Johan Barthold Jongkind

Johan Barthold Jongkind, Soleil Couchant, Port d'Anvers, 1868, etching

Soleil Couchant , Port d'Anvers

[Sunset, Port of Antwerp]

Delteil 15.1

etching, 1868, the extremely rare first state (of four), a superb and atmospheric trial impression, before all letters, on medium-weight cream laid paper, with the Hudelist watermark, with good (although irregular) margins, remains of old tape on the far sheet edges, verso, with slight resultant staining, otherwise in quite excellent condition

P. 160x240mm., S. 298x322mm.

Provenance: a private Parisian collection

Johan Barthold Jongkind, Soleil Couchant, Port d'Anvers, 1868, etching

The present first-state impression is exceptional for several reasons, here printed quite refinedly in comparison with the regular Cadart first edition (cf. the MAH impression*, right), which is rather more thickly and indiscriminately inked (i.e., saucé as the French say), and it is in exceptional condition, with good margins, never having been framed or exposed to light.

This etching is also generally considered to be Johan Barthold Jongkind's masterpiece. 

Delteil in his introduction to the catalogue raisonné** proffers an alert description:

"... en 1868, Soleil couchant, Port d'Anvers, son chef-d'œuvre, sans contredit : on ne saurait rendre avec plus de simplicité et d'esprit à la fois, les vibrations de la lumière, la sensation de l'air, la limpidité de l'eau, la réverbération..."

[ 1868, Sunset, Port of Antwerp, his masterpiece, without a doubt: one could not render with greater simplicity and spirit at the same time, the vibrations of light, the sensation of air, the clarity of the water, the reverberation..."]

It is worthwhile here to examine several successive states.  Comparison may be fruitfully made with an interesting impression of Delteil's third state, the letters rigorously burnished out and the number 14, (in the upper right corner), finely scratched over, on tissue-thin laid Japon paper (with a prestigious provenance from the Beurdeley collection), which was recently sold in the UK***, and which we have also been able to examine first-hand (below, right). 

Johan Barthold Jongkind, Soleil Couchant, Port d'Anvers, etching 1868

Delteil identifies late faux avant-lettre impressions, which are to be distinguished from true first-state impressions.

Here, it is evident that the burnishing of the letters along the full lower borderline also removed several millimeters of the original composition, which is an easy observation.

Another obvious criterion is the paper type.  We know that Jongkind's printer, Auguste Delâtre, regularly had recourse to fine  hand-made paper with the Hudelist and Hallines watermarks in the 1860's (which were both made, incidentally, in the same mill on the Aa River in the Pas de Calais). 

There are for example early impressions on Hudelist paper from Jongkind's 1862 Cahiers de Six Eaux-Fortes, before letters, from the Doucet Collection, now held in the INHA collections at the Bibliothèque Nationale:



And the INHA impression of the first state of Soleil couchant is pulled on Hallines:


(Unfortunately, the mediocre quality of the imaging online does not really allow for a full appreciation of their quality.)

In conclusion, given the celebrations organized in 2022 for the 150th anniversary of Claude Monet's renowned picture Impression, Soleil Levant****, it is worthwhile to recall his graciously acknowledged debt to Jongkind, after their first meeting in 1862:

    "Il fut, à partir de ce moment, mon vrai Maître, c'est à lui que je dois l'éducation définitive de mon œil."

    ["He was, from that moment, my true Master, it is to him that I owe the definitive education of my eye."]

We know too that Jongkind often gave Monet fine impressions of his prints with warm dedications, and it would indeed be appropriate here to recognize the probable influence of the present etching as a source of inspiration for Monet's masterpiece.

See the Musée d'art et d'Histoire de Genève website:

  See Löys Delteil, Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré: Millet, Rousseau, Duprés, Jongkind, 1906, Tome I: page 101

***  See the Forum Auctions, London sale, Lot 88, held on 11 March 2021

See the Musée Marmottan exhibition