Lucien Pissarro

Intoxicated with Love [from the book ‘Poems taken from ‘Livre de Jade’’]


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Lucien Pissarro 1863–1944
Original title
Ivresse d'amour
Wood engraving on paper
Image: 152 × 152 mm
Purchased 1924

Catalogue entry

PISSARRO, Lucien 1863-1944
Ivresse d’Amour from Judith Gautier Poèmes tirés du Livre de Jade 1911
Five block colour wood-engraving 73 x 73 (2 7/8 x 2 7/8) on laid paper approximately 156 x 152 (6 3/16 x 6); published by the Eragny Press in an edition of 12 aside from in the edition of 130 published in Judith Gautier, Poèmes tirés du Livre de Jade, London 1911, reproduced p.7 (colour)
Printed mongram ‘LP’ bottom left; inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘3/12 Lucien Pissarro del[ineavit], sc[ulpsit] & imp[ressit]’ below image
Purchased (Duveen Drawings and Paintings Fund)1924
Bought from the artist January 1924
Long loan to Victoria and Albert Museum, London from 1930s – February 1977 (3852)
Lucien Pissarro, ‘Catalogue de gravures sur bois’, manuscript studiobook, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 1905-29, II, no.288
Wood Engravings, Drawings and Books for the Eragny Press, exhibition catalogue, Leicester Galleries, London, December 1947, p.4
Alan Fern, ‘The Wood Engravings of Lucien Pissarro with Catalogue Raisonné’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Chicago 1960, no.214
Lucien Pissarro, Notes on the Eragny Press, and a Letter to J.B. Manson, ed. Alan Fern, Cambridge 1957, no.5, p.16, reproduced pl.5 (colour)
Geoffrey Perkins, The Gentle Art: A Collection of Books and Wood Engravings by Lucien Pissarro, exhibition catalogue, L’Art Ancien S.A., Zurich 1974, no.43, p.48
Lora Urbanelli, The Wood Engravings of Lucien Pissarro & a Bibliographical List of Eragny Books, Cambridge and Oxford 1994, reproduced [p.64] (colour)
Lora Urbanelli, The Book Art of Lucien Pissarro with a Bibliographical List of the Books of the Eragny Press 1894-1914, Rhode Island and London 1997, reproduced p.48 (colour, as full page with surrounding text and borders)
Marcella D. Genz, A History of the Eragny Press 1894-1914, Delaware and London 2004, pp.134, 225, reproduced (as full page with surrounding text and borders)
The wood-engraved design, Ivresse d’Amour [Intoxicated with Love] is one of seven coloured roundels which appear in the Eragny Press publication, Poèmes tirés du Livre de Jade by Judith Gautier, 1911, a slim volume of poems in French, translated from the original Chinese.[1] The print, which centres on the figure of a woman, illustrates the verses where a beautiful attendant named Sy-Ché dances for her king. Based on studies made of the artist’s daughter, Orovida, the design encapsulates the lines ‘avec une grâce incomparable, des gestes délicats et sans force’ [with an incomparable grace, delicate and gentle gestures],[2] visualised by the curving lines of the position of the woman’s body and the deliberately stylised gesture of the hands. Tate’s version of the print is one of a small set of individual proofs, divorced from the original context. As was often his habit, Pissarro made a separate edition of twelve intended for sale aside from the one hundred and thirty which appeared as part of the book. For a general discussion of the Eragny Press see the ‘Introduction’ and the biographies of Lucien and Esther Pissarro. Another illustration from the Livre de Jade project is Mes Yeux Fixes (see Tate, P07099).
The Eragny Press specialised in the production of complex colour prints that were a significant innovation in the private press revival of this period. Colour wood- engraving is a complicated process necessitating making separate blocks, each of which is individually cut and inked with a different colour, which are then printed one on top of another. Pissarro brought to the medium a scientific understanding of pure colour in painting inherited from his Impressionist father, Camille, and pursued within his own Neo-Impressionist experiments. In particular his interest in the effects of broken colour (the vibrant optical results gained by juxtaposing dabs of contrasting hues) was employed to astonishing effect within his engravings, with the aim being to ‘obtain the maximum of vibrations’ and yet using ‘the smallest possible numbers of colours’.