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 Leon Augustin L'hermitte  (1844 - 1925)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: charcoal drawing and rural genre painting

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Ad Code: 2
Leon Augustin L'hermitte
from Auction House Records.
The Little Goose Girl of Mézy
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Biography from Anderson Galleries, Inc.:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The only son of a village schoolmaster, Leon L'Hermitte's precocious drawing skill won him an annual grant from the state.  In 1863, he went to Paris and became a student at the Petite Ecole.  Jean-Charles Cazin, a fellow pupil, became a lifelong friend, and L'hermitte later got to know Alphonse Legros, Henri Fantin-Latour, Jules Dalou and Auguste Rodin, who had all studied at the school.  In 1864 his charcoal drawing the Banks of the Marne near Alfort was exhibited at the Salon; he continued to exhibit his drawings at the Salon until 1889.

In 1871 Legros introduced him to the dealer Durand-Ruel, who agreed to sell several of his drawings.  In 1873, Durand-Ruel sent some of L'Hermitte’s works to the Dudley Gallery for the first of the annual Black and White exhibitions and L'hermitte subsequently became a regular participant.   L'Hermitte won a third-class medal in the Salon of 1874 for his painting The Harvest, which was bought by the state.  The Tavern, exhibited in the Salon of 1881, initiated the monumental series of paintings on the life of the agricultural worker that came closest to justifying van Gogh’s admiring appellation “Millet the Second”.  The next in the series, Harvesters’ Payday became the artist’s best-known work.

L'hermitte was a founding member of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1890.  In 1894 he was made an officer of the Legion d’honneur.  Later, L'Hermitte was elected to fill Jacques Henner’s chair in painting at the Institut. He continued to exhibit in the first decades of the 20th century, when he was generally seen as a relic of a bygone era, although his style later had an influence on Socialist Realism.

Increasingly he worked in pastel, his draughtsman’s skill ever in evidence, producing some sensitive portraits and peasant scenes reminiscent of the earlier and more powerful depictions that van Gogh had cited as “an ideal”.  His pastels are part of the growing use of pastels in France in the latter half of the nineteenth century, used especially well by the Impressionist group.

L'Hermitte was said to have begun experimenting in pastels in 1885, just one year before he exhibited for the first time at the Société des Pastellistes Français held at the Georges Petit gallery in Paris.  Here he submitted a dozen pastels which depicted daily life in the areas of Mont-Saint-Père and also his travel to Vittel, Berneval, Laren, and Wissant.   L'hermitte was one of the most important proponents for acceptance of the pastel.  He continually exhibited his work at these exhibitions and helped forge a new group, that of the pastellistes, where he became a mentor for younger artists.


Museum Collections Include:

Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin; Goteborg Art Gallery, Sweden; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA; Melton Park Gallery, Oklahoma City; Oklahoma City Art Museum, OK; Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, WI; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Musee d’Orsay, Paris; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia; Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery, PA; Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, NY; Museum of Fine Art, Saintes, France; Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio; Washington University Gallery of Art, St. Louis, MO; National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; Toledo Museum of Art, OH; Art Gallery, Ontario; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Museum of Fine Art, Boston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Denver Museum of Art, CO




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.

Leon Augustin Lhermitte was the son of a school teacher and settled in Paris in 1863, enrolling in the École Impériale de Dessin.  His teacher was Lecocq de Boisboudran. Working in charcoal, oil and pastel, Lhermitte produced an oeuvre of astounding virtuosity.  He seldom deviated from the sun-dappled depiction of the French rural landscape and its glorious heroes and heroines - the gleaners, laundresses and farm labourers – set in harmonious accord.  His paintings are indebted to the beauty of the Barbizon landscape painters, such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1895) and to the subtle strength of the French realists, such as Jean Francois Millet (1814-1875) and Julien Dupré (1851-1910).  Lhermittte never descended into sentimentalism when rendering his rustic scenes, his depiction of the activity always embodied dignity and grace in the wake of increasing industrialization.

As a young child, Lhermitte was frequently ill and so spent a great deal of time drawing portraits of his parents and copying engravings that he found in popular French magazines.  A neighbour took notice of his talent and submitted some works to the Minister of Fine Arts.  This would earn Lhermitte a renewable scholarship and enabled him to attend the École Impériale de Dessin in Paris.

During his second year at the École, Lhermitte exhibited his first work at the Salon, a charcoal drawing executed in black and white, produced when he was only nineteen years old.  Lhermitte would continue to exhibit drawings for the remainder of his career.

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