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Hector Saunier

The art of Hector Saunier


The art of Hector Saunier celebrates the expressive power of line, texture, space, and colour. His prints demonstrate a unique aesthetic sensibility and creative powers of the highest order. He is a master of the engraved line, a refined engraver and an unparalleled, technically innovative printer who can play with coloured inks like a virtuoso musician plays with harmonies. This technical virtuosity is coupled with an abstract visual imagination that allows him to create the beauty and mystery of irrational colour spaces that evoke, even transcend, ordinary experience.

Born in Argentina in 1936, Saunier came to Europe in 1961 and began working with the great experimental artist and printmaker Stanley William Hayter at the renowned Atelier 17 in Paris in 1966. Since its inception in the late 1920s, Atelier 17 has been the centre of intaglio printmaking in the 20th century. Saunier learned his craft primarily from Hayter, who quickly recognised his talents. He became an assistant at the Atelier and worked closely with Hayter for the next twenty years. In 1978, he became associate director of the Atelier, taking over as director during Hayter's absences. When Hayter died in 1988, Saunier became co-director of the Atelier, now renamed Atelier Contrepoint, which still thrives at 10 rue Didot in Paris.

It was at Atelier 17 that simultaneous polychrome printing techniques, capitalising on the differential viscosities of inks, were invented by Hayter and his associates in the 1940s. These methods, which developed over the years, allowed the creation of a polychrome print directly on the plate, and thus the development of the image in immediate interaction with the support. They have also made it possible to fully integrate form and colour into the creative process. Finally, they opened up an unprecedented range of colour effects that could be achieved in the hands of a master. Saunier quickly became a master of colour and its creative possibilities in intaglio printing. He continued to experiment with simultaneous polychromy and, since Hayter's death, has made discoveries of previously unsuspected sophistication and subtlety. These are evident in the brilliantly coloured images he has produced, images that reveal not the beauties of nature, but the beauties imagined by a rich and refined creative imagination.

Saunier's engraved line is bold and dramatic, swirling and weaving in and out of space, swelling and shrinking, penetrating deep into the plane, twisting and returning to the surface. It has an autonomous expressive power of movement, plasticity, and elegance. Sometimes the device of a white halo is used to give it even more brilliance and volume. A deeply etched white line ("gaufrage") that lies above the picture plane is sometimes used to give more depth to the imagery. Beautifully woven networks of lines animate the colour spaces. Open bite etching, soft ground texturing, and masks during inking are used to create multiple image planes, receding depths and overlapping or interpenetrating irrational planes.

His imagery is not linked to surrealism, but his creative procedures are to a large extent in line with the surrealist conception of the automaton, unconscious sources of creative inspiration. His work on the plate is largely intuitive, encouraging the free play of the imagination and using unintended consequences and even accidents in the application of the sequential processes involved. He draws on the unconscious imaginative resources of image-making, seeking a balance between spontaneity and reflective analysis.

It is above all in his mastery of the mysteries of colour that Saunier stands out today as unique among living printmakers. His sensitivity to colour is unequalled among contemporary printmakers, and his ability to impart atmosphere and drama through colour and irrational spatial structures is truly astonishing. He contrasts gradations of colour with each other to create forms of counterpoint that can complement or oppose the counterpoint of geometric forms. In this way, it is possible to create new colour spaces and beautiful spatial progressions and regressions. The bright white of the paper is often used as a source of light in the image itself, which can glow as brightly as the fluorescent colours that Saunier so often uses in intaglio. The artist plays not only with colour in his images but also with light itself.


Looking at Saunier's work over the last thirty years, one realises that he can orchestrate space, line, and colour into an abstract form with the imagination and subtlety of a great composer. The range of colour harmonies and dissonances is extraordinary, from the quiet tones of soft, tender blues, greys, and pinks to the dazzling dramatic effects of a fiery red-orange standing out against the green and yellow like a trumpet fanfare. As Hayter said of him, he "not only creates a space of the imagination beyond our normal experience but involves us in another dimension of awareness of colour itself - making us aware of the unsuspected amplitude of one of the most joyful aspects of life".


St John's College, Oxford

1936 Born in Argentina.

1956/60   Color theory and composition with H.Cartier, in Buenos Aires.

1961 Trip to Europe, Atelier 17 of S.W.Hayter, Paris.


1965/78   Assistant at Atelier 17.

1978/88   Assosiate Director, Atelier 17.

1988~ Currently, Director, Atelier Contrepoint (Atelier 17).

2000    Member of "Academia Nacional Argentina"


1965   Lloyd’s Gallery, London. England.

1970  Galerie Le Haut Pavé, Paris, France.

            Galerie Tippach, Goslar, Germany.

