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Leon Gaspard

 (1882 - 1964)
Leon Shulman Gaspard was active/lived in New Mexico / France, Africa, Russian Federation.  Leon Gaspard is known for figure, street-landscape, and genre painting.

Leon Gaspard

Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries

LEON GASPARD (1882-1964)

The individuality and strong character of Leon Gaspard is expressed in his remarkable paintings, which span continents and decades. Born in Vitebsk, Russia, Gaspard accompanied his father on fur trades to Asia. This exposure to the colorful and exotic cultures would remain a theme of his work throughout his life.

Gaspard's artistic studies began in Vitebsk and were followed by further study in Odessa and at the Academy of Moscow. He travelled to Paris in 1901 to study with Adolphe Bouguereau and Edouard Toudouze at the Académie Julian. There he met his future wife, Evelyn Adell, an American ballet student.

Their unusual honeymoon, a two-year pack trip through the Siberian wilderness, allowed Gaspard to create hundreds of sketches. These sketches, as well as others made on his later travels throughout Asia, Europe, North Africa and America, became the foundation for his finished paintings.

Gaspard's highly successful Parisian career was interrupted by World War I, when he flew with the French Air Corps as an aerial observer. His plane was shot down, and Gaspard was badly injured. His wife's family arranged for him to come to New York to recuperate. In 1919 the Gaspards moved to Taos, seeking a more beneficial climate. The native cultures of the Southwest reminded Gaspard of his beloved homeland. Though they continued to travel, the Gaspards made Taos their permanent home in 1924.

Gaspard's paintings are anomalous among the work of the Taos painters, since they have many cultures from many lands as their theme. His paintings combine the clear bright colors associated with Impressionism and the influences of more modern and interpretive representation. Gaspard's vibrant paintings, filled with movement and rendered in brilliant colors, are a historic legacy of cultures from around the world.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery
LEON GASPARD (1882-1964)

® Fenn Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico
® Private Collection, Albuquerque, New Mexico

® Leon Gaspard by Frank Waters, Northland Press, Arizona,1981
Illustrated page 71.

Born to a retired Russian officer, Leon Gaspard traveled with his father to the steppes of Siberia to buy furs from the nomadic tribesman. Reluctantly, his father, hoping that he would pursue the art of the violin, allowed him to enroll in art classes taught by Julius Penn in Vitebsk. Seeking continued education Gaspard studied art in Odessa and Moscow before he was able to enroll at the Julien Academy at the age of 17. Living hand to mouth in Paris he held various odd jobs while sketching everything Parisian. With no income from his parents who had died with nothing to give, he was very fortunate to have a successful sale to a Paris art dealer. So excited about the quality of his work, the dealer, George Petite, arranged a show of his sketches. At the end of the show Gaspard was 4,000 francs the richer.

With his new finances Gaspard was working at his sketches when he was approached by the American George D. Pratt, a director of Standard Oil. Pratt bought over thirty five pieces from Gaspard. More good fortune came to Gaspard from America in the form of Evelyn Adell, with whom he eventually married and traveled to New York with. In 1918, they were settled in Taos, New Mexico. A late comer to the art scene in Taos, he was received coolly at first until "Buck" Dunton made him his friend. Painting and traveling, Gaspard was able to establish himself as an important painter of Europe and the West.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, II
Born: Vitebsk, Russia 1882
Died: Taos, New Mexico 1964

Important Taos painter.

Gaspard was the son of a retired Russian army officer who took him along as a boy on fur trading trips to Siberia. In Vitebsk he became the pupil of Julius Penn, along with Marc Chagall, a most important Post-Impressionist artist. Gaspard also studied in Odessa and Moscow before going to Paris at 17 for study at the Julien Academy with Edouard Toudouze and Bouguereau, "the supreme academician." His first one-man show while still a student resulted in the purchase of 35 Paris sketches by a New York collector. Gaspard took his American wife on a two-year horseback honeymoon in Siberia in 1908. The resulting paintings were a Paris success. He was seriously wounded as a French aviator shot down in WWI and moved to New York City in 1916.

When his doctors recommended a warmer climate, he settled in Taos in 1918. Although the established Taos artists received him coldly, except for Dunton, Gaspard found in the Indians and the terrain the basis for commercial success with his "bright palette and freely drawn, loosely painted scenes." His paintings show "a love of exciting color and highly developed pattern. The intricate fabric of his methods of design are to an extent concealed by the accomplished way in which he preserves the casual immediacy of a sketch, even in large-scale studio work. Gaspard continued to travel extensively and to paint productively until his death.

