Text: Michael J. Deas, “Felix Vallotton,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), pp. 104-105 (This material is protected by copyright)


­[page 104:]

A Edgar Poe by Félix Vallotton

Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 48)
A Edgar Poe
[Illustration on page 105]

This simplified adaptation of the “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype is the work of the Symbolist painter and printmaker Félix Vallotton (1865-1925). The likeness (fig. 48), completed in 1894, was apparently derived from Timothy Cole’s wood engraving of the daguerreotype (fig. 46), completed in 1880. The Vallotton print was exhibited in 1895 at the Salon de la Libre Esthetique in Brussels, and a year later at the Salon de l’Arte Nouveau in Paris.(82) It was reproduced in the French periodical Cri de Paris on February 7, 1897, and six years later appeared in the New York Critic.(83) The woodcut was favorably received by Vallotton’s contemporaries, and in 1894 the French author Jules Renard wrote to the artist to express his satisfaction with the image: “I do not know [Poe’s] face, but it is intellectually he, could only be he; you have an unsettling manner of being concise.”(84)

Vallotton, born in Lausanne, Switzerland, emigrated to Paris in 1882 to enroll at the Académie Julian. He was an unusually talented draftsman, and at the age of twenty made his debut at the Paris Salon. While living in Paris he was befriended by such leading avante-garde artists as Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and sometimes attended gatherings hosted by the Symbolist writer Stéphane Mallarmé. Vallotton’s earliest works were somewhat traditional portraits in oil, but by 1891 he had abandoned his academic style for the more trenchant possibilities offered by the art of wood engraving. For the next ten years he devoted himself entirely to printmaking, producing a series of stark, psychologically disturbing works that led one reviewer to call Vallotton “the Baudelaire of wood engraving.”(85)

Like many artists and writers of the Symbolist movement, Vallotton felt an intense spiritual empathy with Edgar Allan Poe, and between 1894 and 1901 he executed at least four likenesses of the American poet. Of these, the woodcut of 1894 remains the best known. Its inscription, “A Edgar Poe,” easily mistaken as a misinterpolation of Poe’s middle initial, is in fact a dedication in French (“To Edgar Poe”) and is indicative of the esteem that the Symbolists held for Poe. Two other renderings of Poe by Vallotton were published in the pages of La Revue Blanche for February 1, 1895, and June 15, 1895. Vallotton’s fourth likeness of Poe, an oil portrait painted in 1901, is at present unlocated.(86)






[S:1 - PDEAP, 1989] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (M. J. Deas) (Felix Vallotton)