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Adolphe Martial Potémont

(1828–1883, Paris)

Lettre sur les éléments de la gravure à l’eau-forte. Five etchings on paper, in the original brown dust jacket which is furnished with an etched vignette. Folio (sheet size). 1864. Béraldi 19.

The landscape painter and etcher, Adolphe Potémont, who also used the pseudonym Martial, studied under Léon Cogniet and Félix Brissot de Warville. He etched a large number of views of Paris and published several series of genre scenes portraying life in the capital. The present, richly illustrated introduction to etching was issued in 1864 by the renowned Paris publishing house of Cadart & Luquet. The publication is an extremely interesting document from a cultural history point of view whose appearance must be seen in connection with the revival of etching in France in the 1860s. It is, therefore, no accident that the treatise was published by Alfred Cadart. Two years previously he had taken the initiative in founding the Société des Aquafortistes, the purpose of which was to promote and systematically spread the art of printmaking.

Potémont introduces the viewer to the basic principles of etching in a very entertaining and visually appealing manner. He sketches the etcher’s utensils with light, accurate strokes and illustrates the individual stages of the printing process. The whole takes the form of a handwritten letter, the refined and varied calligraphy of which is of great decorative charm. The technical fine points of etching are explained in astonish­ing detail in the small, delicately printed marginal ideas. The highly original and visually delightful mise en page of the single sheets contributes in its own way to making this condensed and personally formulated treatise into a feast for the eyes. Philippe Burty’s essay La belle épreuve, published in 1874, is bound into the little treatise. The famous critic was regarded at the time as one of the most influential advocates of etching in France. Superb, contrasting and inky impressions with full margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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