Resource: SAMUELS' Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery
Leon Gaspard was an interesting addition to the New Mexico arts scene when he arrived there in 1918. A Russian-born, French-trained veteran of the airborne campaigns of the Great War, he arrived physically diminished from a horrific plane crash that had put him in a French hospital for two years. Seeking a more hospitable climate, he arrived in Taos to find a vibrant arts community and an exotic blend of native, western and Hispanic cultures.

Having traveled widely throughout Russia, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Morocco and Northern Africa as a fur trader, successful painter, army pilot and international spy, Gaspard had a love of foreign cultures and a desire to document them artistically. Taos allowed him just such an opportunity, and he set out to paint the Taos Indians in much the same way he had painted the natives of North Africa and Asia while in Paris.

A pariah of sorts when he first arrived, Gaspard was saved socially when Herbert "Buck" Dunton took a liking to him and began to bring him around to meet the artists of Taos. A kindly and gregarious man, Gaspard eventually became quite well-liked, in part because of his propensity to sing romantic songs from various cultures and tell stories of his life and travels.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Santa Monica
Leon Gaspard was born near Moscow, Russia, in 1882, to parents who encouraged his artistic talents, and his move to Paris to study at the Academie Julian. Gaspard was enthralled by the creative climate and the creativity that was around him. For several years he studied and showed his works at the Paris Salon.

Following a two-year recovery from an airplane accident, Gaspard moved to New York in 1916, where he would live and exhibit for only 2 years before settling in Taos, New Mexico. In Taos, Gaspard was fascinated by the indigenous culture, and set about learning and painting it. His vibrant style was rooted in Impressionism, and resisted many Moderist trends.

Biography from Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
If Gaspard went to Hopi, he visited Hubbell on the way.  It is good enough for me to say he did - knowing how people traveled in those days.  The only way he would have avoided Hubbell would have been to train from Santa Fe to Winslow and horseback ride to the Hopi Mesas.  But, my money is on him riding from Taos to Hopi via Chaco Ruins then Ganado then Keams
Canyon and the Mesas.

Ed Chamberlin, Curator, Hubbell Trading Post, email 9/2/2008

Biography from Artistic Gallery
Of Russian origin, he was fascinated with regional color, costumes and rituals, especially of local people of Taos, New Mexico where he arrived in 1919. His work of wide-ranging subjects is noted for its brilliant color and intricate patterning. His style combined elements of French Impressionism with Realism.

He was born in Vitebsk, near Moscow, into a family that nurtured his talents. By the age of fifteen he was taking art classes, and one of his fellow students was Marc Chagall.

Seeking more training, Gaspard moved to Paris and enrolled in the Academie Julian. He was enamored of French Impressionism, the abstract, innovative painting of Modigliani and Matisse, and especially by the expressive style of the sculpture of Rodin. It was an exciting time because Paris was then the capital of creativity of the western world in art and music and literature. For several years, he showed his paintings in the annual Salon exhibition.

But seeking the world beyond, he chose to leave and in 1909, he and his new bride, Evelyn Adell, daughter of a wealthy American family, began a pattern of traveling with a two-year honeymoon journey through Siberia.

In 1914, he enlisted in the French Aviation Corps and was seriously wounded in a plane crash. He spent two years in a French hospital, and his wife went home to America where he joined her in New York in 1916. In that city, he quickly became a part of the art community and exhibited at the National Academy of Design and the Vanderbilt Gallery. He and his wife visited artist Sheldon Parsons in Santa Fe but more impressed by the environs of Taos, they moved there in 1918.

He and Evelyn traveled extensively from Taos, using every form of transportation to see far-away-places including China, Mongolia, Tibet, Morocco, and Northern Africa. He became adept at drawing or sketching on horseback or in wagons and traveled thousands of miles by pony, camel, river boat, steamship, automobile, truck, and airplane. It was said that regardless of where he was, he always lived in the big world in that he was filled with expansive ideas and creative spirit.

In Morocco, he was on a secret mission for the French government, something he never revealed. He and his wife stayed in Tunis for several years during the Depression because a closed bank in America had frozen their funds.

Although advised by John Marin to become a modernist, Gaspard resisted and stayed to a vigorous, realistic style. He was a popular man, with a warm personality and good humor, full of entertaining stories and romantic songs.

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About  Leon Gaspard

Born:  1882 - Vitebsk, Russia
Died:   1964 - Taos, New Mexico
Known for:  figure, street-landscape, and genre painting

Essays referring to
Leon Gaspard

Paris pre-1900
Taos pre-1940