Théodore Roussel (1847-1926)
Roussel Medium, 1922
Théodore Roussel was a pioneer in colour printmaking and experimented tirelessly. His final research and efforts lead him to devise a new way of printing called the Roussel Medium. It is a method far removed from mainstream printmaking and is quite difficult to replicate - Agnes Mackay, who assisted the artist during this last phase of printmaking, has touched upon it.
Only 10 subjects are known using this technique, which entailed a new process of printing in water as opposed to oils and entirely by hand as opposed to the mechanical printing of a plate. It consisted of a water-based ‘ink’ made up of rice powder and pigments. This was partially printed from textile plates made from a series of master cuttings in paper and partially applied through paper stencils. Ink drawings referred to by Mackay as ‘Type’ drawings were used as the basis for the paper cuttings and stencils.
Commenting upon this invention in 1926, Frank Rutter said “…and among the results, which [Roussel] has already obtained from it, is a remarkable colour print entitled ‘The Steamer’, a radiant little marine of jewel-like colour, which differs from the early etchings notably by the rich impasto of its surface quality. The pigment, held together by the a medium extracted from rice, lies encrusted onto the paper with a granulated surface, obtained from the grain of the textile, which increases enormously the richness, vibration and vitality of the colour”.
Furthermore, Mackay in an unpublished manuscript records the existence of 12 finished prints of this subject alongside three textile plates and 50 “plates” made up of Japanese paper that were either ‘cut’ or ‘uncut’, which we can akin to stencils. She also refers to three ‘type’ plates (one for the whole composition, one for the detail of pier, and one for the detail of boat), and several trial impressions in colours at various stage of printing.
Our group is made up of:
- Two ink drawings, one of the whole composition inscribed ‘tracing from drawing for the plates’ and another of the steamer only. Both drawings are on a yellow glazed paper. We believe these are two ‘type’ drawings used as the basis for the stencils and paper cuttings. This is supported by the registration grid around both compositions with their vertical lines matching those of the stencils when superposed on each other;
- Thirteen cut and uncut stencils out of which 10 were used to print the boat, two for the sky and one for the pier; and
- A trial proof.
Image Size : 11.8 x 19.6cm (4.7 x 7.7in)
Sheet Size : 22 x 25.5cm (8.7 x 10in)