Levert, Jean-Baptiste-Léopold

 

 

Impressionism: partaker of 4 ‘impressionist’ expositions:

Jean-Baptiste-Léopold Levert

(1819-1882)

a forgotten landscapist

Léopold Levert, an almost vanished landscapist who exhibited 4x with the Impressionists:
Jean-Baptiste-Léopold Levert exhibited at the ‘impressionist’ expositions in 1874 + 1876 + 1877 + 1880. So, he was one of the just 17 of the 57 partakers that exhibited 4x or more. This makes him at least an important guest. In total he showed at least 27 art-works, a low average. Still, there is hardly anything known about him. Even his year of birth and death was obscure. The French Wikipedia page refers to archives and states he was born in 1819, which makes him one of the oldest partakers and that he died in 1882, being 62 years old. Many books on Impressionism don’t mention Levert at all.
Léopold Levert never exhibited at the Salon, but he was an art-teacher who had pupils who did. The most important was Henri Rouart, who was one of the most important partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions. They held close contacts. Levert also was close with Degas, who portrayed him in 1874. Probably there were some contacts with Brandon, Tillot Cals, Colin, Debras and perhaps with Guillaumin and Pissarro. These contacts and his joining the ‘impressionist’ expositions 4x, makes him part of the ‘impressionist’ art-movement.
Léopold Levert designed military uniforms, did some fashion illustration and probably also book illustrations. He (later) was a professor in applied art. Besides that he was an amateur painter who also made several drawings and aquarelles and did some etching.
Léopold Levert was a typical landscapist, rendering in the titles the places he painted (assumedly en-plein-air). Still he just sometimes (6x) mentions in his titles the influence of sunlight, weather or season. So, he doesn’t seem to use a typical impressionist painting style, but this is hard to say while there are almost no pictures known of Levert.

Léopold Levert joined the ‘impressionist’ expositions in 1874, 1876, 1877 and 1880:
At the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874 Levert showed 3 landscapes (catalogue numbers 84-86; R2,p121). Levert is mentioned by some as co-founder 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;iR4). I wonder if it wasn’t Rouart who invited him, because he probably also was close to Levert. The art-critic Carjat mentioned one work ‘very colourfull’ and described that in another Levert used clair-obscure and rendered a melancholic impression. (R90I)
At the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876 Levert showed 9 landscapes (catalogue numbers 93-101; R2,p162). There were no reviews at all.
At the 3rd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1877 Levert showed 6 landscapes (catalogue numbers 80-85; R2,p204/5). The art-critic Jacques mentioned the ‘perfection of his rendering’. Bigot reviewed there was ‘grace and light’ in his work. He also doubted if Levert was an Impressionist. (R90I)
It is unclear why Levert didn’t exhibit at the 4th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1879. Still Degas already had him on his list of artists that would partake (R88).
At the 5th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1880 Levert showed at least 9 art-works, including 7 landscapes and a frame with (at least 2) etchings (catalogue numbers 105-112; R2,p312). The art-critic Elie de Mont reviewed that Levert ‘hardly ever regains his sanity unless he is making etchings’ (R90I).
Levert didn’t join the 6th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1881 and died just after the 7th in 1882. I wonder if he is mentioned in correspondence around these expositions.
So, in total Léopold Levert participated 4 of the 8 ‘impressionist’ exhibitions and showed at least 27 works, including 25 oil paintings and at least 2 etchings. This is more than Cézanne did, who is mentioned in every book about Impressionism. Therefore it is all the more regrettable there is so less known about Levert. In the catalogues of 1874 and 1877 he was called Levert (Jean-Baptiste-Léopold), in 1880 L. Levert and in 1876 just Levert.
None of my main sources (R2;R90;R87) render a picture of what Levert has exhibited. Many suggestions I render are just to compare (namely the drawings) or at most very uncertain (=??). See link for his pictures. See link for an account.

