Stéphane Mandelbaum's complete etching oeuvre comprises twenty-two engravings, mainly done with drypoint on zinc. This particular technique does not allow for quick work, since it involves drawing with a metal point on a zinc plate and then inking the plate before printing it on paper. Executed between the ages of eighteen and twenty, these works clearly show the talent and virtuosity of this young artist who died too soon, at the age of twenty-five in 1986. Attracted by the dangerous life, the underworld of the night, Stéphane is no less a dreamer, a storyteller, a formidable draughtsman.
It is undoubtedly due to the slowness of the engraving process, as opposed to drawing, that he quickly abandoned this way of expressing himself. Drawing is to be seen more as the release of an impulse, which etching hinders. Nevertheless, some of the portraits are of a formidable intensity.
Some major themes can be isolated, such as identity (in the form of self-portraits and portraits of his grandfather Szulim, but also of Shoret, the Jewish butcher), as well as the representation of admired figures (in the form of portraits of artists for whom he has great admiration: Francis Bacon, Pier Paolo Pasolini or Arthur Rimbaud) or the theme of suffering (the flayed, bruised or deformed self-portraits).
The pornographic aspect that generally marks out his work is found in three engravings where the subject is clearly the sex of the woman. The battlefield scene is to be set apart, but it illustrates Stéphane's pleasure in inventing playlets (which is found in a massive way in his drawings). In this engraving, many details are crisp and full of (black) humour as in Ensor's engravings.
Stéphane Mandelbaum's work remains little known because of his early death. Nevertheless, he left behind many works; paintings, large pencil drawings, numerous bic drawings and the twenty-two engravings that we offer.