Eau-forte Xb

Pierre Soulages

Soulages’ natural etching style had been to scrape away the varnished surface to expose the copper plate, in gestures that moved back towards him, rather than to incise by way of a pushing motion. When a design had begun to take shape, the copper plate would be bathed in acid and the acid would bite where the copper had been exposed, deepening the gestures. Soulages would let prolonged acid exposure become part of the creative process, achieving random effects which the artist found pleasing and would work with and around. The deeper the cavities in the plate, the greater would be the eventual ink load on the paper. Roger Lacourière cautioned Soulages against going too far, “as long as there is copper Pierre, there is hope.

The inevitable happened though. The artist went too far and the acid ate through the copper plate in places. Lacourière shook his head, laughed and told Soulages that, as far as that particular plate was concerned, “it’s over.” “I”, recalled Soulages, “a little out of spite and a little out of curiosity, I printed the plate with the hole I had made and then realised a great thing that I could not have foreseen. When the paper is pressed on a copper plate, under the press, which is a kind of rolling mill, the flesh of the paper is no longer the same, it has become smooth, burnished by the copper. Where the copper has been holed, the paper is spared, it keeps its paper life and I found it beautiful. The hole I made left white paper, but it was not the same white…because of the contrasts with the surrounding colours it seemed even whiter.”

Soulages extended this practice by removing parts of the copper plate so that it no longer had a rectangular border, “Why should a rectangular sheet of paper still be printed with a rectangle?” For some prints the artist would use more than his own bodyweight in acid to achieve the depth of ink saturation he strived for, in his words “provoking the material, bringing out surprises, unforeseen events, taking risks and seizing chances.”

Eau-forte Xb was the first print of Soulages' to be published by an American publisher, Galerie Juster of New York and demonstrates the beginnings of an international interest in his work. It is a bold composition in the artist's trademark black, and a variant of Eau-forte Xa which was concurrently published in Paris by Berggruen in blue and black.

Artist
Pierre Soulages (b.1919)
Title
Eau-forte Xb
Medium
Etching and aquatint on Arches paper
Date
1957
Size
23 ½ x 17 ¼ in : 59.5 x 43.5 cm
Edition
An artist's proof aside from the numbered edition of 65
Inscriptions
Inscribed by the artist "epreuve d'artiste" in graphite lower left and signed lower right
Printer
Printed by Lacourière, Paris
Publisher
Published by Galerie Juster, New York
Literature
"Soulages l'œuvre imprimé", Pierre Encrevé & Marie-Cécile Miessner, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2003, Cat. 11 (col. illus. pl. 11) and indexed p.185
"Soulages Eaux-fortes, lithographies 1952-1973", Yves Rivière, Arts et Métiers Graphiques, Paris, 1974, no. Xb (b/w illus. p.47) and indexed p.48
Reference
A22-03
Status
No longer available

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