1973  Museo de Grabado, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1974  Wildenstein Gallery, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1975  Georgetown Graphics, Washington D.C. U.S.A.

            York University, Toronto, Canada.

            Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

1976  "M"Gallery, Toronto, Canada.

            Daberkow Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany.

            Gallery Miyazaki, Osaka, Japan.

            "21"Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.

1977  Beni Gallery, Kyoto, Japan.

1978  Galeria Rondanini, Rome, Italy.

            Galeria Altamira, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1979  Off Gallery, Nagoya, Japan.

            Clark Gallery, Sapporo, Japan.

1980  Galerie St.Michel, Luxembourg.

            Galeria Austral, La Plata, Argentina.

            Galeria Fontana Artis, Rosario, Argentina.

            Galeria Zulema Zoireff, Mendoza, Argentina.

            Museo Municipal de Santa Fe, Argentina.

            Galerie Eugenie Villien, Sao Paulo, Bresil.

1981  Gallery Miyazaki, Osaka, Japan.

            Beni Gallery, Kyoto, Japan.

            Off Gallery, Nagoya, Japan.

1982  Galerie du Fleuve, Bordeaux, France.

1983  Galerie Nadar, Casablanca. Maroco.

1984  Galeria Arte Contemporanea, Bari, Italy.

            Hiramatsu Gallery, Osaka, Japan.

            Ibsenhust Gallery, Skien, Norway.

            Museo Arte Actual, F.Alzate Avendano. Bogota, Columbia.

1985   Atelier 80, Bordeaux, France.

1985   Galerie Exentric, Liège, Belgium.

1986   Galeria Austral, La Plata, Argentina.

             Il Tarlo, Cremona, Italy.

1987   Robert Douwma Gallery, London, England.

1988   Galerie Vivant. Tokyo, Japan.

             Gallery Miyazaki, Osaka, Japan.

             Beni Gallery, Kyoto, Japan.

             Atelier Nishinomiya, Hyogo. Japan.

             Liberal Art, Hiroshima, Japan.

             E+R Kistner Gallery, Nüremberg. Germany.

1990   Citra Gallery, Kualalumpur, Malaysia.

             Viven Gallery, Norway.

1991   Galeria Arte Contemporanea, Bari, Italy.

             Art Base, Singapore.

             Galerie Vivant, Tokyo, Japan.

             Gallery Miyazaki, Osaka, Japan.

             Beni Gallery, Kyoto, Japan.

             Tamura Gallery, Tsuruga, Japan.

             Liberal Art, Hiroshima, Japan.

1992   Off Gallery. Nagoya, Japan.

1993   Galeria Suipacha, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

             Galeria Marchiaro, Cordoba, Argentina.

             Atelier Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan.

1994   Galerie Vivant, Tokyo, Japan.

             Keum San Gallery, Seoul, Korea.

             La Scaietta, Matera. Italy.

             Susekullen, Olofström. Sweden.

1995   Ninni Esposito Arte Contemporanea, Bari, Italy.

1996   Arte BA. Art Fair, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1997   Galerie Vivant, Tokyo, Japan.

            Atelier Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan.

            Liberal Art, Hiroshima, Japan.

            Citra Gallery, Kualalumpur, Malaysia.

            Palazzo Cattaneo-Ala Ponzone, Cremona, Italy.

1998  Museo Nacional des Grabado, Bs.As. Argentina.

            Museo Cabildo, Cordoba, Argentina.

            Scuola Internationale di Grafica, Venice, Italy.

1999  Galerie Vivant, Tokyo, Japan.

            Liberal Art, Hiroshima, Japan.

            Gallery Beni, Kyoto, Japan.

2000  Gallery Koll, Stavanger, Norway

            Atelier 80. Bordeaux, France

2001   Liberal Art, Hiroshima, Japan

            Atelier Nishinomiya, Hyogo. Japan

            Galerie Vivant, Tokyo, Japan

2002   Citra Gallery, Kualalumpur, Malaysia

             Museo de la Solidaridad S.Allende,Santiago, Chile

2003   Médiathèque de Villers Cotterêt, France

             Taijon & Tainan, Taiwan

2004   He Xiangning Art Museum,Shenzhen, China

2005   Citra Gallery, Kualalumpur, Malaysia

             Atelier Nishinomiya, Nishinomiya, Japan

             Galerie Miyawaki, Kyoto, Japan

              Liberal Art, Hiroshima, Japan

              Kyushu Sangyou University, Fukuoka, Japan

              Galerie Vivant, Tokyo, Japan

2006    Galeria Arroyo, Bs.As.Argentina

2007    Galeria Marchiaro, Cordoba, Argentina

              Saint-Luc Higher Education in Arts, Liege, Belgium

              Galerie Vivant, Tokyo, Japan

              Atelier Nishinomiya, Nishinomiya, Japan

              Tsukihisou, Nagoya, Japan

              Liberal Art, Hiroshima, Japan

              Gallery Kitanosaka, Kobe, Japan



1968    1st Print Biennal, Pistoia, Italy.

