Signed prints did not become popular until the mid-1890s. Hermann-Paul’s earliest works are usually designated with plate signed-initials. That monogram underwent several variations until he settled on a signature that included his entire last name. From the mid-1890s, he signed most of his work with a signature that closely resembles this one:
As a graphic artist, Hermann-Paul produced serial works. Generally he signed the piece on the plate and the signature was printed with the run. As the demand for personalization increased, Hermann-Paul added a penciled signature in the bottom margin. As a result, his signed pieces often contain two signatures: one in the plate and one in pencil. Still not every work is signed.
A reliable mark of authenticity for unsigned works comes in the form of an auction stamp. In October 2000, many works by the artist were auctioned to the public in Chartres, France. Items from this auction were made available by his heirs. Each one bears a stamp from the auction on the verso. The stamp is pictured on the right.
Paul Hermann’s Signature
The signature on the left is from The Chess Players, an early 20th Century dry point etching attributed to Hermann-Paul. This particular print is owned by the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Its curators attribute the work – and others like it – to Rene Georges Hermann-Paul (1864-1940). Similar attributions were made by other fine arts museums. There is debate among collectors as to whether such works were actually done by Hermann-Paul. Stylistically, they are different from most of his work. The “Paul Hermann” signature appears only on realist dry point etchings. If they were made by Hermann-Paul, then certainly he wished to compartmentalize them.
I own two dry points signed by “Paul Hermann.” Stylistically they match The Chess Players pictured above. Both prints were purchased from reputable IFPDA dealers. Those dealers attributed them to Hermann-Paul and so do I. Both signatures contain nearly identical stroke signatures. The only real difference between the two is the order of “Hermann” and “Paul.” Yet doubts persist. As a result, dry point etchings that bear this signature tend to fetch lower prices than work signed “Hermann-Paul.”
Still it’s possible that those of us who attribute “Paul Hermann” dry points to Hermann-Paul have it wrong. They might be the work of an entirely different artist. Does it matter? A smart collector buys what he likes. So, no. It shouldn’t matter. If you have insight on the matter, we’d love to hear from you.