Vaughan Trowbridge in 1915.

An american in Paris

Born in Dec. 1869 in Astoria, Queens, New York, Vaughan Trowbridge was educated as a lawyer and worked for six years as a clerk for the Susquehanna Railroad Company. Then he decided there should be more in life than railways and opted for a new start as an artist, settling in Paris in 1897.

In 1899, his friend Horsman wrote at some length about the art student[1] , during a visit in Paris. He comments

His work of the last twelve months shows it seems to me, steady advance, offers indeed, one or two bits of work that are really fine.

It appears that Trowbridge had already developped an inclination for etching at the time since Horsman adds

An artist friend of Vaughan's happened in presently and chatted with us until bedtime. He was an amicable red haired American, whose bond of sympathy with Vaughan lay in the matter of etching, which branch of work has engaged Trowbridge's interest lately.

a view of Saint-Etienne des Tonneliers by V. Trowbridge, ab. 1901.
Saint-Etienne des Tonneliers, Rouen, about 1901.
Etching by V. Trowbridge.
A similar view has been etched by Brouet (Ba 114).
When Trowbridge is back in New York for an exhibition in 1901, the New York Times comments[2]

Mr Trowbridge excels in etchings. [...] "Old Street in Rouen" and "Spire of Cathedral, Rouen" are very pleasing bits of the old town on the Seine.

Trowbridge and Brouet

There are three pieces of evidence attesting to a close connexion between Brouet and Trowbridge. In 1906, when Trowbridge marries Aline Moreau in the Mairie du XVIIIème arrondissement, Brouet, "graveur peintre" is a witness. Similarly, in 1908, Brouet marries Henriette Everaert, and Vaughan and Aline Trowbridge both participate as witnesses, and are designated as "friends". A somewhat different piece of evidence can be found in Grignard's catalogue. From Grignard, we learn that some of Brouet's etchings were printed by Trowbridge. Three of them can be identified without ambiguity. Around 1910, Trowbridge printed the proofs of the first state of the Cobblers (Ba 31). A few years later, he printed states of the Traveling Ironmonger (Ba 57) and of the Exodus (Ba 172). Interestingly, the plate of the latter subject belonged to the Bresler C° (Milwaukee), with which Trowbridge also had business connections. Finally, Trowbridge would also have printed the edition of the Chickweed Seller (Ba 20). This plate dates from 1904, and if this is correct, it is also the first documented evidence for the connexion between Brouet and Trowbridge[3] .

a view of the Sacré Coeur by V. Trowbridge, ab. 1901.
A view of the Sacré Coeur, about 1901. Etching by V. Trowbridge.
Although the first stone was laid in 1875 and the main dome erected in 1895, the building is still under construction, and the bell tower was only completed in 1912. Indeed, in the 1907 etching by Brouet (Ba 25), scaffoldings are still to be seen. Brouet adopted a similar viewpoint, but quite characteristicaly proved more interested in the Montmartre atmosphere than the monument itself.

Their works

Brouet and Trowbridge are born etchers, and they started etching at about the same time, around 1900. Both became involved in color etching. Trowbridge specialized in landscapes and countryside views, Brouet has also been cursorily involved in similar practices. He gave views of the Mont Saint-Michel or Heidelberg's castle. It seems that Trowbridge had a specific technique which differed somewhat from the technique "à la poupée" propounded by Delâtre, and practiced by Brouet. And indeed Trowbridge's etchings look more transparent, more watercolor-like than the standard Delâtre inspired production.
In addition, for line etching, we notice common themes, and in particular the Paris views or the small provincial towns, like Rouen and the Seine valley. However, these common themes seem to evidence similar interests and sensitivity. We have no evidence that they actually visited and worked on the motive together.

A mysterious print title

An etched portrait of A. Sanborn, by V. Trowbridge, ab. 1901.
An etched portrait of Alvan. Sanborn, by V. Trowbridge, about 1901. A portrait of young Mr. Sanborn [... is] beginner's work (New York Times, 1901)

The friendship between Brouet and Trowbridge may also explain an oddity in the work of Brouet. A small portrait of a man, dated 1904, and which we have discussed at some length previously is also titled "Portrait of Spies" (B. 22). Now this is very likely a reference to August Spies the activist indicted and executed after the Chicago Haymarket bombing. Such an overtly contentious political reference is unique in the work of Brouet. It may find an explanation however in the connexion with Trowbridge. Trowbridge provided the illustration for his friend Sanborn's "Paris and the Social Revolution"[4], a book which was actually published in 1905. Alvan Sanborn is an american intellectual with social concerns, not a revolutionnary. At the beginning of the XXth century, young Sanborn settled in Paris, and like Trowbridge, actually remained in France for the rest of his life, living in Draveil for quite a while. The Haymarket trial, one of the major counter-revolutionnary events in the USA, stirred a strong resonance in Europe. According to Sanborn,

[...] the great saint day of the French anarchist calendar is the 11th of November, the anniversary of the anarchist executions at Chicago.

This alternative denomination for this small print, thought to be a rendering of Brouet's deceased father, would then have been purely circumstantial, since Brouet was etching the portrait at the same time as his friend Trowbridge was illustrating the book.


[1] I am very much indebted to J. Arbeeny who very kindly sent me a copy of Horsmann's logbooks, which form a most enjoyable and insightful piece of reading matter.

[2] "THE ART STUDENT returns : oils, water colours and etchings by Vaughan Trowbridge", The New York Times, May 13, 1901

[3]  However, Brouet produced another Chickweed seller (Ba 50) dated around 1913. It is possible that Grignard mixed these two plates up; then the dates of issue of the plates printed by Trowbridge would all fall between 1910 and 1915.

[4] "Paris and the Social Revolution A Study of the Revolutionary Elements in the Various Classes of Parisian Society" by Alvan Francis Sanborn, Vaughan Trowbridge illustrator, London, Hutchinson and C°, 1905.