An intimate friend of both Manet and Degas, often working side by side with one or the other, Desboutin was part of the first wave of impressionism, which Degas then called the "realist movement." Resolutely committed to its aims, Desboutin maintained an unswerving devotion to candid and refined observation in his drypoint prints, often annotating them "directe d'après nature" and working them up with a masterful spontaneity, as if sketching. Among the most moving of these are self-portraits, such as the one presented here, reminiscent of Rembrandt.
His prints were however very seldom editioned, and almost never steel-faced, being generally pulled in small runs of a few proofs as he saw fit, and often given away to his friends and acquaintances. His drypoints are thus most often rare: for this print, Clément-Janin remarks only some fifteen impressions known.
The dedication is to Fernand Desnoyers, writer and art critic, a noted proponent of "realism" and the author of Le Salon des Refusés, Paris, 1863.
* The Inventaire des Fonds Français cites three states that are not developed in any of the known catalogues; we have examined the three impressions in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and while there seem to be at least two states (to which the present impression does not fully conform), our conclusions do not concur: e.g., the very fine unsigned proof from the Moreau-Nelaton collection, considered by Melot 1994 to be a third state, is suffused with burr, and clearly before the additional detail, notably to the face and hands, that is found in both the present proof and the other two BN impressions. See Michel Melot, L'Estampe Impressionniste, 1994: 131 (unfortunately with erroneous title, date, and dimensions)
It should be recalled that Clément-Janin noted that Desboutin almost always retouched his plates in the course of printing and that these incessant corrections, most often slight, nevertheless constitute as many states ["Desboutins retouchait presque toujours ses cuivres en cours de tirage et que ses corrections incessantes, la plupart du temps légères, n'en constituent pas moins autant d'états"]. In any case the present proof is to be considered a choice impression, if only because of the warm dedication it bears.