Louis Anquetin’s Childhood And Early Life
Louis Anquetin was born in Etrepagny, a commune in the Department of Eure, on 26 January 1861. He was the only son of George Anquetin, a wealthy butcher and Rose-Felicite Chauvet. As the only child of a prosperous family, he was much pampered. His parents encouraged him to take up drawing and he quickly grew fascinated to it. In 1872, at the age of 11, he was enrolled at the Lycee Pierre Corneille in Rouen from which he graduated in 1880. At school, he befriended Edouard Dujardin, who later became a renowned poet. He then entered military service with the 6th Cavalry Regiment of Dragoons in Chartres. After returning from service, he decided to pursue a career as an artist and so, after persuading his parents, he went to Paris in 1882. There he joined the studio of Leon Bonnat where he met and became friends with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The next year, when Laon was appointed a professor at the Academy of Arts, Louis Anquetin and Henri joined the workshop of the painter Fernand Cormon. He was a very promising student and Cormon considered him to be his successor.
His career as an artist started under the shadow of the legendry avant-garde painter Vincent Van Gough and very soon, both became good friends. In 1884, he worked in a workshop along with Emile Bernard, who was only 16 years old at that time. Louis Anquetin discovered ‘Impressionism’ after he met Claude Monet in 1885. This style allowed him to clarify his range of painting. However later, he along with his friends sought to move beyond ‘Impressionism’ and create a modern style. The young Cormon group often used each other as models, which is evident in a drawing that Anquetin made in 1886 of Toulouse-Lautrec as well as a pastel study of Bernard in 1887. Likewise, Toulouse-Lautrec also sketched Anquetin in 1886, an oil sketch of Bernard in 1885 and a crayon drawing of Van Gough in 1887.
In April 1886, Emile Bernard left the workshop and Van Gough joined in October. During this time, he exhibited some of his works at the Café du Tambourin along with Bernard and Lautrec. Van Gough also exhibited Louis’ paintings at the Grand Café Bouillon along with his and his friends’ works. It was here that he met the post-impressionist painter, Georges Seurat in 1886 and was introduced to 'Divisionism'.
With Emile Bernard, Louis starts painting in the divisionist style. Later he adopted a new style called 'Cliosonnism', which was partly inspired by the Japanese wood block prints and stained glass. The term was coined by the art critic, Edouard Dujardin, after seeing their work in 1888, in a review. The new style was also inspired from Van Gough’s Japanese prints. The main characteristic of this style is the use of strong black contour outlines and flat areas of color. Two of his works, painted in this style called ‘Avenue de Clichy: Five O’ clock’ and ‘Le Faucher’ is said to be the inspiration behind Van Gough’s famous works ‘Café Terrace at Night’ and ‘Les Moissons’ respectively. Another work “At the Circus” (1887) was the influence behind Toulouse-Lautrec’s “At the Circus Fernando” (1888). He also influenced other legendary artists like Gauguin and Picasso. Paul Gauguin’s “La Dame a la Robe Rouge” (1891) was inspired from Anquetin’s “La Dame en Rouge” (1890) and Pablo Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein, created 13 years later was inspired by Anquetin’s “Madeline” (1892).
The new style earned him both fame and acclaim. In 1889, he participated in a major exhibition at the Paris Exposition with other painters like Paul Gauguin, Leon Faucher, Daniel George, Emile Bernard, Louis Roy, Charles Laval and Charles Filiger. He also exhibited at the Les XX in Brussels to critical acclaim. He was very much praised by the art critic Felix Feneon for his work. The same year he shifted his studio from Montmartre to the more fashionable Rue de Rome and started painting mysterious women at night the best example of which is the painting “Woman on the Champs-Elysees by Night”.
In 1891, he held a major exhibition at the Salon des Independents of ten of his best works. All the paintings particularly the “Woman on the Champs-Elysees by Night”, which was also exhibited, was highly praised by critics.
In 1894, Louis Anquetin along with Toulouse-Lautrec and Joseph Albert went on a trip to Belgium and Holland. There he saw the works of past masters like Peter Paul Reubens, Rembrandt van Rijn and Franz Hals and was very influenced by them. He noticed that the paintings of the masters were fluid and brilliant while his own works looked opaque and laborious. He also had long discussions of technique with Pierre-Auguste Renoir and they both agreed that there was something lacking in their materials. So, his subsequent works became more classical.
By this time, most of his contemporaries had already switched to pastel as they considered oil painting to be dull. Anquetin thought otherwise. He believed that oil painting was their collective heritage and accused his colleagues of lacking the necessary understanding required for oils. According to him, it was the lack, not of talent among his colleagues, but of the knowledge of the oil painting techniques and the ability to draw by studying the anatomy. So, at this period he made a complete turn in his career by rejecting modern art and turning to classicism. The other painters and art critics rejected him and he remained friends only with Toulouse-Lautrec.
From 1894 to 1896, he studied anatomy in the laboratory of Professor Arroux in Clamart as he believed that great masters had the perfect knowledge of anatomy, which gave them the freedom of painting figures without the necessity of any models. He also started experimenting with oil techniques trying to find out the methods of the old masters.
He moved to Bourron-Marlotte, where he became friends with Elemis Biurges, Paul Fort, Stuart Merrill, Elemis Bourges and Armand Point. In 1901, his former teacher, Fernand Cormon, obtained an assignment to paint murals in the Hotel de ville de Tours and invited Louis to create four panels representing Balzac, Descartes, Rabelais and Alfred de Vigny on the north wall of the hotel. These works was however replaced in 1907 with the paintings of Francois Schommer.
Personal Life And Death
In 1906, when he was about 45 years old, Louis married Berthe Coquinot, who was the widow of an officer. After marriage, the couple settled in Vine Street, in a magnificent house designed by Charles Blanche. During this time, he also started teaching painting techniques to many students. He also gave lectures at the People’s University and in 1914, he organized monthly debates at the restaurant La Perouse. During this time, he guided two of his students, Jacques Maroger and Camille Versini in their research on different varnishes and painting techniques along with the chemist Marc Havel. His book “Rubens” was published in 1924. Louis passed away in August 1932. By this time, he was almost forgotten. A few months before his death, his friend, Emile Bernard, met him and created his portrait, which was signed “Louis Anquetin, a token of my deepest admiration”.