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La fille au litre (Young woman with a litre wine bottle)
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La fille au litre (Young woman with a litre wine bottle)
Work Type
prints, engravings, works on paper
Image: 172mm (width), 211mm (height), Plate: 179mm (width), 216mm (height), Support: 227mm (width), 286mm (height)

Jean-Emile Laboureur (1877-1943), painter, printmaker, designer and illustrator, came from a prosperous family in Nantes, France. In 1895, he moved to Paris to attend the Faculty of Law but was captivated by the artistic scene and entered the Académie Julian. He learned the technique of wood engraving from Auguste Lèpere and was befriended by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec who suggested that he quit his studies and travel.

For the next decade Laboureur indeed travelled and spent time in the print rooms in Dresden studying European prints. By 1903 he had moved to the United States, living in New York and Pittsburgh, visiting Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Albany, Newark and Philadelphia. He produced his first series of prints, Ten Etchings from Pittsburgh, in 1905. During his years in the United States he earned money by giving private lessons in etching.

In 1907 he returned to Nantes but by November of that year he was renting a studio space in Chelsea in London. He returned to France in 1909 and moved to Paris in 1910 and fully embraced Cubism. In 1914 he enlisted in the British army and while serving as an interpreter in the 12th division he turned to engraving as it allowed him to continue his art without a studio.

Laboureur's first solo exhibition was mounted in New York in 1917 and in 1919 he married his wife Suzanne. That same year he began illustrating books and he illustrated more than fifty books during his career. He founded the Société des Peintres-Graveurs Indépendants in 1923 and its members included Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, Maurice de Vlaminck, Marie Laurencin - whom he taught printmaking - and Dunoyer de Segonzac.

Jean and Suzanne Laboureur moved to Kerfhaler on the Brittany coast in 1927, and was in ill-health from 1939. Highly prolific, he made a documented total of 794 prints in the course of his career.

La fille au litre is an uncharacteristically modernist print for Sir John Ilott to have acquired and presented to Te Papa's forerunner, the National Art Gallery, but he did so relatively late in life, in 1961. The engraving epitomises the liberated and fun-loving early 1920s, the great binge after the austerities and deprivations of the recent, devastating war. Laboureur depicts a young woman in a haircut characteristic of 1921, a deco/modernist sister to Manet's famous barmaid at the Folies-Bergère, seen from behind, with her head turned back over her right shoulder towards the viewer. She clasps a tall glass bottle (one litre size, hence the title) in her right hand at the edge of a counter; behind her are saloon doors. A smaller woodcut version of this print with a less detailed background was published in The New Keepsake for the Year 1921, edited by Marcel Boulestin and Laboureur himself (London and Paris: Chelsea Book Club for X. M. Boulestin, 1921), p. 35.

See: Annex Galleries, 'Jean-Emile Laboureur Biography',

Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art May 2018

Collection: Art
Gift of Sir John Ilott, 1961
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Image and original data provided by Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa
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