             Salon de Réalités Nouvelles, Paris.

1970    Biennale de l’Estampe, Paris.

              1st and 2nd Bienal of Bradford, England.

              Salon de la Jeune Gravure Contemporaine, Paris.

              XIX and XX Salon del Grabado, Madrid, Spain.

1971    Biennale de Epinal, France.

              Biennale de Menton, France.

1972    Salon de la Gravure Contemporaine, Pointoise, France.

1980~'92 "rencontres". Biennale de Sarcelles, France.

1980~'98 "Salon de mai”, Paris.

1983    Salon de Musée de l’Amérique Latine. Compiègne, France.

              Biennal of Puerto Rico.

1984     1st Biennal of Habana, Cuba.

              5th Biennal of Conde Bonsecour, Belgium.

1985     Four Artists at Kunstforeing, Stavanger, Norway.

1988     Latin American Biennal, Mocha, New York.

1990     Premio Internazionale Biella per l’incisione, Biella, Italy.

               Kochi Triennal, Kochi, Japan

1994     Chamalières Triennal, France.

1996     1st International Print Exhibition, Kualalumpum, Malaisia.

1997     Biennal of Puerto Rico

              Olofstrom, Sweden.

              Estampa, Madrid, Spain.

1998-04 Salon d'Automne, Paris

2002     Biennal Latinoamericaine, Buenos Aires, Argentina

2003     Taiwan

               ‘&’ 06   Chamalières avec le Signe et Marge,France

2004      Salon d'Automne, Paris


■ Group exhibits from 1962 to 1994 through France, Denmark, United States, Japan, Turkey,

Malasia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Israel, Spain, Argentina, Iceland, Germany, Zair, Marroco, Mexico, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, etc..

After the '90s

"Three Retrospective Exhibitions of Atelier 17."

-1990    Calcografia di Rome, Italy.

-1992    Bank Side Gallery, London, England.

-1993    Musée de Gravelines, France.

-1994    Warehouse, Banff, Scotland.

Museo National del Grabado, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

-1996    "Horizons" Galerie Artsenal, Paris, France.

-1997    10 artists in Paris, Galerie Nichido, Paris.

-1999    Atelier Contrepoint a Mantoba, Italy.

-2000    Le Signe & la Marge, Vichy. France

-2002    Musée Anacreon, Grandville, France

Galerie "À l'écu de France”, Viroflay, France

-2003    Puerto Rico "Atelier Contrepoint"

Art Zone, kyoto, Japan

Providence University Art Center, Taiwan

-2005    TJfine Art, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

-2006    "80th Anniversary of Atelierl7. & Atelier Contrepoint", Museo Civicodi. Cremona. Italy

-2007    "Atelier Contrepoint" Art-Forum-Reims, Reims, France




·Bibliothèque National de Paris, Paris.   •Musée de la Ville de Paris, France.

·Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris, France. •Public Library of New York, U.S.A.

·Museum of Quebec, Canada. •Museo Nacional del Grabado, Bs.As. Argentina.

·National Museum of Istanbul, Turkey.  •Bibliothèque Royale de Bruxelles, Belgium.

·Library of Congress, Washington, U.S.A.  •York University, Toronto, Canada.

·Rosenwald Collection, Philadelphia, U.S.A.  •Musée de Caen, France.

·Musée de Grenoble, France.  •Musée d'Asilah, Maroc.  •Ibsenhuset, Norway.

·Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria.     •Mediathèque d'Uzes, France

·Machida Museum, Tokyo, Japan

 •Sokei Art Academy, Tokyo. Japan

·Casa de Goya, Fuendetodos, Spain     •St.John's College, Oxford, England

·Kobe University, Kobe, Japan   •Kyushu Sangyou University. Fukuoka. Japan




1975     Rhode Island School of Designe, U.S.A.

               New York University, U.S.A.

               &'83     York University, Toronto, Canada.

1980     Workshop for teachers, University of Cordoba, Argentina.

1984     Workshop, Bogota, Colombia.

               Sophie Acherson's Atelier, Connecticut. U.S.A.

1985      Ecole des Beaux Arts de Mons, Belgium.

1988      Seika University, Kyoto, Japan.

1991       Iida Museum, Nagano, Japan.

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