Le Puy-en-Velay, France
A French painter and printmaker known for his depictions of the people, landscapes and coasts of Brittany, Charles Cottet was active at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. His father, a native of the Savoy region of France near Lake Geneva, was a magistrate assigned to Le Puy-en-Velay in the Haute-Loire in south-central France. Born in 1863, Cottet was sent by his parents to Paris in 1882 to follow in his father’s footsteps and study law, but he instead studied art. He was a student at the École des Beaux-Arts for two years and pursued independent studies with Pierre Purvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) and Alfred Roll (1846-1919). Cottet also studied at the Académie Julian, where he became friends with a group of fellow students, such as Pierre Bonnard (1867-1943), Maurice Denis (1870-1943) and Edouard Vuillard (1858-1940), who would later form the school of painting known as Les Nabis (after the Hebrew word for prophet). While Cottet is associated with this group through his inclusion in Félix Vallotton’s (1865-1925) work Five Painters (1902-3, Winterthur, Switz.: Kunstmuseum Winterthur), in fact his art turned away from the path taken by his friends, after he became inspired by Brittany. He made his first visit to Brittany in 1885 and became focused on the region and its people. Cottet spent portions of most years in Brittany until 1913. He traveled widely, visiting the Netherlands in 1884, Algeria in 1892 and Egypt (on a travel grant) in 1894. Cottet first exhibited in the official Salon in 1889, and exhibited with his Nabi friends in the Exposition des Peintres Impressionistes et Symbolistes at the Galerie Barc de Boutteville in 1891. His painting Evening Light: The Port of Camaret (1893, Paris: Musée d’Orsay), executed in subdued colors, was one of the earliest expressions of his focus on Brittany. By the middle of the decade he and his friends René François Xavier Prinet (1861-1946) and André Dauchez (1870-1948) had formed a group of artists that became known as the Bande noir, given the dark tonalities used in their paintings. Cottet began printmaking in the middle of the decade, with a lithograph of Breton women. His color lithograph Un enterrement en Bretagne was published by the Parisian dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard (1867-1939) in the 1897 L’Album d’Estampes originales de la Galerie Vollard. Cottet also created etchings, and in all 71 of his prints have been catalogued. He had become very well known by the end of the 19th century. He helped to found the Société National des Beaux-Arts in 1890. Cottet received a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 and was made a member of the Legion of Honor. in which He participated in several Parisian exhibitions during the early 20th century, including the Salon de la Graveur Originale en Couleurs (exhibition of Original Engravings in Color, 1905), several appearances in the Salons of the Société des Peintres Graveurs Français (Society of French painter-Printmakers), a solo print show in 1906 and a huge one-man show with 431 paintings and watercolors and 60 prints at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1911. Struck by an illness around 1911, he stopped working after 1913 and died in Paris in 1925. (TNB 7/2013) Selected bibliography: Bailly-Herzberg, Janine. Dictionnaire de l’estampe en France, 1830–1950, p. 78. Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1985. Cariou, André. Charles Cottet (1863-1925). Exhibition catalog. Quimper: Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1984.