The Print Project: Research – Looking at the prints of Joseph Raffael and Bonnard

Joseph Raffael

Joseph Raffael

Last week I went to France. I was hoping, among other things,  to meet the artist Joseph Raffael and ask him about his print making efforts. Years ago, Tim Sheesley, the master printer at Corridor Press with whom I will be working, assisted with the production at Tamarind Institute of one of Raffael’s lily prints.


Joseph Raffael

Raffael’s extensive use of color and his ability to achieve complex color combinations in print is what most interested me. In printmaking you have to think reductively, achieving many colors through the use of a few. Each plate that you make is a different color. So, when you make the yellow plate, you have to put yellow not only where there is yellow, but also where there is orange (red and yellow) and green (blue and yellow) and brown (degrees of all three colors). Sadly, but perhaps wisely, Raffael, who is in his eighties,  was unable to see me, as he prefers to use all his time for his painting.

Surrounding Antibes, where Raffael lives, is a region rich in print history. How could it not be, when Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Leger and Bonnard all lived and worked there. As did Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet, Yves Klein and Ben.

While there, I visited the Bonnard Museum in Le Cannet, which opened in 2011. The museum occupies a restored 895 square-foot Belle Epoque villa that organizers saved from demolition. Currently, it has a permanent collection of approximately 150 works, including posters, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and 15 oil paintings, the vast majority of which were completed at Le Bosquet, according to the Financial Times. The museum is run by the municipality, and the majority of its funds came from a €2m fund, long-term loans and donations from the Meyer Foundation and Bonnard’s great-grandniece Isabelle Terrasse. [Julia Halperin]

Bonnard Nu

Pierre Bonnard, “Nu”, lithograph

There I found a very successful lithograph. Like the prints of Raffael, it had both the light and intense color of a Bonnard painting. I noticed that he had enhanced the print with gouache.  This didn’t surprise me as Bonnard was famous for retouching his work. In fact, Picasso once remarked:

“Another thing I hold against Bonnard, is the way he fills up the whole picture surface, to form a continuous field, with a kind of imperceptible quivering, touch by touch, centimeter by centimeter, but with a total absence of contrast. There’s never a juxtaposition of black and white, of square and circle, sharp point and curve. It’s an extremely orchestrated surface developed like an organic whole, but you never once get the big clash of the cymbals which that kind of strong contrast provides.”

What Picasso hated about Bonnard, is, I believe, what the rest of us love about him. There was much here for me to carry away, as I think about how I will approach my own prints.

I am looking at lots of prints now, especially prints by painters, as I research ways that others have used the medium. Is there anyone you would recommend that I look at?

Joseph Raffael is represented by
The Nancy Hoffman Gallery,
520 West 27th Street, New York City, NY 10001 USA

Books of Interest:

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Or order from your local independent books seller. Mine is Battenkill Books. Find the independent bookstore closest to you at




The 3 M-s: Matisse, Maugin and Marquet

On a visit to the Matisse Museum in Nice last week, I picked up Hillary Spurling’s “The Unknown Matisse”.  After Matisse failed the Beaux Art exam for the second time, he entered the Ecole des Art Decoratif to attain a teaching certificate. There he met Henri Mauguin and Albert Marquet, with whom he worked side by side, sharing ideas, critiquing each others work and being generally supportive of one another. I was much less familiar their work than with Matisse‘s and wanted to share it with you here. The parallels to Matisse’s work are apparent.




If you go:

Matisse Museum in Nice, France

Books of Interest:





Or order from your local independent books seller. Mine is Battenkill Books. Find the independent bookstore closest to you at








Famous Artist’s Favorite Paintings: Lucian Freud on Titian’s “Diana and Actaeon” and “Diana and Callisto”

“How is it that these paintings, which are as effortless as Matisse, affect you more than any tragedy? Everything they contain is there for the viewer’s pleasure. It hardly matters what is going on. The water, the dogs, the people, though they are involved with each other, are there to please us. To me, these are simply the most beautiful pictures in the world. Once you’ve seen them you want to see them again and again.” Lucian Freud


Titian, “Diana and Callisto”


Lucian Michael Freud, (8 December 1922 – 20 July 2011) was a British painter. Known chiefly for his thickly impasted portrait and figure paintings, he was widely considered the pre-eminent British artist of his time.His works are noted for their psychological penetration, and for their often discomfiting examination of the relationship between artist and model.

Books of interest:


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Or order from your local independent books seller. Mine is Battenkill Books. Find the independent bookstore closest to you at



Experiencing Matisse

While everyone is reconsidering Matisse (Matisse: Radical Invention, Museum of Modern Art, New York, until October 11th), I thought I would weigh in with my own recollection of Matisse.

When I first visited what we know as the Matisse Chapel (The Rosaire Chapel – Ville de Vence) in the 1980s, it still functioned as a chapel and was open to the public only for certain hours on certain days.  When I arrived there it was closed and I feared that my trip had been in vain. Later, when I told a friend that I was unable to get in, he said – don’t worry I will take you to the service on Sunday. You can get in then.

When I entered the Chapel, whose interior I knew by heart  from the many photos I had seen of it, I was struck by how bleak it looked. The walls with the black and white drawings of Mary and in the back of the room, the Stations of the Cross, had  shiny white tiles that made me think of a public bathroom. Why would Matisse do that? Clearly he had considered every single aspect of the chapel. Why this?

Matisse Chapel

We sat in the pews. The nuns entered and sat in a separate section. Then the Priest came in wearing Matisse’s original robes, the ones he designed using the paper cut outs. The Priest, himself, looked like a Matisse drawing. His head was nearly bald and quite broad at the top.

Priest in Matisse Chasuble

Priest in Matisse Chasuble

Matisse design for Chasuble

To my left were the stained glass windows — blue, yellow and green. Once everyone was seated I noticed a sliver of light on the wall — just a thin set of lines running down the wall. As the service progressed the light spread across the wall until the end of the service when the wall was not only covered with light, but everyone in the congregation was enveloped by the light.  Matisse’s choice was suddenly brilliantly obvious.

The Matisse Chapel

If you go:

The Rosaire Chapel aka the Matisse Chapel

Vence, France

Video of Matisse Making a Cut-out”: