Henri-Charles Guérard, a Conceptualist from the ’80s—the 1880s, That Is

THE DAILY PIC: The New York Public Library surveys Guérard, a mind-twisting etcher well ahead of his time.

THE DAILY PIC (#1683): The text on this darkling etching by Henri-Charles Guérard, from the late 1880s, translates as follows: “The relatives and friends of Mister HENRY GUERARD, painter, etcher and master printer, who died in his home in Paris at the age of       , invite you to attend his funeral procession, service and burial, to be held this very day at noon.” The print is part of a fascinating Guérard show now at the New York Public Library, where he comes off as one of the most intriguing unknowns in 19th-century art.

For instance, in today’s Daily Pic, the blank where his age ought to be reveals that the etching was made well before he had any notion of dying, and certainly not on the “very day” of the invitation – which is, anyway, far too big to have been sent out. (Guérard actually died in 1897, age 51.) Those temporal and biographical twists bring Guérard’s print closer to the radical imaginings of 1960s conceptualism that to what we expect of a fine craftsman of the 1880s. Other prints in the show – a skull besieged by origami beasts; a European slipper assaulted by bug-sized samurai – are equally weird, and equally worth pondering. It seems as though the exotic appeal of Japanese culture led Guérard to a wider embrace of the strange.

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.


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