Claude Weisbuch… A straightforward journey!

The word engraving is inseparable from the work of Claude Weisbuch

Engraving! it’s the first word that comes to mind when we think of Claude Weisbuch. Indeed, like his mentor Rembrandt , it is a discipline in which he excelled and yet…

Even if some were confusing, his Oils on canvas, lithographs or drawings were strong and inspired works.

A teaching of excellence

Claude Weisbuch was born in 1927 in Thionville to Sigmund Weisbuch, an engineer of Romanian origin and a mother from Lorraine, Alice Weill. He grew up in the oppressive climate of the “between the two wars” where the economic crisis, the rise of dictatorships and fascism announced an uncertain future.

Exiled to Roanne during the occupation, Claude Weisbuch met a French teacher, Georges Hacquard . This man of a vast culture and an incredible passion, will stimulate his young intelligence, by transmitting to him the taste of the culture.

Claude Weisbuch 1960-2010
How many works separate these 2 images? How many hours to engrave, ink and press? It is an extraordinary artistic journey that has led C.W. to tirelessly repeat the same gestures and the same images.

Claude Weisbuch returned to Nancy in 1945, after the Liberation, and enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts. There he will meet great artists like Étienne Cournault , who was happy to give a lot of advice.

He assiduously followed the drawing lessons of the painter Camille Hilaire , and those of André Vahl , professor of engraving, worthy pupil and successor of Victor Prouvé . André Vahl’s workshop is one of the most renowned in France. As such, it provides engraving teachers to most of the major French art schools.

The excellence of the teaching, the encouragement of Camille Hilaire to find his own personal expression and the reputation of André Vahl , will earn him to become, in 1953 at the age of 26, professor of engraving at the Ecole des Fine Arts of Saint Etienne.

The search for an identity.

After the war, two opposing artistic currents appeared in France: abstraction and figurative realism. The latter, also called miserabilism, tends to put the human at the center of artistic concerns. Artists like Francis Gruber,  Bernard Buffet or Alberto Giacometti became its leaders.

The works, produced from the 1950s to 1954, are related to the “miserable” movement. Thus, it will produce a number of Lorraine peasants, marked by the weight of labor or the horror of history.

"The Exodus" Lithograph by Claude Weisbuch
Is his exodus to Roanne a trauma?

His refined and graphic compositions, his angular design, without shadows or depth, give birth to characters of powerful expressionism. Claude Weisbuch’s lithographic pencil here borrows this particular trait, which is found in the works of Bernard Buffet and Alberto Giacometti.

Work on movement is expressed through works such as Les Gens qui courent, Le Vent, le Semeur or le Faucheur.

Engraving "People running"
Engraving “People running” by Claude Weisbuch, créée en 1959.

Regional recognition

The period up to 1960, will allow him to acquire a solid reputation in the great East.

Thus, although he moved away from Nancy after his appointment to Saint-Étienne, he participated in Lorraine exhibitions until 1959. First at the Nancy Museum of Fine Arts, during the major retrospective on engraving in Lorraine from the 16th to  the 20th century  , then at the Librairie des Arts. Among the works exhibited are certain themes that are dear to him such as  Don Quixote  but also the gleaners.

The works from 1955 to 1959 give pride of place to drypoint and gradually reveal the artist’s style. A strong and assertive line, a refined but powerful composition and an incessant search for movement. Thus, we find the purity and smoothness of the drypoint technique through Les Glaneuses or Le Semeur. 

Expressive works like “La Marche” also recall the influence of the work of Francis Bacon .

Oil on canvas "La Marche" by Claude Weisbuch
The ”sky of Lorraine” lithograph is very close to it.

National recognition

Encouraged and recommended by Camille Hilaire, he exhibited in 1958 at the Saint-Placide gallery in Paris. This major gallery welcomes two artists at the same time. The works of Claude Weisbuch are exhibited with those of Isis Kischka , the founder of the “Salon des Peintres Witnesses de notre Temps”.

This very influential artist brought in a number of artists and collectors and Claude Weisbuch’s exhibition was a success. All his works are sold, some of them to artists like Tsugouharu Foujita . Recognition from his peers, amateurs but also critics who are full of praise for his work.

His 1960 exhibition at the Hervé gallery will finish setting the nail and will earn him a dithyrambic article in the daily “Le combat”. (by clicking on the image, you will download the transcription of the text)

"Combat" Article from March 13, 1961
With the addition in his work of characters favorable to the satyr, Weisbuch finally leaves his regional “bosom”.

Painting takes a more important place in her work from the 1960s, but she keeps this particularity of the importance of the stroke and the line. Drawing and engraving are always his traveling companions, and he chooses, from 1966, the illustration of great literary works.

Finally, in 1961, he was awarded the Critics’ Prize.

The time of honors

France, Europe, then the world will very quickly recognize Claude Weisbuch as one of the major artists of his time. And yet, he does not belong to any school, wanting to be himself, free like the lines he will tirelessly draw, far from fashions and styles.

Thus he was even decorated with the Legion of Honor in 1997!

Time for retrospectives.

Relentless, hard-working and curious, Claude Weisbuch has delivered a profuse body of work for 60 years. And then, the time for retrospectives arrived. One of them, “50 years of prints”, imagined by Mr. Lacan of “L’estampe” in 1999, received a warm welcome. And until 2019, she continued to shine this unclassifiable artist.

The retrospective can be difficult to accept for an artist still in full possession of his means. But above all, it represents the only way for the work to survive the artist.

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