Etrepagny, Normandy, France
An innovative artist who depicted Parisian café society while working with the leading French avant-garde artists of the 1880s, Louis Anquetin abandoned modern art in the 1890s to create allegorical scenes in the style of 17th century Flemish artists. His parents operated a prosperous butcher shop in Etrepagny, near Giscors in Normandy, giving them the means to support his artistic career. He entered Lycée Corneille in Rouen in 1872, where he met Edward Dujardin (1861-1949), a life-long friend who became a writer and symbolist art critic. Anquetin entered Léon Bonnat’s (1833-1922) Parisian studio in 1882, where he met Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). After Bonnat closed his studio later that year, Anquetin and Toulouse-Lautrec moved to the studio of Fernand Cormon (1845-1924). Emile Bernard (1868-1941) entered Cormon’s studio that fall and was befriended by Anquetin and Toulouse-Lautrec. The three friends frequented the bars and cabarets of Montmartre, particularly Aristide Bruant’s (1851-1925) cabaret Le Mirliton. Anquetin’s works from the mid-1880s were strongly influenced by the Impressionists, and Anquetin consulted with Claude Monet (1840-1926) in 1886. He declined Cormon’s offer to succeed him as head of the studio, and left in the summer of 1886. The pointillist works of Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and others shown in the last Impressionist exhibition in 1886 caught Anquetin’s interest, and he began painting in the pointillist style for a short time. That fall Bernard introduced him to Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), who became a close friend. By 1887 Anquetin and Bernard began to develop a new style of painting using strong outlines and areas of flat color, probably influenced by Japanese prints and the study of stained glass. Two of Anquetin’s paintings from that year, Le Faucheur (The Mower at Noon, Paris: Coll. Prof. and Mme. Léon Velluz) and L’Avenue de Clichy (Avenue de Clichy, Hartford: Wadsworth Atheneum), are thought to be Anquetin’s best paintings in this style. Anquetin showed them with six other works at both the fifth exhibition of Les Vignt in Brussels and at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in early 1888. His friend Dujardin wrote an admiring review of the works by Anquetin and Bernard in the journal La Revue indépendante, calling the style “cloisonisme.” The style was similar to the “synthetist” works of Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). Anquetin pursued this style through the mid-1890s in portraits, equestrian and racing scenes and depictions of the street life of Paris. Anquetin’s works were exhibited at the leading avant garde art exhibitions of the time, including the 1899 exhibition organized by Gauguin at the Café Volpini in Paris, the first salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1890 (continuing to exhibit with them until 1914), and the exhibitions of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1890 and 1891. Also in 1891 he participated in the first group show by the group of avant-garde artists who called themselves the “Nabis” (from the Hebrew word for prophet) at the Barc de Boutteville gallery and the subsequent Nabi exhibitions at the gallery from 1893 until 1896. An example of his graphic art, the lithograph Le Cavalier et le Mendiant or Don Quichotte et Sancho Pança, was included in the first album of prints published by André Marty’s (1857-?) in his series of prints, L’estampe originale in 1893, which was also published in Le Courrier français that year. In late 1890 Anquetin began to explore earlier artists. From 1892 until 1900 he carefully researched 17th century Dutch and Flemish masters, particularly Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), and 16th century Venetian masters. By 1896 he was no longer interested in working in “cloisonnisme” or the other styles he had pursued previously and emulated Rubens’s style, pursuing allegorical and decorative themes. He created a large mural for a Brussels mansion, lithographs for theater programs (1895 and 1898), a theater curtain for the Théâtre Antoine (1897), decorations for the Cercle Artistique in Nice and a number of tapestry cartoons for the Gobleins factory. He decorated Dujardin’s summer house in Val Changis in 1900-1901 with murals depicting mythological scenes. An exhibition of eighty-three of his works, mostly from the 1890s, was mounted at the Parisian restaurant Cubat in 1897. He was made a member of the Legion of Honor in 1909. His study of older masters led him to publish a series of articles in the journal Comoedia during 1912-1913 regarding the techniques of such artists as Rubens, comparing them to modern art. Then in 1924 he commissioned the art critic and historian Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) to write a book on Rubens. Antequin died in 1932 after a lengthy illness. (TNB 10/2011) Selected bibliography: Cate, Phillip Dennis and Patricia Eckert Boyer. The Circle of Toulouse-Lautrec. Exhibition catalog, pp. 70-78. New Brunswick, N.J.: The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum: 1985. Destremau, Frédéric and Thibault de La Chatre. Anquetin: la passion d’être peintre. Exhibition catalog. Paris: Brame & L:orenceau, 1991. Welsh-Ovcharow, Bogomila. Van Gogh and the Birth of Cloisonnism. Exhibition catalog, pp. 227-258. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1981.