Bertand Dorny, French (1931 - )

Born in 1931 in Paris, Bertrand Dorny has worked in the ‘Ateliers’ of André Lhote and J. Friedlander. He was a well-known painter before he turned to graphic art. He produces his prints from an assemblage of separate plaques of metal giving each its own texture and colour before printing. The cut-out forms are pushed into the softened paper to different depths, creating the low-relief surfaces special to Dorny. His works are represented in museums around the world and in many private European and American collections.

The Intaglio Prints of Bertrand Dorny

Inhabitant of the Quartier Latin and heir of its long tradition of cerebral poetry, Bertrand Dorny also lives in the Pays de Caux and is intimately familiar with its verdant valleys, its upland fields, its villages and its seaports with their undulant limestone cliffs. The latent opposition between the city, close-woven, noisy and enclosed and the Norman landscape, vaporous, calm and open, can be found in his carefully crafted prints, which thrive on the reconciliation of contrasting qualities.

Crafts are as much an urban as a rural practice, and Dorny’s Norman and Parisian qualities find their common ground in the way he produces his forms. Craft, of course, is at the service of his visual poetry, but it is not an autonomous tool, not a mere transmitter of pre-established ideas. The actual manipulation of his inks, pieces of metal, cutting instruments, emery cloth, aquatint shaker, press and paper gives rise to ideas that are literally rooted in these means of production. One of these elements affects another in ways the artist cannot always foretell hence, frequently, the exhilaration of discovery.

Dorny’s craft is unusual, and bears comparison with both the broad gestures of painting and the shape-definitions of relief sculpture. When we think of traditional techniques of etching and engraving, we conceive of hundreds of lines, flecks, and hatchings that result from metal plates being cut into by needle or burin. Dorny’s prints result instead from separate pieces of zinc (and the interstices between them). Each form is given a texture and a colour. When the whole assemblage is put through the etching press, the cut-out forms will be forced into the paper to different depths, creating the relief surface unique to Dorny-unique even among intaglio printmakers. The print that results is somewhat like an impression from the surface of a low relief sculpture.

To enhance his relief, Dorny treats the edges of his forms with special care. The slight shadows they cast become integral parts of his compositions, and their sculptural role is often enhanced by any one of several techniques. The paper is stretched by the thrust of the edge, and this makes the colour paler, because the white of the paper shows through. Alternatively, an edge can be made darker by letting the ink accumulate there during the wiping-on, or two adjacent areas will be made to overlap slightly, producing a mixture of their two colours.

All these effects along the edges of his forms give lungs to Dorny’s paper, as though it were an organic substance. Pulsations appear to stream through his compositions as one area seems to flow into another, cross over or under a third, or push away a fourth. Because of the actual relief, shadow and light play over the surface and add their breath of vitality. We see the shapes that bulge forward and thanks to their articulated edges, we conceive of them as separate from the flat surface of the paper. Yet, paradoxically, we also see that they grow from the same paper surface and are indissoluble with it. This breathing in and out of the forms is the very heart of Dorny’s intaglio work.

Although each shape within a Dorny has a nearly uniform colour and texture, his compositions can never be accused of mechanical feeling. He coats some of his pieces of metal in emery cloth, which hols a very rich supply of ink. Other he bites with aquatint, but instead of using the traditional mill, he employs a hand shaker for the sake of the irregular speckling that results. Since he can vary the density of the aquatint, and also vary the emery cloth from rough to fine, he can produce a striking range of textures. The aquatint is translucent and breathes, resulting in a sense of depth and vaporousness. The emery areas are the opposite: they hold so much ink that they are opaque and resemble stucco or stones surfaces. The aquatint is purely visual, untouchable and ephemeral; the emery is tactile and sensually appartent.

The plates are put through the press in successive and overlapping inkings, but Dorny’s technique allows him to ink one of his pieces separately before adjusting it in the bed. He usually employs four to six colours plus black (and white of the paper), and because any two of these produce another colour if overlapped, he can obtain a great many hues. Seldom will he use all available colours, but eight to ten are common. Like his shapes, hi colours, both singly and in combination, call forth memories of natural hues. Ochres can seem like minerals, soil or grain fields; blue like sky or water; orange like sunlight; black and dark tones, like shadow or night-time. Midi (1973), for example, has a hot orange, yellow, tan, red, black, white and grey. Of course it would be foolish to look for descriptive hues, but Dorny’s colours are occasionally in subtle dialogue with nature and are one of several devices that make his visual language accessible to us.

Another of these devices is constituted by Dorny’s repertoire of forms, which rewards close study. For example, one of his favoured forms is an elongated ribbon or strip, especially prominent in his Chemins but found throughout his work. The sides of his strips undulate slightly, or bend and therefore, avoiding rigid parallelisms, they have the organic presence of his other shapes. Some of them go from one side of a composition to another; most of them end within the overall rectangle, at times floating above an area, more commonly ending at the edge of another strip or shape. They can veer off at sharp angles, cross over or under another strip, or assume different thicknesses along their pathways.

