The Soulages Museum in Rodez together with the National Library of France will pay a vibrant homage to the great printmaker Aldo Crommelynck (1931-2008), from 14 November to 8 March. The Rodez exhibition explores the story of his studio, which made Paris the world capital of printmaking. It will show some 100 works that resulted from Crommelynck’s collaboration with artists in Paris and New York, offering a rare chance to see signed prints by Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Jim Dine and Jasper Johns.
The Rodez exhibition will include more loans than this year’s exhibition at the National Library of France, in particular a number of Picasso prints that were not shown in Paris.
Apprenticed to the master printmaker Roger Lacourière, Aldo Crommelynck opened his own studio in Montparnasse in 1956. In 1963 he and his brother Piero set up a printing press in Mougins, near Picasso’s house. The brothers’ availability inspired a frenzy of creativity in Picasso, producing some 750 prints, in particular the series of 347 etchings in 1968 and another series of 156 between 1970 and 1972. In 1969 the Crommelynck brothers’ Paris studio moved into a mansion on the rue de Grenelle.
In 1973, Richard Hamilton – drawn by the fame of Picasso’s printer – came to work there and became friends with Aldo. After that the studio began to be used by foreign artists, mostly English and Americans, such as Jasper Johns, Jim Dine, David Hockney, Peter Blake and Donald Sultan, then by other, younger artists such as George Condo and David Salle.
The Italian Trans-avantgarde artist Francesco Clemente, the German A. R. Penck and the Swiss Martin Disler also came to work there. The printer was highly rated by all these artists, who used his expertise to realise their creative ideas, particularly his talent for acquatints and the discipline with which he helped them experiment with intaglio printing.
In 1986, after breaking away professionally from his brother, Aldo Crommelynck opened a second studio in New York. Until the end of his career in 1999 he divided his time between France and the United States, where he worked with artists such as Ed Ruscha, Chuck Close, Dan Flavin and Claes Oldenburg.
In 2010 his daughter Corinne Buchet-Crommelynck donated to the Department of Prints and Photography at the National Library of France more than 200 engravings by great contemporary artists printed by her father.
The exhibition centres on the figure of Picasso as printmaker, including many of his most important engravings that resulted from his work with Aldo Crommelynck, such as the famous Ecce Homo, after Rembrandt.
Many artists who later worked with Crommelynck paid artistic homage to Picasso : Artist and Model by David Hockney; Picasso’s Meninas, Richard Hamilton’s virtuoso and ironic print revisiting of Picasso’s work after Velásquez, achieved using more than six intaglio processes.
The exhibition also highlights the printer’s American collaborations, offering a vital, if more confidential, side of the work of important American artists. Among the exhibits is the series of 7 Sunliners by Edward Ruscha, prints by Jasper Johns that were used in the sumptuous book Foirades/Fizzles, based on texts by Samuel Beckett, a very subtle self-portrait by Chuck Close, as well as an acquatint and a new dry-point print by Dan Flavin. For Janette Affectionately consists of a few fine lines on a background of fluorescent yellow which brings to mind the artist’s neon sculptures.
The works in the show were engraved in Aldo Crommelynck’s Paris and New York studios between 1982 and 1999 by 26 artists, mostly Americans or those who worked in America. Aldo Crommelynck asked each of them to sign the proofs for the National Library of France, even though the law on legal desposit did not apply to works created abroad.
The Soulages Museum presents a group of prints and engravings by Pierre Soulages in a handsome glass cabinet, which displays sheets, engravings, lithographs and silk-screen prints according to their technical invention. There are also copper plates used for etchings. In this way the exhibition From Picasso to Jasper Johns, while focusing on Aldo Crommelynck, also highlights the craft of the printer and engraver, which finds an echo in the permanent collection. An intaglio printing workshop will be set up in the museum so that visitors can learn more about the American and English painters.