Ambroise Vollard (1866–1939) opened his new Paris gallery on Rue Lafitte in 1896 with an ambitious group exhibition of work by contemporary printmakers.
The art dealer wholeheartedly embraced modern printmaking. He installed a press in his shop to enable artists to make prints in situ, as well as intitiated and published countless print series, print albums and artists’ books.
Vollard stressed throughout all these projects that the graphic work had been produced by artists who were first and foremost painters, the so-called peintres-graveurs.
He sought in this way to enhance the exclusivity and prestige of the print, and to attract and retain a new group of collectors.
Vollard's Print Series
Some time around 1896, Vollard commissioned four Nabis artists from his stable to produce several highly ambitious print series. Each comprised ten colour lithographs on a loosely defined theme, such as Edouard Vuillard’s ‘landscapes and interiors’, or various ‘aspects of Paris’ by Pierre Bonnard, all of which are among the finest achievements of late-nineteenth-century printmaking.
The artists spent no fewer than four years working on their series, in which they sought to capture fleeting moments and moods from everyday life in patterns, lines and colours.
Vollard's Print Albums
The importance and success of L’Estampe originale prompted Vollard to begin producing a variety of print albums featuring lithographs, etchings and woodcuts by the peintres-graveurs from 1896 onwards.
He followed André Marty’s example by publishing work not only by members of the latest avant-garde movements, such as the Nabis, but also that by more established painters like Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
It did not concern him that they had little or no experience of lithography, as his head printer Auguste Clot excelled in translating their rapid sketches into fully-fledged prints.
Ambroise Vollard, Recollections of a Picture Dealer, London 1936
Una E. Johnson, Ambroise Vollard, Editeur. Prints, Books, Bronzes, New York 1977
Rebecca A. Rabinow (red.), et al., Cézanne to Picasso. Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde, New York 2006