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 Georges D'Espagnat  (1870 - 1950)

About: Georges D'Espagnat


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Lived/Active: France      Known for: impressionist genre, landscape, figure, interior painting, illustration, stage design

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BIOGRAPHY for Georges D'Espagnat
1870 (Melun, Seine-et-Marne, France)


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impressionist genre, landscape, figure, interior painting, illustration, stage design

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Biography from Schiller & Bodo European Paintings:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Much like his friends and colleagues of the Nabis, Georges d’Espagnat was keenly interested in the decorative possibilities of modern art and the creation of a modern interior. While Vuillard, Bonnard, A. André and Denis had launched their careers with a commission to complete tableware and stained-glass designs for the art dealer and Art-Nouveau originator Sigfried Bing beginning in 1895, d’Espagnat began taking complete decorative commissions only after he met the group in 1898. He completed decorative commissions for the Paris apartment and villa at Villennes-sur-Seine of the major Impressionist collector Dr. Viau in 1898 (Viau owned the largest collection of Renoir in private hands and knew the Nabis painters personally), the Château de Bénavent in l’Indre, near Tours, the home of André Germain in Paris, and the dining room in the Paris apartment of Durand-Ruel, the great dealer of the Impressionists and of d’Espagnat himself. In his completion of these decorative suites, d’Espagnat maintained a style much closer to that of Renoir, with whom he maintained a close friendship, and created highly charming interiors of soft, sparkling color.

An artist who created a diverse oeuvre, Georges d’Espagnat constantly strove for originality and independence, marking a place for himself among the modern masters.  While he was associated with Renoir, the Fauvists and the Nabis, d’Espagnat remained on the outside of these movements, creating a body of work that was uniquely personal.

Born in Melun in 1870, Georges d’Espagnat’s family moved to Paris when he was a young man.  A strongly independent student, he rejected the traditional places of artistic education available in the capital, claiming to have spent only four hours at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  Instead he attended classes at the free academy and drew at the Louvre.  D’Espagnat began his public career at the Salon des Refusées in 1891, and later exhibited at the Salon of the Société Nationale and the Salon des Independents, both venues known for their openness to modern trends.  In 1903 d’Espagnat, along with the architect Frantz Jourdain and critic Ivanhoe Rambosson, founded the Salon d’Automne with the purpose of creating an alternative exhibition venue for young artists and for retrospectives of the modern artists who had been rejected at the end of the earlier century.

D'Espagnat became closely acquainted with many of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists including Renoir, Vuillard, Andre, Bonnard and Denis. Between 1905-10, he stayed with Renoir on several occasions accompanied by Valtat, and visited Italy, Spain, Portugal London, Dresden, Munich and Antwerp.

Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Brussels, Musée Royaux de Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Musée d’Art Moderne; Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse; Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lehman Collection; Paris, Musée Eugène Delacroix; Paris, Musée d’Orsay; Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Saint-Tropez, Musée d‘Annonciade;

Biography from Odon Wagner Gallery:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

French painter, illustrator and stage designer, disdaining the traditional art schools, Georges d’Espagnat studied part-time at the Académie Colarossi in Paris under Gustave-Claude-Etienne Courtois (1852–1923) and Jean-André Rixens (1846–1924) but was mostly self-taught.  In 1891 he exhibited at the Salon des Refusés and the following year at the Salon des Indépendants.  His early works, such as Suburban Railway (c. 1895; Paris, Mus. d’Orsay), showed a strong debt to Impressionism.  He was a friend of Renoir as well as of Paul Signac, Henri Edmond Cross, Louis Valtat and later Maurice Denis, Bonnard and Vuillard.

In 1898 he visited Morocco where he painted such works as Moroccan Horseman (1898; see Cailler, p. 7).  After his return to France, he concentrated on studies from nature, paintings of women, children and flowers and decorative projects for private patrons.  In 1904 he exhibited at the Salon d’Automne, becoming its Vice-President in 1935.  Between 1905 and 1910 he made several trips with Valtat to visit Renoir on the Côte d’Azur as well as traveling to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Britain, Germany and elsewhere.  In 1906 he illustrated Remy de Gourmont’s book Sixtine, published in Paris. In the early 1910s he painted a number of portraits including several musician friends, including Albert Roussel (1912; see Cailler, p. 13), by which time his work was more simplified, fluid and intimate.  In 1914 he provided the decor for a production of Alfred de Musset’s play Fantasio at the Théâtre de Batignolles in Paris.

After working in a camouflage unit during World War I, in 1920 d’Espagnat bought a country house in the Quercy region and over the next decade painted numerous landscapes and interiors there (e.g. Interior, 1925; Metz, Mus. A. & Hist.).  During the 1930s he worked in various media.  He illustrated Alphonse Daudet’s L’Immortel (Paris, 1930) and also produced theatre designs.  In 1936 he decorated the Mairie in Vincennes; in 1938 the Palais de Justice in Toulouse and in 1939 the ceiling of the Salle Victor Hugo in the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris.  Ironically, considering his earlier attitudes, from 1936 to 1940 he was a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  Though disrupted by World War II, he continued to paint until his death and with his pupil Suzanne Humbert, illustrated Francis Jammes’s Clairières dans le ciel, 1902–1906 (Paris, 1948).

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