Lepic, Ludovic-Napoléon



Impressionism: partaker of the first two ‘impressionist’ expositions

Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic


on the edge of Impressionism

Was Lepic an Impressionist?
Ludovic Lepic only joined 2 of the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions. He had contacts with Monet and was befriended with Degas, but further on he doesn’t seem to have had intensive contacts within the circles of friends. In this sense we could say that Lepic was on the edge of the ‘impressionist’ art-movement.
Caillebotte  included Lepic in the group of fighters for realism around Degas. So, in the eyes of Caillebotte Lepic was not an Impressionist. In the eyes of several art-critics he wasn’t either. Still, Lepic often rendered atmospheric influences and the time of the day, also in his etchings. When we look at his paintings, this atmospheric rendering of the light, is not so obvious. His brushstroke is more smooth, also rendering details. His colours are more subdued. He never used juxtaposed brushstrokes or blueish or violet shades. Lepic often depicted in his titles of his works an indication of location, which would indicate that he painted en-plein-air, or at least that he made studies in the open. In this sense, Lepic just partly painted in an impressionist style.

Vicomte Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic at the Salon:
Lepic exhibited yearly at the Salon (and it’s successor of the Sociéte des Artistes-Français) from 1863-88 (iR1). He also exhibited several etchings, drawings, watercolours and gouaches (iR1). Several works exhibited had an indication of place (iR1). Lepic was awarded a third-class medal in 1877 (iR69;iR3;R87). He exhibited ‘exempté’ from 1882-88. (iR1) Some sources mention that Lepic also exhibited at the Exposition Universelle (R87), but this is not confirmed in the catalogues (R231).
Note: Some sources wrongly write that Lepic exhibited 1869 onwards at the Salon (R16;iR69;iR70) and Dayez 1864 onwards (R87).
See exhibited pictures at the Salon. See link for an account

Lepic only joined the 1st and 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874 + 1876:
At the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874* Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic showed 7 works (catalogue numbers 74-80), including 4 watercolours and 3 etchings (R2,p121). De Lora (1874/04/18) reviewed: ‘among the most excellent landscapes we mention … the marines by M. Napoléon Lepic (R87,p257). Burty 1874/04/25) shortly mentioned his watercolours and called his works ‘more moderate’ (R87,p262). Lepic wasn’t mentioned by others (R87).
At the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876* Lepic showed probably 49 works, including 22 oil paintings, 16 watercolours, and probably 11 etchings. (catalogue numbers 102-137; some numbers contained more than one work) (R2,p162/3;R90I,p49). Several art-critics mentioned his variety of art-works. Boubée (1876/04/05) called him ‘a moderate’. Enault (1876/04/10) wrote ‘he is not an intransigent’. (R90I,p64+83)
Several sources write that Lepic was one of the founding members of the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc  (R2,p105;R1,p313;R89,p18); others mention him as being invited by Degas (R88II,p232;R9;R3;iR3). It was the same Degas, who introduced in 1878 the rule that one who had submitted to the Salon, was not allowed to join the ‘impressionist’ expositions (R2,p244). Some sources write this was the reason why Lepic didn’t exhibit any longer at the ‘impressionist’ expositions (R3;R88;iR3;aR1). But why than, did Lepic not exhibit in 1877? Some suggest it was because of the hostile reviews on the exhibition (R89,p70). But the reviews on Lepic himself were quite positive (R90I).
Ludovic Lepic was in 1876 a sort quest of honour, showing far out the most (49) art-works. In 1874 he showed 7 art-works, a high average of 28. He showed 22 oil paintings in 1876 (the highest amount) and in total 20 aquarelles and 14 engravings.
See link for his works exhibited in 1874 and in 1876. See link for an account.
Note*:  Some sources omit to mention that Lepic exhibited in 1874 (iR69) or in 1876 (aR1).

Ludovic Lepic as an artist:
Lepic his teachers were: le baron Gustaf Wappers (around 1858/59), Charles Verlat (an animal painter, from 1859-62), Gleyre (1862/03-64) and Cabanel (1864-66; Note: some sources mention this was 1874 onwards) (aR4;iR1;aR2;iR24;iR3;iR69;R3;R16;R259;R88;R89,p70). At Atelier Gleyre he studied with Monet and Bazille (R22I,p48;R1,p70+273;R3;R4,p24;iR4). Bazille (1863/03/22) called Lepic and Monet his best friends (R22I,p48;R88). Did Lepic also had (close) contacts with Renoir and Sisley, who also studied at Gleyre in those years? Did he join them in their painting sessions in the forest of Fontainebleau?  Anyway, Lepic stayed befriended with Monet (R3). In 1864 he entered the École des Beaux-Arts (R87).
Lepic and Degas, were close friends. They went together to the horse races, the Opera and to go hunting (R88). Degas did portray Lepic (indirectly) in several works. (R3;R8,p181;iR3;aR4). It is interesting to learn more about Lepic from the correspondance of Degas.

