Alphonse Legros (1837-1911)
Alphonse Legros only joined the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876:
At the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition Legros showed as a sort of guest-star 25 works, which was almost twice the average (catalogue numbers 81-92; some numbers containing several works; R2,p162). Most of his works were etchings.
He was invited by Degas (R9), who already had invited him for the first exposition, which Legros refused (R6,p113). It is not clear why Legros accepted this invitation and others like Fatin-Latour and Tissot didn’t. In a letter to Tissot 1872/11/19 Degas already greeted Legros from New Orleans (R5,p75). Later living in England, Legros helped the sell of works of Degas in England (R8,p175+372).
The art-critic Alfred de Lostalot described Legros as ‘little known to the public’, ‘held in the greatest esteem in artistic circles’. Pierre Dax compared him to ‘the old masters’ and depicted in his work a ‘Gothic flavor’ (R2,p178). See link for his -/-art-works. See link for an +/-account.
Alphonse Legros and the Salon:
Legros made has debut at the Salon in 1857 with a portrait of his father (iR1;R9;iR3). Another portrait was rejected and exhibited as a protest (among others) in the studio of François Bonvin (1817-87; iR3). In 1859 he was rejected at the Salon (??) and exhibited at the ‘Champs de Mars Salon’ with other Refusés like Théodule Ribot, Fatin-Latour and Whistler (iR69). In the years here after Legros often exhibited at the Salon (1861, 63, 67, 68, 69, 70, 75, 80 + 82). In 1861 he was succes full and received a mention. Though accepted with two works in 1863 Legros exhibited his rejected portrait at the Salon des Refusés. Legros is called a pupil of Lecoq de Boisbaudran. (iR1)
(See link for an account and for some his art-works at the Salon).
Legros made etchings with impressionist titles:
Legros was one of the greatest French engravers (iR65). He was member of the ‘Société des Aquafortistes’ (iR70). Legros taught Manet engraving (iR70). With its black and white prints etching is a non-impressionistic technique. Still in the titles of several etchings Legros uses impressionistic titles indicating the time of day and the wind (see below and S1875-2482 ‘Le coup de vent’ and 1876-89).
Was Legros an Impressionist?
Legros moved within the circles of related painters. He was closely befriended with Whistler and Fatin-Latour with whom he formed the informal ‘Société des Trois’ (iR70). He also had contacts Courbet, Cazin, Lhermitte, Manet and visited Café Guerbois (R3;iR3;iR70). He also was befriended with Auguste Rodin, Théodule Ribot (1823-91) and Jules Dalou (iR70) (iR70). Most of them he learned in the studio of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran (iR70;iR69). Fatin-Latour paints him a few times and includes him in his ‘Hommage à Delacroix’ in 1864 (R5,p28; see below). Legros is also portrayed by Félix Bracquemond en Rodin (see below). Legros himself portrayed Manet, Dalou, Cazin and made a memorial for Alfred Stevens. As seen above he also had contacts with Degas.
Legros is generally seen as an Realist in the line of Courbet (iR3;iR70). In books on Impressionism he is hardly mentioned. Only Moffett and Walther render one and the same picture (see 1876-91; R2,p178; R3,p166). His drawing can be quite Academic. His many religious themes and some mythological themes are also fit to a Classical style. Some of his works have something dramatic and even something of exaltation. Many works are realistic, also rendering every day and poor people. His few landscapes are colourful, but not typical impressionistic (see 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). These portraits look more realistic. Most of his works are portraits and figure painting.
Conclusion: Though Alphonse Legros two times joined an alternative for the Salon in 1857 and 59, he didn’t join the ‘Société Anonyme…’ and only joined one time with the ‘impressionist’ expositions in 1876. Though he had contacts with Degas and Félix Bracquemond and close contacts with related painters, Legros was not related to the key Impressionists like Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Morisot and Sisley. In that sense he only joined the Impressionist art-movement at the edge. And though some of his etchings have impressionist titles (see above) and his few landscapes are rather colourful, Legros did not really work in an impressionistic style.
Short biography of Alphonse Legros:
- 1837/05/08 birth of Alphonse Legros in Dijon (Côte-d’Or) (iR24;iR1)
- 1851 studies at the drawing school of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, also known as the ‘Petit École’ (R3;iR1;iR65;iR3)
- 1855 starts (or ends) his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris (R3;iR65)
- 1862-7 member of the ‘Société des Aquafortistes’ (iR70)
- 1863 moves to London (R3;R9)
- Legros becomes a teacher in etching at the Royal College of Art (R3;R9) and later at the National Art Training Schools in South Kensington (R8,p173;iR3)
- 1864 marries Frances Rosetta Hodges (iR3)
- 1869: lives at Victoria Grove-Villas-Bays-Water, 1, London (iR1)
- 1875: lives at Brook-Green, 57, London (iR1)
- 1876-92 professor at the Slade school of Fine Art in London where he had many pupils (R9;R3;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, prizes, and travel scholarships, as well as an etching class. ‘ (iR70, 2003).
- 1881 Legros was naturalized as a British citizen (iR3)
- 1882: lives at the Green street, 18, Saint-Martin place, London (iR1)
- 1890 solo exhibition at Durand-Ruel (R3)
- 1900 Legros (among other Impressionists) took part in the Centennial of 1900 in Paris (R22I,p348).
- 1911/12/08 death of Alphonse Legros in Watford in the neighbourhood of London (iR24)
My main sources are Moffett (1986; R2), Walther (2013; R3,p674), Schurr & Cabanne (2008;R9,p460), Denvir (1993=R5+1992=R8), Pool (1987=R6), RKD (iR24), Wikipedia (iR3), 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) and xx. 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.
For further reading see:
Malassis, A.P. & A.W. Thibaudeau: catalogue oeuvre gravé et lithographié (168 numbers). Paris, 1877 (iR65).
Bénédite, Léonce: Catalogue des oeuvres exposées de Alphonse Legros. Paris, 1900 (iR24;iR3).
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: Alphonse Legros. Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1988. (iR24)
Busse (1977=R77), Witt Library (1978=R78), Thieme&Becker (1907-50=R79 and Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (1992-2019=R81).