The critic, collector and bibliophile Roger Marx (1859–1913) was the leading champion of modern printmaking in the fin de siècle.
The forewords he wrote for important print albums, like L’Estampe originale and Les Maitres de l’affiche, were a hallmark of quality, and are required reading to this day for any admirer of prints.
The original print as art
Marx set out his ideas about art in the foreword to L’Estampe originale. Rather than defending a particular school, style, or technique, he expressed his firm belief in the individual genius of the artist.
A print can be deemed an artistic success, he thought, if it is able to convey the artist’s original thoughts and emotions.
Marx’s ideas were wholly in line with those of Philippe Burty, the previous doyen of printmaking, whom Marx effectively succeeded after his death.
Champion of the poster
Although Marx championed the print in all its forms, he was an especially fervent advocate of the artistic value of the illustrated poster, which he described as ‘the new print — modern, decorative, and above all original’.
His sole criterion, once again, was artistic quality, which he found primarily in the work of artists like Jules Chéret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
He believed that their colourful posters decorated the public space and helped refine the taste of the public at large.
Roger Marx, ‘Preface’, L’Estampe originale. Première année, Paris 1893
Roger Marx, ‘Preface’, Les Maîtres de l’affiche [contenant les reproductions des plus belles affiches illustrees des grands artistes, français et étrangèrs], volume I-V, Paris 1896–1900
Cathérine Meneux et al., Roger Marx, un critique aux côtés de Gallé, Monet, Rodin, Gauguin..., Nancy 2006