Ludwig Markus was born in Poland, but worked in France from 1903 on, becoming a French citizen in 1914. In 1910 he met another Polish expatriate artist, Wilhelm Apollinairis de Kostrowitzky (1880-1918), who since 1903 had signed his poems as Guillaume Apollinaire. One of the critical apologists for Cubism, Apollinaire suggested that Markus change his name to Marcoussis after a town outside Paris. Moreover, the poet praised his fellow countryman’s work in the 1912 Salon d’Automne and Section d’Or exhibitions, and introduced him to Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.
The Gecht Collection’s impression of Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire II, one of the most powerful Cubist portraits done in any medium, is unusually lush in tonality. The composition represents the artist’s second attempt at doing his friend’s likeness. Marcoussis executed the first etched portrait, dated 1912, from life. It shows Apollinaire in a tufted chair, holding his pipe and reading his recently completed poem “Zone.” The coat of arms of the writer’s family appears at the upper left, and inscribed above his head are the titles of his books.
Marcoussis undertook the second version, which is dated on the plate 1912-20, sometime after he abandoned the first. He completed it in 1920, two years after Apollinaire died from influenza. Historians have debated whether or not the intersecting lines on the poet’s forehead were meant to be a war-related bandage or marks reflecting calculations of the Golden Mean, a system of proportion that interested the artist. […]
Jean Lafranchis’s monograph on Marcoussis does not mention any states for this print, while Solange Milet’s catalogue raisonné of the artist’s prints cites six, only four of which could the author find and describe (the first, fourth, fifth, and sixth). This impression in inscribed as the sixth state and was long believed to be a trial proof before the address was added. However, in 1991 Milet noted that the address was eliminated in the sixth state and that one signed and justified proof and twenty signed and numbered proofs (out of thirty) are known, all printed in bister on Arches paper.
Suzanne Folds McCullagh, Graphic Modernism: Selections from the Francey and Dr. Martin L. Gecht Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago with Hudson Hills Press, 2003, pp. 83.