[3] By mottling the surface of hard boxwood blocks, and by layering the inks wet on wet, he obtained a unique and subtle chromatic effect not usually seen in colour wood engraving. The choice of the hues was of critical importance. Handwritten colour notes in the ‘studiobook’ of Eragny wood-engravings kept by Lucien and Esther (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), reveal that Pissarro mixed his colours with extreme care to achieve exactly the right tone and shade for each proof. For the five block colour print, Ivresse d’amour, the pale orange tint appears to be a mixture of ‘a little brown rouge and burnt sienna for red’.[4] In a letter to J.B. Manson dated 27 March 1913, Pissarro explained something of his methods in relation to colour:
The colours are mostly printing ink (letterpress) but I always have to doctor
them to form the suitable scale in relation to the kind of print I wish to obtain. Sometimes the printing inks do not satisfy my requirements; then I have to mix oil paint with a stiffening substance to make it possible to distribute with the rollers ... The inking by hand of the blocks allows one to ink according to the precedent pull – that is, for instance, when you ink the red you see the yellow proof you have already pulled, and according to the more or less strength of it you can modify your inking of the red.’[5]
Black was (with typical Impressionist horror) banished from his palette, preferring instead to print text and image alike in a specially created grey-green or blue.
Another special feature which distinguished the work of the Eragny Press was use of pure gold leaf. Pissarro had already employed gold within his printed work for highlighting initial letters, for example in Gérard de Nerval’s Histoire de la Reine du Matin et de Soliman Ben Daoud, London 1909. In the Livre de Jade, however, he used it to great effect within the illustrations themselves. In his Notes on the Eragny Press he documented the difficulties that this presented in the wood engraving process. The gold had a tendency to stick to either the paper dampened for printing or to the wet ink of the colours. This inevitably led to much expensive spoilage. Pissarro evolved a successful method by which the gold was applied to the paper before any other colours and was stuck down by means of a varnish applied to damp paper from the woodblock. In the case of the Livre de Jade proofs, he printed not only on paper but also on Japanese vellum ‘which, as it could be used dry, enabled me to avoid the tiresome tendency of the gold to stick to the wet paper’.[6]
Like all private press publications from this period, the words and images of the Livre de Jade were conceived as a unity. In addition to the main illustrations the book was decorated throughout with ornamental lettering and botanical motifs engraved by Pissarro and his wife, Esther, who, having undertaken lessons in wood-engraving, frequently helped her husband in the production of the wood blocks for his prints. Each page was structured by thin red lines and the text appeared in the Brook typeface, a lettering of Pissarro’s own design which he printed in a characteristic grey-green ink. The outlines of the illustrations and the floral ornaments utilised the same colours as the words, blending the constituent parts of the object together. Pissarro later described it as ‘One of the books, which gave me particular pleasure to produce’.[7] For a discussion of the relationship between text and image in the Livre de Jade see the entry for P07099.
Nicola Moorby
October 2002

[1] There is a copy in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
[2] Translated by James Whitall as ‘and her movements are rhythmical and full of delicate grace’, see James Whitall, Chinese Lyrics from the Book of Jade translated from the French of Judith Gautier by
James Whitall, London 1919, p.22.
[3] Lucien Pissarro, Notes on the Eragny Press, and a Letter to J.B. Manson, ed. Alan Fern, Cambridge 1957, pp.11-12, text previously unpublished but dating from circa ?1920.
[4] Lucien Pissarro, ‘Catalogue de gravures sur bois’, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 1905-29, no.288.
[5] Pissarro 1957, pp.11-12.
[6] Ibid., p.7.
[7] Ibid., p.7.

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