Art & Design Magazine

With the Grain: the Woodcuts of René Quillivic

By Adventuresintheprinttrade
The sculptor and wood engraver René Quillivic (1879-1969) was born into a humble family in the village of Plouhinec in the department of Finistère in Brittany. He attended the night classes at the École Boulle in Paris, studying sculpture under Marius Jean Antonin Mercié. Although he exhibited at various Paris Salons - des Artistes Français, de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, des Indépendants, d'Automne - the art of René Quillivic remained rooted in his native Brittany. He left his heart-rending mark on its landscape in the form of many war memorials to the fallen of the First World War. Many of these are in the Pays Bigouden, the area of Finistère made famous by Pêr-Jakez Helias in his marvellous book The Horse of Pride.
With the grain: the woodcuts of René QuillivicRené Quillivic, Marine bretonneWoodcut, 1922
Besides his sculptures, René Quillivic was noted for his woodcuts. He exhibited his prints in both Paris and London, and was a member of the Société de la Gravure sur Bois Originale. As a sculptor, Quillivic preferred the robustness of the woodcut (cut on the plank of the wood, with the grain) to the delicacy of the wood engraving (cut on the end grain).
With the grain: the woodcuts of René QuillivicRené Quillivic, La vagueWoodcut, 1929
No Breton artist can escape the sea, and René Quillivic is no exception. All three of my Quillivic woodcuts are marine subjects. They show a certain Art Deco elegance, and also the lingering influence of Japonisme, especially in the beautifully rhythmical depiction of a tumultuous sea in La vague (The wave).
With the grain: the woodcuts of René QuillivicRené Quillivic, Oceano NoxWoodcut, 1929
Perhaps the most remarkable of the three is the one entitled Oceano Nox, after a poem by Victor Hugo. Is the fisherman in the image drowning, or simply entering a new life in the undersea world? In his essay "René Quillivic, graveur Breton" in the revue Byblis in 1929, Charles Chassé links this print to a second poem by Tristan Corbière, who writes of the death of sailors that
                              ... ils sont mort dans leur bottesLeur boujaron au coeur, tout vifs dans leur capotes.They die with their boots on, their ration of rum in their hearts, 
all alive in their sou'westers.

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