TRIUMPH: Just before Christmas 1999, I heard from the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris - they agree to exhibiting facsimiles from my original drawings, instead of the original drawings themselves. This goes sweetly hand in hand with my Comic Strip Art philosophy, of Art & Science Entwine.
UPDATE June 2OOO: Well, my exhibits are now in Paris. I have sent two Bash Street sets, one Minnie the Minx set, and one Little Plum. The exposition will open in the Grand Gallery at the new Mitterand-Tolbiac gallery at the National Library of France, Paris, on 10th. October 2000, staying until 7th. January 2001, when it moves to the National Comic-Strip Centre at Angouleme, from January till the end of April, 2001.
Exchange of correspondence
Scroll down to see the exchange so far:
July 13, 1999
Dear Mr Baxendale,
The French National Library in Paris (BNF) and the National Centre for Comic Strip Art in Angouleme (CNBDI) are associated parteners for the production of a important exhibition on The European Comics Masters. This exhibit will first be presented in Paris, in the new building of the BNF, from october to december 2000 ; it will then come to the CNBDI in Angouleme for the International Comics Festival in January 2001, and remain on display till the end of April.
The purpose of the exhibition is to bring together all the prominent artists of the european comics scene since the nineteenth century. 75 artists have been selected, from 13 different countries.
The exhibition will take 900 square meters. A catalogue will be published in coproduction by the National Library and les Editions du Seuil.
You are among the artists we have selected.
I wish to present four original pages : one from Little Plum, one from The Three Bears, and two from The Bash Street Kids.
Could you please send me copies or photographs of the pages you would suggest, and would agree to lend us? I need their complete referencies, so that I can already work on the catalogue.
The official loan request for the art will than be sent directly by the BNF.
I shall be looking forward for a quick answer and I already thank you very much for your collaboration.
Director of the Museum - Curator of the exhibition
19 July 1999
Dear M. Groensteen:
Thank you for your letter of 13 July. It was splendid to receive your invitation for my work to be part of your exhibition, and I will be pleased to send you four of my original drawings.
Perhaps I ought to clarify 'original' drawings in the case of my own work for exhibition. The last time that I exhibited any of my original drawings themselves, was in 1977. As there was recurring demand for my drawings for exhibitions, I realised that the drawings would not survive continuous exhibiting. My Little Plum, Minnie the Minx, and The Bash Street Kids drawings were made in the 1950s, and were fragile entities. Moreover, the colour work on them is of water-colour, and therefore susceptible to fading in prolonged exposure to light.
Since then, I have exhibited, in place of the original drawings themselves, sophisticated facsimile images taken from the original drawings. For example, when your designers at Angouleme built the wonderfully surreal Bash Street classroom for your exhibition in January 1990, my Bash Street drawings framed and hung on its walls, were Canon laser images from the original drawings.
In the years since then, I have used the more sophisticated bubble-jet images, taken from my original drawings, in over ten exhibitions both in the UK and in other countries.
When there was an exhibition of my work at Treviso in March 1993, other visiting European comics artists were convinced they were looking at my framed original drawings on the walls, until I explained to them that they were not in fact the originals, but their astral presences.
There is, beside the above considerations in the use of bubble-jet facsimiles of my originals, a logistical result: that I can exhibit a particular drawing in more than one exhibition simultaneously. For instance, your exhibition will be at the BNF in Paris from October to December 2000, and then at the CNBDI in Angouleme January-April 2001. At present the new Museum in the Park at Stroud in Gloucestershire is being built, and will open in December 2000 with an exhibition of my drawings. Since, naturally, I like to select the finest of my drawings, the use of facsimiles of my original drawings, will enable, if need be, the drawings exhibited in Paris and Angouleme, to be simultaneously part of the exhibition at the new museum at Stroud.The continued use of facsimiles of my originals, eventually led me to realise that there is a logical philosophical underpinning, that makes the practice fitting. Since the nineteenth century, the art of comic-strip artists has of course, been made in partnership with technology. I came to realise, then, that it was apt for this symbiosis to be extended to exhibitions of comic-strip art. In 1998 I wrote an essay, 'Art and Science Entwine', which was published by various journals, and part of the essay is now on my website (www.reaper.co.uk.) Last year, in fact, I also published a CD ROM, The CD ROMIC, which brings the 'Art and Science Entwine' concept into use as a comedy sequence.
If it is acceptable to you, I would, therefore, prefer to send you bubble-jet facsimiles from my original drawings, rather than the drawings themselves.
I hope that the above information is helpful to you. If you need any further information from me, or if I can help in any other way, please let me know.
Kind regards; Yours sincerely,
August 3, 1999
Thank you for your letter of 19 July.
I am very pleased that you accept to collaborate to the exhibition.
Although I understand your reasons, may I insist on our wish to show nothing but original art (at least in Paris ; I could accept facsimiles when the exhibit comes to Angouleme)?
I am convinced that your can provide us high quality facsimiles, but we shall nevertheless have to mention in the caption that the works shown in these frames are not original art, and they will be the only facsimiles in the whole exhibition
Considering the importance of this event, the reduced number of works we ask for, and the limitation to the first presentation in Paris, I hope that you will reconsider your position and make an exception to the rule you follow.
I accept your suggestion to replace the Three Bears drawing by a Minnie the Minx.
18 August 1999
Dear M. Groensteen,
Thank you for the list of artists selected for the exhibition The European Comics Masters, and the information on insurance.
On further consideration, I've realised that though insuring drawings can cover against loss or damage, it is no protection against gradual deterioration through prolonged exhibiting.
I made a decision to stop exhibiting the originals themselves in 1977, when I realised that the drawings, dating from the 1950s and early 1960s, were as much at peril of
gradual damage from prolonged exposure to light through exhibition, as Turner watercolours.
Public galleries in Britain with collections of Turner watercolours, are obliged by the terms of his will to show them only in the winter light of January, and in fact in practice, they are not shown every year even within those restrictions.
The astonishing advances in reprographic technology over the past ten years or so, have enabled me to circumvent the problem, by exhibiting facsimile images, of the highest quality, taken from my originals.
I believe there is a philosophical underpinning to this practice, since the art of comic strip from the start intertwined with industrial technology, in fact was made possible by that technology. It seems proper to me, then, that with advances in reprography, the intertwining of art and science should extend to the exhibition gallery.
In your letter of 3 August, you point out that, if you were to accept facsimiles from me, they would be the only facsimiles in the exhibition, and would have to be captioned as such.
If you include in your exhibition facsimiles of my drawings, captioned as such, with the context of their deliberate use provided, then I believe that you will not only underline the historical symbiosis between comics art on the one hand and science and industry on the other; but from such a prestigious exhibition will send out a signal to the world, that in art there are no taboos.
September 10, 1999
Dear Mr Baxendale,
Well, I understand you don't leave me any choice, do you?
So I will inform the National Library of your conditions and they will make the final decision.
Director of the museum