It’s Not Famous, It’s Mine….

On December 27th, this site had a large traffic spike. Page requests were four times higher than they were the day before or the day after. The 27th also happens to be my birthday. Did people visit this site in order to wish me well? Of course not. They were looking for famous people born on their birthday.

I was well on my way to a Hermann-Paul collection when I discovered something of personal interest: The French graphic artist was born exactly one-hundred years before me, on December 27, 1864. We share a birthday and, apparently, a similar taste in art. He died on June 23, 1940 at age 75. I’m hoping for a better run.

The traffic spike that prompted this recollection made me wonder who else was born two days after Christmas. Interestingly, there’s a small cottage industry dedicated to solving this problem. A Google search provided plenty of sites that answer the following question: Who was born on my birthday? I chose Famous Birthdays because — let’s face it — you don’t expend this much effort to learn you share a birthday with Cleetus from rural Louisiana.

So what did Famous Birthdays have to say? It turns outs John Amos, Sydney Greenstreet and Savannah Guthrie were also born on the same day as me.  Imagine that.

Do You Want To See My Pussy?

Do You Want To See My Pussy?

The tireless search for sex on the Internets never ceases to amaze me.

In the Hermann-Paul biography, I mention the Barrison sisters. They were a late 19th Century cabaret act who sang and danced regularly at Les Folies Bergère. In 1900, H-P produced one of his iconic posters which advertised the troupe. The poster is entitled Les Barrison.

So what does this have to do with sex and the Internets?

In the biography, I mention the Sisters’ signature song. It was called, “Do You Want To See My Pussy?” The girls would tease the audience until they finally fulfilled its desire for a peek. As you can see from the photograph, their response was nothing but light-hearted. (The photo is a little small. In case you can’t see it, the girls reveal cats hidden beneath their dresses.)

On a scale from puritan to hardcore, this annecdote ranks with Lilly and Hermann Munster share a single bed. Yet every month we recieve a couple hundred clicks from men who’ve searched for things like “see my pussy pics.” That’s an actual query.

According to Google, our average position for “see my pussy” is 850 – that’s eight and a half pages deep into a search query but these guys are still clicking. Unfortunately, if you’re searching for pussy and you wind up here, you’re going to be disappointed….

The Amateur

The AmateurThe 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.

Bonnard of Le Cannet

It seems like every town in the south of France has its own art patron saint. Nice has Mattise, Antibes has Picasso. You can’t walk a mile in Aix-en-Provence without stumbling over a sign or sculpture dedicated to Cézanne. And now, another famous French painter, Pierre Bonnard, has found a home for posterity in the French Riviera, this time in Le Cannet. ArtInfo

Pierre Bonnard met Hermann-Paul in the 1890s when the pair were making lithograph posters in the circle of Toulouse-Lautrec. By their mid-twenties, they were part of a post-impressionist group of artists known as Les Nabis. By 1910, they started to chart a different course. Hermann-Paul began working with wood cuts and biding his time in the Carmague. His friend Bonnard left Paris for the south of France and the city that would later dedicate a museum to his work.

Musée Bonnard just opened in Le Cannet, a tiny hillside town overlooking Cannes where the artist produced some of his finest work. It is the first museum in the world dedicated to the artist. Bonnard’s star has risen of late. He was generally well-known among artists and aficionados but mostly unknown to the wider public. A major exhibition last year at the Metropolitan helped raise his profile. Musée Bonnard lifts it further.

[FT: Luminous Legacy]


Collect What You Like And You Won’t Be Disappointed

Several years ago I bought two etchings attributed to Hermann-Paul. They dated from the 1920s and differed dramatically from most of his work. Similar etchings with a “Paul Hermann” signature appear in museums and galleries with an attribution to René Georges Hermann-Paul (1864-1940). Since the style was so very different, I figured the artist wanted to compartmentalize them under an alias. It turns out, the artist did use an alias. It was Henri Héran.

That was the alias for Paul Herrmann, a German Symbolist artist who was born in Munich then emigrated to Paris. Herrmann changed his name to Henri Héran against the backdrop of international tensions. Like Hermann-Paul, his life years spanned from 1864 to 1940. It’s easy to see the source of confusion.

