Legros, Alphonse




Alphonse Legros


guest of honour in 1876

at the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition


Was Legros an Impressionist?
Alphonse Legros only joined  the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876. Before, his art-works were sometimes rejected for the Salon and he joined an alternative in 1857, 1859 and 1863. Still, he didn’t join the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc and he rejected to exhibit in 1874 at the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition. Though he had contacts with Degas, Astruc, de Nittis and Félix Bracquemond and close contacts with related painters, Legros was (hardly) not related to other ‘impressionists’, also because he emigrated in 1863 to England. In that sense he only joined the Impressionist art-movement at some distance.
Legros gave some of his etchings impressionist titles. His few landscape paintings are rather colourful, but there is no emphasize on the effect of light and he didn’t use juxta-posed brushstrokes. Overall Legros can be called a Realist, using hardly an impressionistic style.

Alphonse Legros only joined the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876:
At the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition Legros showed as a sort guest of honour 25 works, which was almost twice the average (catalogue numbers 81-92; some numbers containing several works; R2,p162). Most or all of his exhibited art-works were etchings.
He was invited by Degas (R9), who already had invited him for the 1st exposition in 1874, which Legros refused (R6,p113;R1,p313). According to other sources Legros was also invited by Pissarro (R88).
The art-critic Alfred de Lostalot described Legros as ‘little known to the public’, ‘held in the greatest esteem in artistic circles’. Pierre Dax / Rivière compared him to ’the old masters’ and depicted in his work a ‘Gothic flavor’ (R2,p178). See link for his pictures. See link for an account.

Alphonse Legros and the Salon and other exhibitions:
Legros made has debut at the Salon in 1857 with a portrait of his father (iR1;R9;iR3). Another portrait was rejected and legros exhibited as a protest (among others) in the studio of François Bonvin (1817-87; iR3). In 1859 he was rejected (with one work) for the Salon and exhibited at the ‘Champs de Mars Salon’ with other Refusés like Théodule Ribot, Fatin-Latour and Whistler (iR69). Though accepted with two works in 1863 Legros exhibited his rejected portrait at the Salon des Refusés. You can also say that Legros most of the time was accepted and he exhibited at the Salon in 1857+59+61+63+67+68+69+70+75+80+82. In 1861 he was succesfull and received a mention. In 1867 and 1868 he received a medal for genre painting (R259;aR6). Legros is called a pupil of Lecoq de Boisbaudran (iR1;R259) and M. Lecoq (R259). Legros emigrated in 1863 to England and exhibited in London at the Royal Academy (R88). Probably this is why Legros exhibited irregularly at the Salon and stopped exhibiting after 1882 at it’s successor the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français.
Legros exhibited at the Centennial of the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889 with 2 etchings and in 1900 with (at least) 2 paintings (R231;R22I,p348). In the posthumous sale of Édouard Brandon 1897/12/13+14, there was 1 drawing made by Legros and 7 etchings (aR3).
(See link for an account and for some his art-works at the Salon).

Legros as an artist:
In 1851 Legros moved to Paris and studied at the drawing school of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, also known as the ‘Petit École’ (R3;R88;iR1;iR65;iR3;iR70;iR69). There he met Dalou, Fantin-Latour, Rodin and Whistler (R88). In 1855 Legros started (or ended) his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris (R85;R3;iR65). He was especially close with Whistler and Fantin-Latour with whom he formed the informal ‘Société des Trois’ (iR70). Legros also was acquinted with Degas, Giuseppe de Nittis, Baudelair, Cazin, Courbet, Jules Dalou, Lhermitte, Manet, Théodule Ribot and Auguste Rodin (R88;R3;iR3;iR70). Legros (also) did meet them at the brasserie Andler, the brasserie des Martyrs, café de Bade and café Guerbois (R88;R3;iR3;iR70). In 1854 Legros met Astruc (iR23).
Legros was portrayed by others: Whistler (in 1861), Fantin-Latour (1856+58+64), Félix Bracquemond (1861), Jules Dalou (1876ca), Rudolf Lehmann (1880), Rodin (1881ca), William Rothenstein (1897), Charles Haslewood (1899). Legros also portrayed other artists: Édouard Manet (1863), Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1868-69+79), Auguste Delâtre (1872-77), Jules Dalou (1876-77), Rodin (1881+82), Jean-Charles Cazin (1882) and he made a memorial for Alfred Stevens (1907).

As an artist Legros was inspired by Courbet (R88). Rivière saw similarities with Jean-François Millet and Rembrandt in Legros his works (R90I,p71). Legros is generally seen as a Realist in the line of Courbet (iR3;iR70). Caillebotte lists him as one of the fighters for the Realist cause (R102,p275;R1,p448). Most of his works are portraits and figure painting. Many works are realistic, also rendering every day and poor people. Some of his works have something dramatic and even something of exaltation, you could call that a Romantic tendency. A review in 1902 mentioned ‘Mr Legros’ heads, when he pushes them to the limit of exaggerated expression, becomes almost grotesque; yet decorative and full of spirit and individuality’ (iR14). Some call his paintings ‘sentimental genre scenes’ (iR27). His drawing can be quite Academic. Just a single time he rendered mythological themes, but more often religious and biblical scenes. This you could call a Néo-Classical influence. His few landscapes are colourful, but not typical impressionistic (see 2IE-1876-92). There is no emphasize on the influence of light and no juxtaposed brushstrokes.
Legros also was an sculptor. In the 1880s he was the first to make medallions cast in bronze (iR70), 9 of them he exhibited at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français of 1882.

