Félix BUHOT: Illustrations for Le Chevalier Destouches by Barbey d’Aurevilly - 1878
Etching and drypoint, each about 175 x 115 mm. Bourcard & Goodfriend 91 to 95 (B/G 91, undescribed intermediary state ; B/G 92, 2nd state of 5 or intermediary state; B/G 93, 3rd state of 5 or intermediary state; B/G 93 (other impression), 4th state of 5 or intermediary state; B/G 94, 4th state of 6 or intermediary state; B/G 95, 3rd state of 5 or intermediary state between 3rd and 4th state).
Complete series of illustrations for Le Chevalier Destouches: very rare proof impressions, some of them of undescribed states, before erasing of the symphonics margins and before the plates were reduced; one illustration is in two different states.
There are no good photographs of the different states in Buhot’s catalogue raisonné written by Gustave Bourcard and James Goodfriend and the descriptions are not always precise enough to determine if impressions of our set exactly match the described states or are impressions of undescribed intermediary states. According to Bourcard, there are only 12 series printed with the symphonic margins, i.e. 12 impressions of each illustration, probably showing many variations between them, as can be seen when comparing our set for instance with the series in the National Gallery of Art de Washington or in the New York Public Library.
B/G 91: Le bruit de deux sabots traînant
[The Sound of two clogs shuffling along]
Superb impression of an undescribed state, probably intermediary between the 2nd and the 3rd state (of 5): with the rain added in the upper margin and various added works in drypoint in the margins but before the roulette work in the margins (for instance in the upper right corner) and before some details added in drypoint, in particular on the dogs in the left and bottom margins. Also before the darkening of main subject and before added lines, for instance on the central figure or on the right houses. Inscribed by Buhot in pencil in the bottom right corner: 1, 2e Etat and signed with his initials FB.
B/G 92: Le soir même, à la tombée, nous vîmes arriver…
That evening, at nightfall, we saw the arrival of...
Superb impression of the 2nd state or of an intermediary state between the 2nd and the 3rd state (of 5): with the new sketches in the margins as described by Bourcard for the 2nd state and with the first frog added in the 3rd state according to Bourcard, but before the other frogs and before many other works in the margins. Before the rework of the main subject and its darkening in drypoint and roulette. Inscribed in pencil 2 Et (for 2nd state) in the left margin.
B/G 93: A cette Lueur soudaine un frisson de Terreur
[In this sudden light, a thrill of terror]
Superb impression, printed with much burr, of the 3rd state or of an intermediary state between the 3rd and the 4th state (of 6): with the fireman’s helmet added above the French guard’s head in the right margin, but before many figures and new works in the margins and the further work added in drypoint and roulette in the main subject. Inscribed in pencil 3e Et (3rd state) in the bottom margin.
B/G 93: A cette Lueur soudaine un frisson de Terreur - 2nd impression
Superb impression of the 4th state or of an intermediary state between the 4th and the 5th state (of 6), later than the impression described above: with many figures added in the margins but before the works added in drypoint and the head sketched in the right margin; before some added lines in drypoint in the main subject, in particular in order to darken the pigs in the bottom right corner and the left figure. Inscribed 2e Et (2nd state) in the bottom margin.
B/G 94: Je fis ce qu’on appelle un bon marché
[I got what is commonly called a bargain]
Superb impression of the 4th state or of an intermediary state between the 3rd and the 4th state (of 6) with the new sketches including the old woman seated in the bottom margin, but before many thin lines added in drypoint in the main subject.
B/G 95: On allume des cierges pour les Morts
[The candles are being lit for the Dead]
Superb impression, printed with much burr, of the 3rd state or of an intermediary state between the 3rd and the 4th state (of 5), with the sketches added in the margins as described by Bourcard and with drypoint added, but before the works added in roulette, especially in the bottom right corner) and the small reworks in the main subject.
Le Chevalier Destouches was first published in 1864. Barbey d'Aurevilly met Jacques Destouches in 1856 in a lunatic asylum in Caen, where the old Chouan died two years later.
As Jean-Luc Dufresne points out, Buhot made the illustrations for L'Ensorcelée and Le Chevalier Destouches “spontaneously, and not because an order was placed”. Buhot met Barbey d'Aurevilly in 1872, and the writer introduced the artist to publisher Alphonse Lemerre. Barbey d'Aurevilly was a great admirer of Buhot's work; in the writer's words, Buhot “dreams with a head that is identical to mine”.
To Buhot, these prints were not just illustrations, but worked as an extension to the text. Regarding the publication of Manet's illustrations for the book Le Fleuve [The River] by Charles Cros in 1874, Buhot would say: “these sketches will gush out naturally from the text, as if from the pen of the writer, but modified by another creative genius.”
On this topic, J.-L. Dufresne mentions that Buhot used to write literary stories in his youth, and he would illustrate these stories with sketches. According to Dufresne, this habit resulted in the creation of symphonic margins: “Félix Buhot had well-developed literary tastes and the taste for writing prompted him to compose literary whimsies as he was still a teenager. He would illustrate these with sketches. In these illustrated literary attempts we can see the origin of the symphonic margin […]. » (Jean-Luc Dufresne, Valérie Sueur-Hermel, Alison McQueen, Félix Buhot, peintre graveur entre Romantisme et Impressionnisme, p. 112).