By Clare Rogan, Davison Art Center Curator
Henri Evenepoel (Belgian, 1872-1899), Au Square (At the Public Gardens), color lithograph from L’Estampe moderne, 1897. Purchase funds, 1959.181.28. (photo: M. Johnston)
With a swirling striped skirt, elegant leg o’mutton sleeves, and a green hat topped with exuberant feathers, the Parisienne turns to leave the scene. Her red parasol shields her from the summer sun as she catches the eye of the artist, Henri Evenepoel. But she can’t leave yet! Her daughter—perhaps two years old, perhaps a little younger—is not ready to leave the park! Grasping her red pail, the child leans in the opposite direction, obstinately unwilling to go home.
This humorous observation of everyday life in Paris is found in Henri Evenepoel’s color lithograph, Au Square (At the Public Gardens), published in November 1897 as part of the series L’Estampe moderne. Evenepoel was a young Belgian artist who came to Paris in 1892 to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, under P.V. Galland, then Gustave Moreau. By 1894, the young artist was exhibiting at the Salon, and he rapidly joined the Parisian avant-garde, closely studying the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard.
The monthly portfolio L’Estampe moderne was part of a boom in original artist’s color prints in the 1890s. Major exhibitions of Japanese art in the 1880s and 1890s had introduced European artists to the flat planes, repeated patterns, and cropping of Japanese color woodblock prints, known as ukiyo-e. By the mid-1890s, the youngest generation of French artists had embraced original color prints. Au Square is printed in red, pink, yellow, green, and ochre from five lithographic stones . The tight cropping, the calligraphic line, the flat color planes, and the pattern of the polka-dotted sunbonnet all evoke the hallmarks of ukiyo-e prints.
Yet this is a thoroughly Parisian scene of an elegant mother with her recalcitrant child. The small girl’s costume humorously echoes the mother’s fashion. In the distant future, the pink ruffled sunbonnet will be swapped for a flirtatious hat, and the child’s red hair will be arranged in artful tendrils like her mother’s. But right now, as of this very moment, all she wants is to play in the park.