One of de Feure’s best works and a masterpiece of lithography, La Source du Mal deploys color in broad swaths to form an almost abstract composition. The title plays on the word “source,” which in French can mean either source (origin) or spring (source of water). Depending on one’s interpretation, either the woman depicted is drinking from a corrupted spring, or she herself is the source of evil. Symbolist art has earned a reputation for misogyny because of the frequency of such references, direct or indirect, linking women to Eve and original sin. Still, artists such as de Feure were equally fascinated by female beauty as a positive and productive inspiration for art across many genres and media. La Source du Mal was included in L’Estampe originale, a multiple-artist print portfolio published by André Marty, in 1894. This publication, appearing in nine albums over the years 1893 to 1895, is a gold standard of late-nineteenth-century French printmaking. In all, it featured 95 original prints by artists influenced to varying degrees by japonisme and Art Nouveau.
Resource: Chelsea Foxwell and Anne Leonard, Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints, exh. cat. (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, 2012), pp. 58–59.