vendredi 10 avril 2015

Octave Uzanne, between Reaction and Modernism (exhibition on Octave Uzanne, Senate House, London).

I am happy to announce that my exhibition on Octave Uzanne will be shown at Senate House, London to accompany the conference Aestheticism and Decadence in the Age of Modernism: 1895 to 1945 (Friday 17 and Saturday 18 April 2015).

Octave Uzanne was a French bibliophile, writer and publisher whose work shows that Aestheticism and Decadence were anchored in the modern age.

Born in 1851, Uzanne abandoned his studies in law when he came into an heritage at the age of 21. He became friends with a group of bibliophiles, who encouraged his interest in eighteenth-century libertine works by neglected writers. As Willa Silverman puts it, "Uzanne's devotion to the France of Louis XIV and Louis XV would also lead him forward, as a proponent of the neo-Rococo aesthetic and decorative arts that at the turn of the century inspired Art Nouveau." This mix of modernism and anachronism was shared by the Goncourt brothers, whom Uzanne particularly admired.

Uzanne was also interested in applying new, industrial techniques to manufacture luxury books. His 1879 book Le Bric-à-brac de l'amour (featured in the exhibition) thus employed the new technique of gillotage, whereby an image is transferred to a zinc plate.

Uzanne did not limit himself to the re-edition of older works. His interest in the modern book led him to create three reviews: Le Livre: bibliographie moderne (1880-9), Le Livre moderne: revue du monde littéraire et des bibliophiles contemporains (1890-1), and L'Art et de l'idée: revue contemporaine du dilettantisme littéraire et de la curiosité (1892-3).

The quality of Uzanne's books was noted in the international press. Reviewing L'Ombrelle, le gant, et le manchon (featured in this exhibition), the London Times declared: "The illustrations - all admirable specimens of miniature drawing, etching, engraving, and tinting - are too good to have full justice done them in words. They should be seen." A review in the New York Times described La Femme à Paris (1894) as “a highly artistic achievement in a typographical sense, and impressively a book of the present time, of this very moment.

For more information on Octave Uzanne, visit the exhibition and read Willa Z. Silverman's excellent book, The New Bibliopolis: French Book Collectors and the Culture of Print, 1880-1914. The website is also a good resource.

The display is of books held in the Foskett Uzanne Collection at Senate House Library, University of London. I am grateful to Dr Karen Attar for her assistance.

Lise Jaillant
Source : consulté le 10 avril 2015.

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