It is to their credit that they place their prints in the bigger context. But then one look at their website makes it plain the Musee Departemental may be regional but it has class. I don't detect any of that lurking localism so beloved of British art institutions. What I think you might get are quite a few delicate French landscapes like the one below, with a good deal of subtle Impressionst-style expanses of water. Many of these artists, unlike Jules Chadel (above), also failed to see what John Dickson Batten understand from the very beginning, that the graphic arts were not necessarily reproductive and more than that prints shouldn't look like paintings.
I have tried to include only colour woodcuts here (and I'm not always sure where woodcut leaves off and engraving begins with French prints) and I believe that is what they will be showing at Quimper. Henri Riviere gamely started out on a book of colour woodcuts in 1888 called Thirty-six views of the Eiffel Tower, wittily based on Hokusai's Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, only to find that the cutting and printing of colour woodcuts for an edition of 500 was beyond him. At that point he opted for lithography, probably not as Hokusai as he would have liked.
The print-exponents of the Grosvenor School and their followers in Britain like Leonard Beaumont for some reason believed pattern made them modern. The artists here were alot more subtle than that and overall do achieve a nice balance between pattern and description. The idea of a motif that Riviere picked up from Hokusai and used in a modern way was beyond the basic craft approach taken by many British and American printmakers of the period.
But what surprised me most (and this is something of an admission) as I looked through images for this post, was how much some British printmakers were influenced by the French. Charles Mackie had met Gaugin and les Nabis; others, like Frank Morley Fletcher and Ethel Kirkpatrick, had studied in Paris; Kirkpatrick had even found her way to Brittainy. But it was the effect of Riviere's work on someone like John Platt that I found striking. I don't want to start out on the comparisons game. You can play it endlessly, especially when it comes to Japonisme, but the way British printmakers learned from French art well into the 1920s is facinating all the same - as fascinating as it's unexpected. Amedee Joyau (below) is not a million miles from Allen Seaby's view of the Isle of Wight, for instance. And Platt's Brixham trawlers owe more to this wonderful Joyau (bottom) than they do to Kirkpatrick. (Platt, like Ian Cheyne, also worked in France).
I am ashamed of the lack of accents but have been unable to work out how I can add them using blogger.
The exhibition runs at Quimper from 30th November, 2012, untill 3rd March, 2013, so you do have plenty of advance warning. If you make the effort to visit, bear in mind that Ethel Kirkpatrick would have approved, I am sure. Vive la France!