Over time, I’ve met some dealers who attributed these works to Hermann-Paul and others who were skeptical. The skeptics were right. But what about me and my Paul Herrmans?

The first rule of collecting is buy what you like and you won’t be disappointed. I like both pieces and my opinion of their aesthetic value remains unchanged. But what about their financial value? Funny thing. The dealers probably priced them based on auction records of Hermann-Paul’s lithographs. Most of this work is based on his magazine sketches and doesn’t command the prices of his fine arts. They sell for a few hundred dollars. Paul Herrmann’s etchings, on the other, fetch over five times what I paid for them.

Works by Paul Herrmann that were attributed to Hermann-Paul:
The Chess Players The Serenade Two Nymphs


Calendrier de la Guerra

My Hermann-Paul collection began with three pieces from Calendrier de la Guerre. Each page depicts a significate event for each of the first twelve months of the Great War. I found them in a used book store in Portland, Maine. The dealer had six different months and I bought three for $60.00 a piece.

That was in 2003. For the next eight years I tried to get the rest of the series. The pieces I owned were visually interesting and I was anxious to complete the set. Visitors to our home nearly always mentioned them when they were in the living room. They appeal to a wide variety of people but I suspect they bombed back in Hermann-Paul’s day. Who wants a war calendar while a war is raging? Imagine displaying art that depicted Bush’s war back in 2003. As a result, the series is very scarce.

In late 2010, I finally got to see the entire set. The National World War I Museum, Kansas City, MO. Has the entire series on display. I emailed Doran Cart, the curator who maintains the digital archive for the museum. He was willing to send me digital copies of the entire collection. When I have a good understanding of the work and its context, I’ll put them up on this site.

Because the calendars likely bombed as a commercial endeavor, the series is very rare. Apart from the collection at the Great War museum, I’m aware of three other copies, two of which were owned by a dealer with whom I frequently do business. For years he’s been reluctant to part with them but in March he finally agreed to sell me a set. When I called to give him my credit card information, he raved about the set, its condition and its appeal. I was thinking, “Man, he’s not going to sell me these prints….” Fortuately, he took my information and this collection is complete. My copy of Calendrier de la Guerre was previously owned by this guy: Gustave Hervé. I’ll try to maintain them for the next generation.

Joffre September 1915 Permissionnaires July 1915 Nivelle April 1915



Oh, Dinner Plates

A few months ago, I recieved an email about plates by Hermann-Paul. Since H-P was a graphic artist, I assumed the writer had lithographic plates. They are made of either metal or stone. While writer asked for more information, it was clear she cared about pricing. If she hoped her plates were valuable, then she was likely to be disappointed. Litho plates are very rare but they don’t hold much value. Afterall, who mounts one on their wall? They can be desired by printers who make reproductions from “lifetime” plates. Since Hermann-Paul doesn’t have strong repro market, these plates didn’t have much value. I was curious so I asked her to send me some pictures.

The photograph on the left came as a shock. “Oh, you mean dinner plates.” Stylistically, there was little doubt. The plate contained a drawing by Hermann-Paul which was consistent with his late 19th century work. My first impression was “meh.” The long rectangular building looked out of place on a round dinner plate. It was black and white and kind of drab. Still, I’m not a ceramics guy so what did I know? A mark on the back provided a clue, “Geo. Rourard Paris.”

I discovered that Rouard took over the gallery A la Paix shortly after the Great War. That meant this was very likely a late 19th century drawing placed on a post-war plate. I’m not familiar with late 19th Century copyright law but it opened the possibility that the work was done without the artist’s consent. Rourard may have placed a public domain drawing on a post-war plate. Still, I didn’t want to mislead this person. I forwared the images to a dealer familiar with Hermann-Paul’s work.

It turns out they are more common than I thought. These plates turn up on eBay from time to time. They were probably intended for the tourist market – the plates shown here were from the UK. It’s not clear if Hermann-Paul collaborated from with Rourard but it seems unlikely. By the post-war period, his attention was focused on fine arts. At any rate, they’re not worth much since Hermann-Paul collectors want paper and ceramics collectors aren’t very interested.