The Washington Print Club Newsletter, Summer, 1979, by D.V.
Although fairly new, not being opened to the public until its move to 5 East 57 Street in 1977, New York's Fitch-Febvrel Gallery has rapidly achieved an excellent reputation for fine prints and fair dealing.
The gallery's beginnings go back to 1971, when Andrew Fitch and Dominique Febvrel visited M.C. Escher in Holland, and purchased a small number of his works. Moving on to Paris, they discovered the fantastic engravings of the young Philippe Mohlitz, reposing for the most part unseen among cartons of low-priced prints. They soon met Mohlitz, who, in turn, introduced them to Érik Desmazières and his etched ironic allegories. These works, together with the mysterious, luminous aquatints of Friedrich Meckseper, formed the nucleus of the aesthetic that is special to the gallery: mostly black and white, realistic, extraordinarily skillful work, characterized by a sort of non-symbolic surrealism. As Fitch would have it: "We were in the vanguard of the triumph of reaction."
They returned to New York and began operations from their apartment near Columbia University, mounting their first show (Escher and Mohlitz) at the Maison Français. With the success of that show, and their rapid sales of other works as well, mainly to New York dealers, they gained confidence in their ability and their own aesthetic judgment. Traveling to Japan, they not only acquired the mezzotints of Hasegawa and Hamaguchi, they also discovered a Japanese market for the prints of Mohlitz, Meckseper, and, more recently, Peter Milton. Over the next five years, they contintued to acquire the works of contemporary European artists little known in the United States — Doaré, Mockel, Rubel — and, in 1975, they published "Reconnaissance du Cuivre," a boxed limited edition portfolio of prints by Hamaguchi, Meckseper, Minuzzi, Doaré, and Desmazières. They began to stock the work of earlier artists, as well — Bresdin, Meryon, Klinger, Müller, Redon — and have become probably the leading dealer in this country in the prints of John Martin. The only American printmakers so far to break into the gallery are Milton, Leithauser and Itchkawich.
The volume of business led, inevitably, to 57th Street, where they would have easier market accessibility. There, they have mounted the first one-man show in the country of the prints of Manuel Robbe, and have had major retrospectives of Meckseper and Desmazières. Probably the best show to date was the recent "Three Printmakers from Bordeaux: Bresdin, Mohlitz, Redon." [See New York Times review.] They still do most of their business with other dealers, but, now that they are open to the public, they are beginning to build a clientele of collectors. If you would like to get a good lifetime impression of Bresdin's "The Good Samaritan" (among a number of fine Bresdins), or a complete set of the first series of Redon's "The Temptation of St. Anthony," this would be a good place. Their prices are quite fair, sometimes below current auction levels.
Planned for November is a large exhibit of the prints of Max Klinger and Richard Müller [see New York Times review], to be mounted jointly with Martin Sumers Graphics. Each gallery will display works by both artists, including several of Klinger's complete series. Based upon a partial preview, it promises to be a splendid show.
Print collectors looking for advice are often told, "Find a good dealer," but they are less often told how to do so. The only way, really, is through the advice of other collectors, curators, or other dealers, or just by "getting to know." Consider John Russell's observation in The New York Times of June 22 (1979): "It is getting to be known that Andrew Fitch, of the Fitch-Febvrel Gallery, 5 East 57 Street, has the kind of fanatical absorption that makes for a really good print dealer."