Legros in England:
Legros didn’t have much success in Paris (R88;R85). Invited by Whistler Legros moved in 1863 to London (R88;R116,p129;R3;R9;R116I,p129). Already in 1860 Legros, together with Whistler, made a first trip to London (R88). Legros became a teacher in etching at the Royal College of Art (R3;R9;R88) and later at the National Art Training Schools in South Kensington (R8,p173;iR3). In England he exhibited at the Royal Academy and was related with the Pre-Raffaellites (R88). During the French-Prussian war in 1870-71 his house was a refuge for French artists in exile, like Bonvin, Daubigny and Gérôme (R116I,p129;R88). Pissarro later (1883/06/25) recalled that he lunched with Monet at Legros (R116I,p129). In a letter to Tissot 1872/11/19 Degas greeted Legros from New Orleans (R5,p75). Later Legros helped the sell of works of Degas in England (R8,p175+372).
From 1876 till 1892 Legros was professor at the Slade school of Fine Art in London where he had many pupils (R9;R3;R88;R8,p374;iR69;iR70). ‘Legros introduced French academic ideas, most notably the mastery of rapid oil sketching, memory training, and figure draughtsmanship, in which contour rather than outline and hatching expressed three-dimensional form; the latter became a hallmark of the Slade’s training. Legros also introduced competitions, prices, and travel scholarships, as well as an etching class.’ (iR70,2003). Lucien Pissarro considered in 1883 to study with Legros, but his father Camille was doubtful of Legros his theories (R312,p34).

Legros made many etchings, also with impressionist titles:
Legros was one of the greatest French engravers (iR65). He was member of the ‘Société des Aquafortistes‘ from 1862-67 (iR70). Legros taught Manet engraving (iR70). In 1861 Legros made 4 etchings for the book ‘Le malheur d’Henriette Gérard’ written by Duranty (iR26;iR40;R1,p52). In 1862 Legros made etchings for the book ‘Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly’ written by Alcide Dusolier (1836-1918) (iR26).
Legros made more than 600 etchings, including many portraits, landscapes and religious themes (R88). In his landscapes one can see a certain impressionist livelyness (R88). With its black and white prints, you could say etching is a non-impressionistic technique. Still in the titles of several etchings Legros used impressionistic titles indicating the time of day and the wind (see 2IE-1876-89). Beraldi mentions his graphic work ‘is invariably severe, austere, dark; simple and rough in execution to the point of excess’ (R85IX,p94). Legros played with contrasts by using the white of the paper (iR26).
In a letter (1891/03/01) Camille Pissarro remarks to his son Lucien that Legros is appreciated by collectors of etchings (R226I,p225). In 1890 there had been a solo exhibition at Durand-Ruel of his etchings (R9;R3;R88) and in 1898 at the Bing Gallery (R88). Visiting this last one, Camille Pissarro criticised Legros, calling him (here and there) an imitator of Rembrandt: ‘It’s much too laboured muted, blackish in hue, and even the motifs of cone-shaped thatched cottages are much too derivative.’ He also mentioned that he is annoyed by the paintings  of Legros and that he found his etchings much more superior. (R116I,p281)


Short biography of Alphonse Legros:

  • 1837/05/08 birth of Alphonse Legros in Dijon (Côte-d’Or) (iR24;iR1;R259;aR6;iR26;r85). Note: a placquette in Dijon indicates he was born the 9th (iR79)
  • 1864: Legros married Frances Rosetta Hodges (iR3); another source mentions he was married about in 1861 (R116I,p129)
  • 1869: he made a portrait of Lucien Legros, than being a boy of 2 till 4 years old (iR105=M147)
  • 1869: lived at Victoria Grove-Villas-Bays-Water, 1, London (iR1); also in 1870/04 (R259); maybe now The Grove House or Bays-Water-road, 1 (iR9).
  • 1875: lived at Brook-Green, 57, London (iR1)
  • 1875: he made a portrait of ‘petite Marie’ and Beraldi adds ‘fille d’artiste’ (R85IX,no30)
  • 1880 Legros was naturalized as a British citizen (R88); other sources mention this was in 1881 (iR3;iR14;iR173); he never would master the English language (R88;iR173)
  • 1882: lived at the Green street, 18, Saint-Martin place, London (iR1)
  • 1896: he made a portrait of Nora E. Legros, aswell a drawing as an etch (iR11;iR105=M147), than being about 16 years olf
  • 1911/12/08 death of Alphonse Legros in Watford north of London (iR24;aR6); some sources write he died the 7th (iR26)


