The piece on the right is listed in the Online Hermann-Paul catalog as The Amateur. I dated it to 1895 based on auction records. Here’s a recent example in which #10 was listed by Swann Galleries.
Eighteen ninety-five is very early for a Hermann-Paul wood cut print. Since it is so early, prints from this cut tend to sell for twice as much as similar items from the 1920s. This is his only known use of the media prior to the First World War. For a man who dedicated much of his post-war work to wood, it seems odd that he dabbled once in 1895 then abandoned the media for another nineteen years.
Prior to the war, Hermann-Paul’s graphic work dominated by etchings and lithographs. When war broke out in Europe, armaments started to consume France’s metal. It was by necessity that Hermann-Paul turned to wood. Once he was exposed to wood, he never turned back. His fine arts and his book illustrations were all conducted in wood. He used water color and oil during this period but often those were preparatory works for wood.
It seems likely that The Amateur was incorrectly dated and the error has been perpetuated by the self-reinforcing nature of the Internets. Swann Galleries even got the name wrong. It’s listed as La Vie de Monsieur Quelconque which was indeed an 1890s series by the artist.
Here’s a little secret: one way to date art is to date items in the motif. In The Amateur, the buyer’s facial hair is configured in an 1890s fashion. One can understand why some date this work to 1895. But other factors undermine that assessment. The use of wood is inconsistent with Hermann-Paul’s 1890s work. The signature is reminiscent of a much later style.
For now I’m going to leave this piece in the 1890s, but I suspect it actually dates to the 1920s. In the meantime, don’t spend more than $1200.00 for the work unless you really love it.
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