Ludovic Lepic was also befriended with Desboutin (R87). I can imagine that Desboutin made his etch in 1889 (see above) as a sort of birthday present. He is opposed to Cézanne joining the ‘impressionists’ expositions (R3). Caillebotte wrote to Pissarro (1881/01/24) that Lepic didn’t have talent and included him in the group of fighters for realism around Degas (R101,p275;R1,p448;R3;R88).
1861 onwards Lepic had his own studio (iR4;R4,p24). From 1875ca-1883ca Lepic stayed 6 months a year in Berck, where he painted many beaches and marines (aR4). In 1877 the ‘School of Berck’ was born with the activities of Lepic in Berck (M202;aR4). Francis Tattegrain (or Tettegrain;1852-1915) was his pupil (iR24;iR4;aR4); he had a second studio in Berck (M202). Note: Boudin and Manet also painted in Berck (iR3;M202).
Lepic also worked in Normandy, Holland and Naples (R9). Lepic painted many marines and fishing scenes (R9) and made his works ‘at different times of the day’ as d’Olby wrote in 1876 (R90I,p99). Lepic was interested in the atmospheric variations (R9). Some write that his style was something between Realism and Impressionism (R88). Others write that his work can’t be described as realist (R89,p95).
Lepic also did several other things: he also was a sculptor (R74;iR24;iR70;R88;R89,p70); and designed costumes for the Opéra (R87;iR6;iR26;aR4), especially for his mistress Marie Sanlaville who was a ballerina (iR3); in his later years he the decorated a dinner service for the Léveillé house in Creil and Montereau (aR4;R87;iR6).
Apart from being an artist Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic loved opera (R8,p181), horse racing and hunting (R88;R89,p70). He also was a dog breeder (iR70;R89,p70), a curator of a museum (R88;R9;R3;R87;iR3) and an archeologist (R3;R74;iR3;iR19;iR26).

Ludovic Lepic as an engraver:
In 1862 Lepic was a founding-member of the Société des Aquafortistes (iR70;iR3). Lepic (and Adolphe Appian and Henri Guérard) were experimenting in the 1860s and 1870s with tonal inking of plates; around 1875/76 Degas was influenced by this (iR7). Lepic was influenced by Auguste Delâtre who developed the ‘mobile etching’ technique, a way of painting ink on to the plate so that up to 40 unique impressions could be made from the same plate. This skill influenced the practise of monotype used by Lepic (iR70). In 1876 Degas learned it from Lepic (iR70). Lepic reached surprising effects with this new graphic technique, which was also called ‘l’eau-forte mobile’ (R3;R9;R85XI,p144=aR2). By varying the ink on the plate, he was able to produce individual results at each printing (iR3). He was carrying the potential of creative printing to its extreme and used bitten lines simply as suggestive guides for compositional variations executed entirely by plate wiping (iR70). Lepic thus succeeded to transcribe the most fleeting sensations; you could call it an impressionistic procedure (R88). Some sources mention that it was Lepic who invented this ‘l’eau-forte mobile’ technique (R88;aR4). In 1876 he published ‘comment je devins graveur à l’eau forte‘ (aR3=iR19;R87;iR4). In this work Raoul de Saint-Arroman praises ‘Le Comte Le Pic’ for his ‘luminous flexibility of execution’ and wrote that an artist like he ‘improvises the skies, the atmosphere, the ray of light, the mass of light or shadow, the long perspectives of the sun or the cloud, in a word, the changing spectacle and eternal mobility of nature’ (aR3,p79+81). In his 24 etchings of the River Scheldt, he rendered the several times of day (R85XI,p144=aR2;R88). Some call Lepic a good etcher, but a poor painter (R47,p72). Still, Delteil doesn’t include Lepic in his masterwork about the engravers of the 19th and 20th century (R138).

Vicomte Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic, a short biography:

  • 1839/09/17: Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic was born in Paris (iR24;iR69;iR70;R9;R3;R1;R87).
    Wikipedia mentions he was born the 17th of December (iR3)
    Later on his name was written as ‘Le Pic’.
    he was the son of a adjudant of the Emperor (R3;iR3).
  • 1865: marriage with Joséphine Scévole de Barral (iR3)
    They had 3 daughters: Eylau, Jeanine and Marcelle (iR4)
    (later the ballerina Marie Sanlaville (or Salanville) became his mistress; iR3;R47,p95)
  • 1869-76: he was member of the ‘Société d’anthropologie’ in Paris (iR3;iR70).
  • 1870/04: Lepic dwelled at the Palais du Louvre (R259).
  • 1872: established the ‘Musée d’Aix-les-Bains’ and became the first curator (R88;R9;R3;R87;iR3).
  • 1872: Lepic published together with Jules de Lubac ‘Stations préhistoriques de la vallée du Rhône, en Vivarais, Châteaubourg et Soyons’ (iR26)
  • 1872: published ‘Les armes et les outils préhistoriques reconstitués’, about pre-historic arms and tools, including his own sketches (iR3;R89,p70;iR19, see PDF)
  • 1873: Lepic published ‘Grottes de Savigny, commune de La Biolle, canton d’Albens (Savoie)’ (iR26)
  • 1874+75: Lepic lived rue de Larochefoucauld, 46 Paris (iR1;R2,p121), in the 9th arrondissement (iR9).
  • 1875: his father died (iR3)
  • 1875: Lepic received the title Comte; before he had the title Vicomte (iR3;aR1)
  • 1876: Lepic published ‘Comment je devins graveur à l’eau-forte’ (aR3=iR19)
  • 1876-83: Lepic lived Rue de Maubeuge, 25 Paris (iR1;R2,p162), also in the 9th arrondissement (iR9).
  • 1879: first solo-exhibition at ‘La Vie Moderne‘ (R3); some mention he exhibited 35 works (R88;iR4) others about 100 (iR3)
  • 1880-85: Lepic was active in Holland (iR24)
  • Lepic traveled to Egypt and Pompeï, also to practise archaeology (R3;R74;R88)
  • 1881: another solo exhibition at ‘La Vie Moderne‘ with 100 works (iR4)
  • 1883: large exhibition at the ‘Musée des Arts décoratifs’ (R88;R9;R3;iR3). Lepic showed his impressions of archeological trip to Pompeï and Egypt (R88); some sources mention he exhibited 150 works (?), others that he exhibited 250 watercolours and some oil paintings (R88).
  • 1883: Lepic officially was appointed a marine painter by the state (iR3;aR1;aR4)
  • 1884: Lepic published the book ‘La dernière Égypte’, an illustrated account of his archaeological trip to Egypt, including his own drawings (iR19, see PDF; iR3 wrongly mentions it was published in 1881)
  • 1884+85: Lepic lived at cité Malesherbes, 5, Paris (iR1), also in the 9th arrondissement (iR9).
  • 1886-88: his correspondence address for the Salon was M. Mary, 25, Rue Chaptal, Paris (iR1), also in the 9th arrondissement (iR9).
  • 1897/03/20:
  • 1889/12/27: Lepic died in Paris (iR24;iR69;iR70;R3;R16); Wikipedia mentions he died the 27th of October (iR3;iR4). Other sources he died in 1890 (R87).
  • He was interred in the vault of the family property at Andrésy (iR3), in the Yvelines departement, 33km west of Paris.
  • 1897/03/20: Auction sale at Georges Duchesne of paintings and objects from the studio of ‘Le Pic’: Tableaux anciens et modernes … provenant en partie de l’atelier de Le Pic (iR24 =https://rkd.nl/library/233972)
  • 1996: publication Zimmer (Thierry): Ludovic Napoléon Lepic (1839-1889); catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre et biographie. Paris, 1996. (iR23)
  • 2013: the Musée d’Opale Sud in Berck-sur-Mer had an exhibition on Lepic (iR26;M202)


My main sources are Rewald (1873=R1), Moffett (1986=R2), Walther (2013=R3,p674/5), Roe (2006=R5), Schurr & Cabanne (2008=R9,p468), Spiess (1992=R16,p177), Dayez (1874=R87,p239), Monneret (1978-81=R88I,p440/1), Adler (1998=R89), Berson (1996=R90), the Salon database (iR1), Wikipedia (iR3), Joconde (iR23), RKD (iR24), BNF (iR26+iR40), Bénézit (iR69), Grove (iR70), art.rmngp (=iR127), webmuseo (iR313) and the additional references (=aRx). 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:
Bénézit (1976,vol.6,p593=R75;1999,vol.8,p537=R76), Busse (1977,p753=R77); Witt (1978,p174=R78); Thieme/Becker (1907-50,vol.23,p100=R79); Allgemeines Künstlerlexicon (1999-2000,vol.6,p200=R81). (iR24)
Zimmer, Thierry: Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic, 1839-1889; Le Patron. Exhibition catalogue. Musée de Berck-sur-Mèr, 2013. (216p;in French) (R276;iR24 =https://rkd.nl/library/270549  ;iR4)
Zimmer (Thierry): Ludovic Napoléon Lepic (1839-1889); catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre et biographie. Paris, 1996. (iR23)


Additional references:

  1. Vanished French Impressionists 7 (an article on Lepic and others=iR35)
  2. gallica.bnf.fr//henri_beraldi_tome_9 (the entire 9th Volume of Henri Beraldi: Les graveurs du XIXe siècle with works of Lepic, p; =iR40 = R85IX)
  3. archive.org//ia600605 (PDF ‘La gravure à l’eau-forte: essai historique’ by Raoul de Saint-Arroman. Including the book or ‘le petit lettre’ called ‘Comment je devins graveur à l’eau-forte’ par le comte Lepic (page 87 -115). Paris, 1876; =iR19)
  4. musee.berck.fr//Lepic (page on Lepic at the website of the Musée de France in Berck-sur-Mer =M202
  5. gallica.bnf.fr/Lepic (starting page with links to engravings of Lepic; =iR40)


Recommanded citation: “Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic, at the edge of Impressionism. Last modified 2024/03/02.  https://www.impressionism.nl/lepic-ludovic-napoleon/