In books and other sources on Impressionism Legros is hardly mentioned. Only Moffett and Walther render one and the same picture (see 2IE-1876-91;R2,p178;R3,p166). Adler mentions him in just one sentence and renders two of his etchings (R89,p31). My main sources are Rewald (1973=R1), Moffett (1986=R2), Walther (2013=R3,p674), Schurr & Cabanne (2008=R9,p460), Denvir (1993=R5+1992=R8), Pool (1987=R6), Beraldi (1889=R85IX,p93-), Monneret (1978-81=R88I,p435/6), RKD (iR24), Wikipedia (iR3), Joconde (iR23), Benezit (iR69), Grove Art Online (iR70) and Marques (iR65). For other general references (=R) see. My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are Wikimedia (iR6), mutualart (iR11), invaluable (iR17), archive.org (iR19), bnf/gallica (iR26+iR4o=aR12), British Museum (iR105=M147=aR11), Cleveland museum (M27=aR10) and Google images. For other references to internet sites (=iR) see. For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.
Note: the catalogue numbers of Malassis & Thibaudeau (1877=aR13=iR40), Beraldi (1889=R85IX=aR1=iR40), Bliss (1923) and Soulier (1904=aR7=iR19) seem to be the same and will be referred to as CR = Catalogue Raisonné.
For further reading see:
Malassis, A.P. & A.W. Thibaudeau: catalogue oeuvre gravé et lithographié (168 numbers). Paris, 1877 (iR65; referred to as CR); note there is also a version published in 1904 (iR26).
Bénédite, Léonce: Catalogue des oeuvres exposées de Alphonse Legros. Paris, 1900 (iR24;iR3;iR282).
Bliss, Francis E.: A Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, Etchings and Lithographs by Professor Alphonse Legros. London, 1922 (iR282)
Bliss, Francis E.: Etchings, Drypoints and Lithographs in the Collection of Frank E. Bliss. London, 1923 (iR282), referred to as CR.
Seltzer, Alexander: Alphonse Legros: The development of an Archaic visual vocabulary in the 19th-centure art. Ph.D. dissertation State University of New York at Binghamton, 1980. (R2,p502;R3)
Wilcox, Timothy (Philip Attwood): Alphonse Legros; exhibition catalogue. Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1988. (iR24;iR26;iR282)
Busse (1977=R77), Witt Library (1978=R78), Thieme&Becker (1907-50=R79 and Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (1992-2019=R81).
Weisberg, Gabriel P.: Alphonse Legros and the Theme of Death and the Woodcutter. Cleveland Museum of Art Bulletin, April 1974, p128-135 (R226,p15;M27)


Additional references:

  1. gallica.bnf.fr//henri_beraldi_tome_9 (the entire 9th Volume of Henri Beraldi: Les graveurs du XIXe siècle with 258 works of Legros at page 93-105; =iR40 = R85IX, referred to as CR)
  2. “Alphonse Legros.” In Database of Modern Exhibitions (DoME). European Paintings and Drawings 1905-1915. Last modified Jun 22, 2020. http://exhibitions.univie.ac.at/person/ulan/500013515  =iR261; overview of contributions of Legros in exhibitions and auctions from 1905-1915 (9 entries).
  3. archive.org//ia802801 (posthumous catalogue of the 1897/12/13+14 sale of works of Brandon and of his collection, including works by Legros; =iR19)
  4. archive.org//ia801601 (PDF of The art amateur, vol.11, 1884/11/01, with info on Legros + pictures; =iR19)
  5. archive.org//ia802906 (PDF of The Art Amateur, vol.12 1884/12/01, with info on Legros = iR19)
  6. archive.org//jstor-25590791 (article in the American Art news of 1911/12/16 on Legros = iR19)
  7. archive.org//ia903400 (PDF L’oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Alphonse Legros, Paris, 1904, with a preface by Gustave Soulier = iR19; referred to as CR)
  8. archive.org//ia802704 (PDF catalogue exhibition 1900/06 in the Musée du Luxembourg = iR19)
  9. gallica.bnf.fr//bpt6k5652574g  (Legros at the Salon of 1875 by Malassis =iR40)
  10. www.clevelandart.org//Legros (the Cleveland museum of art his a large collection of Legros his etchings = M27)
  11. www.britishmuseum.org//legros (The British Museum also has a large collection of Legros his etchings = M147=iR105)
  12. gallica.bnf.fr//legros (The Bibliothèque Nationale de France also has a large collection of Legros his etchings = iR40 + iR26)
  13. gallica.bnf.fr/btv1b10546949f (online version of Malassis, A.P. & A.W. Thibaudeau: catalogue oeuvre gravé et lithographié (168 numbers). Paris, 1877; =iR40; referred to as CR)
  14. mba-collections-dijon.fr//legros (The museum in Dijon has several etchings and drawings of Legros, who was born in Dijon; =M194; iR65)



Recommanded citation: “Impressionism: Alphonse Legros, guest of honour at the second ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876. Last modified 2024/03/01.  https://www.impressionism.nl/legros-alponse/


Note: additional info will follow.