Solo Exhibitions

1957 Galerie Lucy Khrog, Paris
1962 Cari Seimbab Gallery, Boston
1964 Galerie Beffa, Luxembourg
1965 Vincellette Gallery,Westport,Connecticut  Galerie du Haut Pavé,          Paris
1968 Galerie La Nouvelle Gravure, Paris
1969 Atlantis Gallery, Germany Ariane Gallery, Sweeden Alfred Lochte          Gallery, Hambourg, Germany Nielsen Gallery, Boston Galerie P.          Bruck, Luxembourg
1970 Galerie Harmonie, Grenoble La Pochade, Paris Gallery of Graphic          Arts, New York
1971 Galerie Synthèse, Anvers, Belgium Galerie La Taille Douce,          Brussels Meridian Gallery, Indianapolis, USA
1972 Nielsen Gallery, Boston Galerie La Hune Paris Galerie P. Bruck,          Luxembourg
1973 Galerie Schindler, Berne, Switzerland La Rose des Vents, Vich,          Switzerland Gallery 21, Johannesburg, RSA
1974 Galerie Heimeshoff, Essen, Germany Galerie La Sarbacane,          Charleroi, Belgium ADI Gallery, San Francisco, CA, USA
         Galerie Art 2000, Bale, Switerland Galerie Davidson, Tours
         La Hune, Paris
1975 Galerie Much, Nantes Galerie M’Arte, Milan, Italy Gallery of          Graphic Arts, New York
1976 Galerie Paul Ludin, Bale, Switerland Galerie 89, Avallon
         Galerie J. Matarasso, Nice Galerie J.-M Cupillard, Grenoble
1977 Galerie Schindler, Berne, Switerland La Galerie, Nimes Galerie          des Metiers, Biot Galerie Abeille, Toulouse 1978 Galerie J.          Matarasso, Nice Galerie P. Bruck, Luxembourg
1979 Galerie J.-M. Cupillard, Grenoble Galerie m, Hanovre, Germany
         Galerie Erval, Paris French Institute, New York
1980 Galerie Glemine, Glemingebro, Sweeden Eastbourne Museum,          Great Britain Hove Museum, Great Britain Rye Museum, Great          Britain
1981 La Hune, Paris Galerie Erval, Paris Galerie J. Matarasso, Nice
         Galerie J.-M. Cuppillard, Grenoble Galerie Biren, Paris Galerie          Praestegaarden, Dannemere, Denmark
1982 Galerie M, Hanover, Germany
1983 La Hune, Paris Galerie Baku, Tokyo, Japan Galerie de Luxembourg
1984 Chateau-Musee de Dieppe French Institute, Frankfurt Germany
1985 Galerie Erval, Paris Galerie Schindler, Berne, Switzerland
         Galerie Aeblegaarden, Holte, Denmark
1986 Galerie J. Matarasso, Nice La Hune, Paris Artotheque de Toulouse
1987 Galerie Heimeshoff, Essen, Germany Galerie Denise Cade, New          York Galerie Arlette Gimaray, Paris Studio Pozzan, Vicenza, Italy
1988 Galerie Aelegaarden, Holte, Denmark Galerie de Luxembourg
         Segno Grafico, Venice, Italy Galerie Erval, Paris
1989 La Hune, Paris Galerie Denise Cade, New York
1990 La Hune, Paris Galerie Erval, FIAC, Paris
1992 Galerie de Luxembourg, SAGA 1992, Paris Galerie          de Luxembourg
1993 Galerie Erva, Paris
1994 P.Guillou Library, Paris Mount Holyoke, College Art Museum,          South Hadley, MA. USA
1995 Galerie Le Troisieme Oeil, Paris Centre Pompidou, Paris Ursus          Books, New York
1996 Galerie Thessa Herold, Paris
1998 Library Nicaise, Paris Museum of Baron Gerard, Bayeux
1999 Galerie thessa Herole, Paris 2000 Guild Hall, Easthampton, NY
2001 Library P. Guillou, Paris


Public Collections

Paris: Musée de l’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
France: l’Etat Francais
France: CNAC
Le Musée du Havre
Paris: National Library of Paris
Madrid: National Library of Madrid
Musée de Bilbao
Luxembourg: Musée d’Etat du Luxembourg
Yugoslavia: Museum of Skjope
Musée d’Halfa
Musée de Nantes
Poland: Museum of Cravovie
Paris: Centre Nationale d’Art Contemporain
France: Mobilier National
Grenoble: Musée de Grenoble
Germany: Kunsstandwerk Museum
Germany:Spengel Museum, Hanover
Canada: Museum of Quebec, Quebec
United States: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
The Houghton Library, Harvard University
The Art Institute of Chicago
Yale University
New York Public Library
Great Britain: Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Israel: Musuem of Modern Art, Haifa
Gilkey Center for Graphic Arts, USA
University of Chicago, USA
Musee de Cracovie, Poland
Portland Museum, USA
University of Chicago, USA
Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University, New York, USA.

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