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Armand Guillaumin
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A French painter and printmaker whose long career extended well into the 20th century, Armand Guillaumin made notable contributions to the new artistic style developed by the Impressionists. Soon after he was born in Paris in 1841, his family moved to Moulins in central France, near his father’s home village. Guillaumin began studying art in the local school and continued after he was sent to Paris to work in an uncle’s clothing shop when he was sixteen. From 1860 he studied at the Académie Suisse in the evenings while working for a railway company. At the Académie Guillaumin became friends with two students, Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Camille Pissarro (1831-1903). Excluded from the official Salon exhibition in 1863, the three young artists exhibited in the Salon des Refusés. In 1868 Guillaumin obtained a position with Paris’s department of bridges and highways, where he worked three nights a week (digging ditches), giving him much more time for art. In the early 1870s Guillaumin painted with Cézanne and Pissarro in Pontoise on the north-west outskirts of Paris, where Pissarro lived. Pissarro introduced them to Dr. Paul Gachet (1828-1909), a patron of avant-garde artists who had an etching press in his house. All three artists experimented with etching; Guillaumin made 18 plates. With their works continuing to be rejected by the Salon, Guillaumin was one of the young artists that organized what is now called the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. Guillaumin skipped the 1876 and 1879 Impressionist exhibitions but participated in 1877 and 1880, receiving very little critical attention. He received more attention at the 1881 and 1882 exhibitions but was criticized for his bold colors. Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), then a wealthy stockbroker and amateur artist, bought one of Guillaumin’s paintings from the 1881 show and was influential in organizing the 1882 exhibition. In 1884 Guillaumin exhibited with a new group, the “Artistes Indépendants,” including Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and Paul Signac (1863-1935). The group of Impressionists had grown apart, and many of the original group did not participate in the 1886 exhibition, while new artists such as Redon, Seurat and Signac did. Critics noted Guillaumin’s vigorous use of color, and art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) later though that Guillaumin was a precursor of the Fauvists. Concurrently, Durand-Ruel organized an exhibition of Impressionist works in New York City, including works by Guillaumin. Also that year Guillaumin married Marie-Joséphine Gareton (1858-?). She was a professor at a leading school for young women in Paris, and their combined incomes allowed them a more comfortable life and permitted more travel. Guillaumin had become an inspector for his department, ending ditch digging. And he sold more works, with the dealer Theo van Gogh (18575-1891) becoming a client. Guillaumin declined Gauguin’s invitation to participate in the exhibition at the Café Volpini in 1889, but did exhibit with the Indépendants in 1890. His life changed in 1891 when he won 100,000 gold francs in a state lottery. Although he worked for the city for one more year to obtain a pension, and his wife continued teaching, Guillaumin’s finances were secure, and his need to sell paintings was greatly reduced. He worked in various locations around France, Agay on the Mediterranean in the winter, Crozant on the west side of the Massif Central in the summer, Saint-Palais-sur-Mer at the mouth of the Gironde River on the Atlantic in the early fall, then back to Crozant, and then to Paris. Painting only for himself, his style evolved, with less extreme variations in color. Durand-Ruel mounted a one-man show for him in 1894, with 64 oil paintings and 41 pastels, selling all but ten of the paintings. He contributed a color lithograph to each of the two Albums des Peintres-Graveurs published by the dealer Ambroise Vollard (1867-1939) in 1896 and 1897. In 1903-4 he spent nine months in Holland. In 1906 Guillaumin was elected president of the paintings section of the Société du Salon d’Automne. Under his leadership the Salons featured retrospectives of the works of Courbet, Cézanne and Gauguin. Guillaumin was admitted to the Legion of Honor in 1911. During the next decade he spent much of his time at Crozant, particularly during World War I. He continued to paint until about 1923. Guillaumin lived to bask in the glory of a retrospective exhibition of over one hundred of his works at the Salon d’Automne in 1926. He died in Paris in June 1927 at the age of 86. (TNB 8/2013) Selected bibliography: Gray, Christopher. Armand Guillaumin. Chester, CT: Pequot Press, 1972. Rewald, John. History of Impressionism. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973.