conceived as etchings but may have their origins in small landscape paintings of 1940 and 1941 (‘Jean Fautrier, Peintre Graveur' in Mason 1986, p.186). Fautrier had already executed but not published a series of lithographic illustrations for Dante's Inferno in 1930 (Mason 1986, pp.27-37 nos.29-62 repr.) which were landscape images in tonal colours with softened outlines typical of his paintings of this period. ‘Dark Landscape' retains some of the qualities of these lithographs although it has a sharper sense of definition.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, p.331

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