Marcellin Desboutin, Portrait of a draftsman
Marlène Pegliasco

#DRAWING he is one of those artists who participated in the renewal of the print during the last third of the 19th century. He also frequented many personalities and was closely involved in the impressionist movement. Yet, Marcellin Desboutin is still little known to the general public today

It is to repair this error that the anne-de-Beaujeau Museum in Moulins in the Allier region is organizing a vast retrospective on this talented painter, engraver and draughtsman. Born in theAllier in 1823, Marcellin Desboutin shows provisions for the visual arts and literature. He attends the workshop of Thomas Couture then wrote many song lyrics and for the theatre

Passionate about the Italian art of 15th centuryhe and his wife moved to a Florentine villa in 1854and for nearly twenty years, he received many personalities while devoting himself to drawing, painting, engraving or writing poems and plays. Its production now includes more than 2000 paintings and the IHA library holds 172 prints and many letters. Back in Paris, he participated in the cultural and artistic life of that period and frequented great personalities such as Emile Zola, Paul Verlaine, Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet…and Edgar Degas who will take him as a model for his painting absinthe.

We know of him some drawings executed in pencil, including this delicate self-portrait with a pipe. The shapes are delimited by fine lines and the shape is rendered by light lines whose mine barely touches the paper. But he excelled mainly in engraving and drypoint technique. The art critic Albert de la Fizelière said of him « Mr. Desboutin plays this instrument so dangerous and so dry, in inexperienced hands, with grace and charming delicacy. Handled with art, the dry point produces effects of vigour and finesse of execution that etching would hardly give. It is the tool for raw imaginations and sudden inspirations. Mr. Desboutin handles it with remarkable precision. The various furrows left by the tip allow us to nuance the blacks, from the deepest to the most subtle, as in this work “Baby’s Rest” where light and dark variations stagger the composition

Drawing directly on bare copper, a poorly malleable substrate, requires technical safety and it is with all its mastery that Marcellin Desboutin skillfully plays on the velvety rendering of faces, the softness of skin tones and spatial depths Clément-Janina writer and engraving specialist, described the Bourbonnais artist as “realistic”, who only worked according to a model and knew how to render each particularity

Engraver awarded at the Salon des artistes vivants in 1880he excelled in so-called reproduction engraving. Until the end of the years 1880This engraving, consisting in reproducing the paintings of the old masters, was truly promoted by the institutions Marcellin Desboutin made a whole series on the painter’s paintings Jean-François Fragonard stored at Fatwhich he was able to discover during his installation at Nice (city where he died in 1902). The “Fragonard de Grasse” result from a financial stake in order to produce copies to sell them but above all show how Desboutin translated rock art into engraving. The vaporous effects, the rural delicacy and the extreme accuracy testify to the visual acuity of Desboutin to grasp the full naturalness of a subject.

Artist of his time and accomplished engraver, Marcellin Desboutin deserved this beautiful retrospective that was dedicated to him until September 15th his native land.