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Jean-Michel Grobon

(1770–1853, Lyon)

Vue de l’église de Saint-Rambert près l’isle Barbe. Etching. 15.5 x 13.3 cm. 1795. Grafe 1 I (of II).

This delicate and extremely rare etching is Grobon’s first attempt at printmaking. The print in its first state of 1795 has the following inscription etched by the artist in the lower text margin: “Première eau forte de Michel Grobon. 1795. De Lyon”. Very few impressions of this print are likely to have survived, possibly this specimen may even be a unique impression. Following the example of his teacher Boissieu, Grobon found his preferred landscape motifs right outside the gates of his native city of Lyon in the picturesque valley of the Saône and Rhône. The subject depicted, a picturesque corner of the little island of Barbe in the middle of the River Saône, was a popular motif among painters from Lyon in his day. Boissieu, too, made a series of etchings featuring the motifs this island had to offer.

In the present work Grobon’s stylistic idiom reveals the strong influence exerted by his teacher. The artist portrays the picturesque architecture of the Romanesque Church of St. Rambert in a light, brisk and very confident manner. His main artistic focus is on accurately rendering the warm sunlight which illuminates the dilapidated masonry of the chapel and a strip of ground along the path through the fields. Staffage figures enliven the intimate scene; grasses, shrubs and the lush summer foliage of the trees are executed delicately and precisely with a sharp etching needle. All this testifies to a poetic sensitivity to nature, which is one of the hallmarks of Grobon’s etchings. In the second state, which is also available here, Grobon has removed the three staffage figures and used a burin to make numerous revisions of the sky and the vegetation; the inscription has also been altered. A magnificent, delicately treated early impression with occasional needle scratches in the lower margin, with even thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition. The impression of the second state is even and harmonious with margins. From the collection of Etienne Grafe (Lugt 3927).

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