Art & Design Magazine

What's in a Name? The Disappearance of Gaston Nick

By Adventuresintheprinttrade
The painter, etcher, and wood engraver Gaston Nick was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, around 1885. He went to Paris to study art, but his career does not appear to have taken off until the 1920s, when he emerges as an important book artist, illustrating works by writers such as Verlaine, Maupassant, and Mérimée with original etchings. Prosper Mérimée was Gaston Nick’s great-uncle. Among the most important of these books are Nick’s editions of the semi-autobiographical novel Jours de famine et de détresse by the Dutch/Belgian author Néel Doff (the source of my first batch of images), of Mérimée's Colomba, and of 5 Contes de Guy de Maupassant (the source of second batch). All three of these works appeared in 1927-1928, the high-water mark of Gaston Nick's artistic career.
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, The FamilyEtching, 1927
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Mother and childrenEtching, 1927
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Child with a kiteEtching, 1927
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Children at a shop windowEtching, 1927
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, CanalsideEtching, 1927
Gaston Nick’s career appears to come to an end with an edition of Henriot’s Le Diable à l’hotel in 1944; the following year, his career was surveyed by Pierre Mornand in Trente Artistes du Livre. It would be easy to assume that Gaston Nick perished during the war; but in fact he simply changed his name. In 1946 he published an edition of George Sand’s La Petite Fadette, illustrated with color etchings, under the name G. Nick Petrelli. He used the same name for a solo exhibition at Pelletan Helleu in 1947, and an exhibition at Villefranche-de-Rouergue in 1953, consisting of paintings and etchings of the village of Najac in Aveyron. The reason for this change of name is obscure, but as it is not immediately obvious that Gaston Nick and Nick Petrelli are in fact the same person, the result is that Nick seems to disappear abruptly from the record, and Petrelli to arrive from nowhere. As with Denis Volx, this switchback of nomenclature has understandably confused his posthumous reputation. I do not know when Gaston Nick died, but I assume sometime in the 1950s.
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Le jour de marchéEtching, 1928
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Les dîneurs attablésEtching, 1928
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Les passagersEtching, 1928
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Les petitsEtching, 1928
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Au Rendez-vous des AmisEtching, 1928
My third batch of images shows a selection of Gaston Nick's wood engravings from the 1930s, executed for various titles in the series Le livre de demain. These are competently executed, but to my mind they lack the charm of his etchings of the 1920s.
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Frontispiece for Les Poux de Lion by Pierre DominiqueWood engraving, 1936
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Chapterhead for Les Poux de LionWood engraving, 1936
Gaston Nick, Chapterhead for Les Poux de LionWood engraving, 1936
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Frontispiece for Egalité by Princesse BibescoWood engraving, 1937
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Chapterhead for EgalitéWood engraving, 1937
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Frontispiece for L'ame obscure by Daniel-RopsWood engraving, 1938
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickGaston Nick, Chapterhead for L'ame obscureWood engraving, 1938
Looking at Nick's etchings while writing this post, the deliberate semi-naivety of the round-faced characters kept reminding me of a work by someone else, but I couldn't remember who. Now I have found the work I was thinking of, and I do think it bears quite  remarkable stylistic resemblance. It is an 1864 etching by Armand Queyroy. 
What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston NickArmand Queyroy, Le chemin de l'écoleEtching, 1864
Mathurin Louis Armand Queyroy was born in Vendôme (Loir-et-Cher) in 1830. Queyroy studied painting under Luminais, and etching under Maxime Lalanne. Armand Queyroy was, like Lalanne, a founder member of the Société des Aquafortistes, who published a number of his etchings. He contributed etchings to the journals L'Illustration Nouvelle, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, and L'Artiste. He lived in Moulins in the Auvergne, and in the 1860s published several albums of etchings of subjects in the Auvergne, including an album of 21 plates, printed by Delâtre, of Le vieux Moulins. His similar album Le vieux Blois of 1864 earned him a letter of praise from Victor Hugo, and Queyroy was quick to reissue it with a facsimile of Hugo's letter. Armand Queyroy's etchings appeared between 1862 and 1886. He died in  1893.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Magazines