ROM Research Colloquium: Arthur Smith
What are you going to talk about at the colloquium this year?
My talk will be about the technique of colour illustration known as "pochoir" or stenciling. This labour-intensive methodology was used extensively during the Art Deco period in Paris for deluxe illustrated books and fashion journals. The ROM Library houses an extensive collection of these works illustrated with pochoirs, which I will highlight in my presentation. Pochoirs are noted for their rich and vibrant colours, which is why the technique was so successful in illuminating the dramatic fashions and textiles of the Art Deco period.
How did you first become interested in this topic?
In the 1990s I was cataloguing a donation of rare books from the estate of William Bartlett when I came across an almanac from the 1920s by the prolific Paris illustrator George Barbier. It was illustrated with incredibly rich hand-coloured prints which I learned were pochoirs. The attached illustration that appears in our volume especially captivated my attention with its texture and colour. I had never seen blues so vibrant in a printed work.
What part of your research do you enjoy the most?
I recently completed a 3-month sabbatical devoted to an exhibition that will be devoted to George Barbier and his published illustrations, including many pochoirs. I greatly enjoy the detective work that goes into tracking down rare and obscure works, identifying the influences that had such an impact on the artist's work, and the links to notable figures of his era in an artistically diverse Paris setting.