Monday, 21 May 2012

Jean Hardy - Boudoir Art

Jean Hardy's Boudoir Art is hard to ignore, he was the most prolific artist, other than Louis Icart and is found everywhere. His etchings regularly come up at auction, both in the UK and in France, his etchings were reproduced in period as postcards and as calender prints. Yet, for someone now considered a "major artist" within this genre, his life is a blank.

Some collectors often neglect Hardy, taking him as a poor imitator of Icart or Felix and not worth any consideration. This is unjustly unfair. Yes, the quality of his work is variable, some are a little too sweet and formulaic whilst other are as good as any thing Icart, Felix or Grellet created. His work must have well received in period simply based to the volume of prints that survive - so it's time to reassess his contribution and hopefully find a few facts about his life and art.

Firstly, lets sort out the signature ?? Generally this is read as J Hardy and attributed to an artist with the name of Jean Hardy. However it is regularly read as and catalogued as T Hardy. Perhaps we have got it all wrong and it's not a Jean.

Off we go --- online art indexes are always a good place to start --- Artfact have several results showing these etchings and attributing them to the French sculptor Jean Hardy (1653-1737) !! Wow he must have been a progressive artist 200 years before the style was popular !! no facts there. Artnet have him as French 1880, is that a birth date ? has his birth as both 1880 and 1900, they do list ham as Jean-Michel Hardy ? a new lead perhaps --- no such luck another dead end

Hardy's etchings come in al shapes and sizes. Circular and hexagonal formats and more unusual.

So we have a vast catalogue of work signed "J Hardy" which is universally accepted as being by Jean (male), who was almost certainly French, possibly born in 1880  and might also be known as Jean-Michel and who has apparently no recorded death ?? That's all clear !! One fact is certain and that he was a commercially successful artist who created a lasting catalogue of pictures, whose popularity has out lasted all memory of the artist himself. What better legacy to leave behind.

Dating these etching can be a bit of guess work, they all have a similar look, as if the artist's style has not evolved to reflect charges in fashion and taste. Perhaps these were all  created in a very short period of hyper creativity ? Although some etchings have copyright and publisher information etched into the plate, they don't always have dates. To assist with dating, looking at the postmarks on the postcard versions can provide a "not after date" and after viewing a fairly large sample of dates I would suggest that the period of creativity was between 1924 and 1928 -- no surprise !!

These two have an Louis Icart look and date c1925

Period postcards dating c1924 to 1928
Published by Edition Lx-Be in Serie No 1963  and Serie No 1964
another series is marked "Italien Gravure"

.... and lastly 

A postcard version of the first etching. We can assume that most of the other postcard images were available as original pencil signed etchings.

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