63.1 x 48.4 cm. (24 7⁄8 x 191⁄16 in.)
Black chalk, sanguine, and white chalk highlights on chamois paper.
Annotated and signed in ink lower left :
Les Sculpteurs m’aiment parce que j’ai le ventre plat… [Sculptors like me because I have a flat belly]
Alors prends garde !, ça ne durera pas ! [Watch out then ! It won’t last !]
Draughtsman, illustrator, and engraver, Henri-Gabriel Ibels was born in Paris in 1867. His interest and precocious gift for art made it possible for him to enter the famous Julian Academy and caught the attention of the greatest artists of his time, such as Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Pierre Bonnard who gathered around Paul Serusier and united under the new appellation of Nabi. Fascinated by Serusier’s ideas concerning the pure use of color freed from all academic constraints, Ibels instantly joined the movement. Soon every member received a nickname for belonging to the group, so Ibels was called the “Nabi journalist.”
After a few years, the group dissolved and in about 1900, each pursued his own artistic path. Ibels developed his talent for graphic arts by making posters and as a political illustrator. The artist’s social penchant led him to seek inspiration in the streets, shops, bars, and other artistic scenes. Appreciated by journalistic publications, Ibels collaborated with many anarchist weekly papers such as Le Père Meinard and La Revue anarchiste directed by his younger brother, André Ibels.
With his lively alert spirit, the artist conveyed end-of-the-century Parisian life, and especially that of Montmartre which he observed attentively.
As Ibels was a vigorous critic of the bourgeoisie, his drawings were often satirical. Ours displays this aspect of his work. In a studio flooded by light coming in from a high angle, an artist at his easel seems ready to sketch the silhouette of his academic model who, amused and flattered, pulls in her stomach. The exchange between the two characters is communicated through an inscription in ink in the lower left of the sheet. Ibels makes fun of academic and societal constraints, realism and conventions by responding, “Watch out then! It won’t last!”
With a fine energetic line, Ibels demonstrates great skill in the use of sanguine as well as of white chalk in transcribing volume. From this subtle technique arises a certain suppleness bringing softness and intimacy to the scene. The artist stands out from his contemporaries through a frank use of color in his painted works as well as in his drawings: the mastered exploitation of sanguine as the guiding principle brings intended vivaciousness to the female nude. This technique is also used in a second drawing belonging to a private collection presenting a model putting her clothes back on, probably after a posing session.
Highly appreciated by his colleagues, Ibels was selected to draw the poster for the Salon of the Hundred in 1894 (translator’s note: Salon des Cent in French forms a homonym to “Salon décent” or Decent Salon, so obviously a joke). Ibels was a loyal pal of Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) who did his portrait in 1893, and the two artists edited Georges Montorgueil’s Café-Concert album together which was published by André Marty, Director of L’Estampe originale [The Original Print].
Henri-Gabriel Ibels was praised for the sincerity of his scenes of everyday life of the people which he showed by having them published widely in periodicals, a fact which earned him the nickname of “Nabi journalist” which fervent collectors of this movement still extol today.
• France, Private Collection.