This is an extremely rare and significant edition of a magazine that was published in runs of only 4000 per issue from 1927 to 1939. The magazine was founded by Charles Peignot, director of the French typefoundry Deberny et Peignot.
This issue of Arts et Metiers Graphiques contains a piece of original artwork by the celebrated Russian avant-garde artist Nathan Altman, specially commissioned by the magazine for this edition. Just this one page alone, removed from another copy of the same edition was recently sold in auction in Israel. Our edition contains all 68 original pages in very good condition.
Nathan Altman, (1889-1970) was a notable Russian modernist and avant-garde painter. He is most famous for his portrait of Anna Akhmatova, which seems to capture the essential essence of the poet better than her own work. His major career was short. He moved from the USSR to France in 1928, introducing the Russian avant-garde to its western counterparts. He returned to the USSR in 1936 and somehow managed to avoid the terror and purges. Altman, born to a Jewish family, was very much a Jewish artist in that he associated and identified himself with Jewish circles, institutions, subjects and issues.
His design for the cover of Arts et Metiers Graphique is a seminal piece of avant-garde art. It employs the two favourite colours of the movement, red and black. It uses different typefaces for the number and letters. There is verticality and suspension. The space is divided in a decisive and final manner, having the objective solidity of an architectural drawing, a premonition of construction.
There is a 4-page illustrated article about Altman, with pictures of his illustrations for Gogol’s works and even a sketch of Lenin. The article reads:
I will therefore limit myself to presenting Nathan Altman, since he is not well known in France but is one of the best-established glories of contemporary Russian art. Those in the know had already picked him out from the crowd of youngsters that constituted the assault troops of the new artistic generation. During the pre-war years he painted several portraits – among which that of the poetess, Anna Akhmatova, became almost instantly famous – that are destined to reside in the history of Russian art as poignant witnesses of the Peterbourgoise society as it prepared to sink under the waves.
It is especially after the revolution that Nathan Altman found out how to show the richness of his art by not staying with easel painting but finding expression in sculpture, architecture, theatre sets and illustration. The revolution needed not only to propagate its ideas by social and political action but also to attract the masses by more direct suggestion on a spiritual level, finding immense support among the young artists. That’s when Nathan played a primordial role: reformer of the teaching of fine art, organiser of public exhibitions, sculptor and painter of the leading revolutionaries (his busts and portraits of Lenin enjoy great popularity in the USSR), designer of posters and book covers, set designer of several successful shows – Altman was the David of the Russian Revolution, although one might have given this title to others…
Altman has come out of the tumult of one of the greatest overthrows in history mature, more simple and deeper. His many works bear witness to that.
Once more, I refuse to explain them. The reproductions illustrating this note achieve that better than I can ever know. I will simply add that Nathan Altman appears to me to be among the first of the contemporary Russian artists to understand the essence itself of the spirit of the constructor that guides our era and that he knew how to express that as well in his big canvasses as in the smallest of his graphic works.’
J. E. Pouterman (translated from the French by AA)
Following page 54 there is a cellophane lay-over on top of a metallic postcard on a red background. This is by the Loubok printing house, one of the leaders in its field. It is the design for the cover of a catalogue and an extraordinarily modernistic approach for 1932.
*source: Rochester Institute of Technology http://amgweb.rit.edu/introduction.htm (edit QED Rarities)