‘Levert’ at the Salon:
Jean-Baptiste-Léopold Levert never exhibited at the Salon. A Gustave-Léopold Levert did in 1877 and 1882 and is called a pupil of Pils and L. Levert. It was not indicated of this L. Levert was a relative. Henri Rouart also was a pupil of a L. Levert (iR1). According to Anne Distel this was our Léopold who was portrayed by Degas (R92,p16). Albert-Joseph-Augustin also is mentioned as pupil of Léopold Levert; he showed at least a painting and a project for an oriental tapestry at the Salon (iR40).
It stays a bit strange, because these teachers mostly had an art-workshop / studio, were linked with the École des Beaux-Arts and often exhibited at the Salon. I wonder if the name of this ‘L. Levert’ can be found in the archives of the École des Beaux-Arts. One explination is, that Levert also was a professor in applied art in Roubaix (close to the Belgium border) and in Nice, in the French Riviera (R92,p16). Maybe these institutes have more information on Levert.
Note 1: In Le Grand écho du Nord de la France of 1891/08/21 in an article on ‘L’Ecole nationale des Arts industriels de Roubaix, two pupils of du cours de peinture by M. Léopold Levert are mentioned, namely Ernest Doutreligne and Jules Duvinage (iR40).
Note 2: Roubaix lies about 95km west of his place of birth Gognies-Chaussée.

 

Where did Léopold Levert paint?
The catalogues of the ‘impressionist’ expositions and the posthumous catalogue of 1883 (aR2) give information about where Levert painted, see account. He made many works in Fontenay-sous-Bois, 15km east of Paris, where he lived at least from 1876-80 and a little east in nearby Neuilly-sur-Marne. He did many works in the region of Brie, about 25km to the south. He made many works in Fontainebleau (forest), another 35km south, and a little west in Courances, Gâtinais, Malesherbes, Oncy and along the river Essonne, which starts at the Gâtinais plateau (iR3).
Levert did several works in the wider region around Paris. He did some works in Pontoise, where Pissarro lived. He did many works in Portrieux and other places in the Brittany peninsula. He did many works in the former region of Limousin in the middle of France. Also some works along the Creuse, where Guillaumin also was active. I hope these data give some light on the almost forgotten Levert. Maybe there were connections to some other Impressionists.
I conclude anyway that Levert did travel much to find new topics to paint. Does this indicate some prosperity?

Léopold Levert as an artist:
First I like to render the preface from the posthumous sale catalogue (aR2): “The modest, independent and disinterested man, whose works are sold today, considered wandering through the countryside his greatest pleasure. From his excursions, he brought back finely felt oil studies with a delicate touch, charming watercolours and beautiful sketches. None of these souvenirs ever left his studio, and he loved to relive his happy days with them. His death alone will disperse them for the benefit of his family. We, the faithful friends of Léopold Levert, like to believe that the purchasers of these art notes will derive from them some of the beautiful sensations experienced by his charming mind.”
Levert is called an amateur (landscape) painter, who merely painted for his own fun traveling across the fields and whose works never left his studio (iR24;iR65;aR2). This seems to contradict the fact that he exhibited 4 times at the ‘impressionist’ expositions giving him opportunities to sell his work. This contradicts also with the fact that of the at least 23 different works that Levert exhibited, only 7 come back in the posthumous catalogue of 1883. So probably he had sold 16 works (or donated them).
Some sources mention that Levert was a landscape painter in Barbizon style (aR1;R87;R88). Sure is that in the posthumous sale catalogue (aR2) there were several works from Barbizon painters and Levert himself made many landscapes in the surroundings of the Fontainebleau forest. Schurr & Cabanne state that his landscapes and seascapes had nothing to do with the impressionist techniques and show a fresh and colourful realism like the followers of the ‘peinture claire’ (R9).
Indeed Levert was mainly a landscapist. Still, he did some figure painting (6x) and made some still lives (3x). There are about 11 watercolours / drawings with (almost) the same title as oil paintings. This could indicate that Levert also made studies. (see account)
Note: Some sources mention that Degas turned him to landscape painting (iR69;R9;iR4;R88), which is curious while Degas didn’t paint much landscapes.

Léopold Levert was not explicitly an etcher:
Several sources mention Levert also was an etcher (R9;R3;iR4;R88). And indeed in 1880 he exhibited at least two etchings (5IE-1880-112). But in the posthumous catalogue of 1883 there are no etchings mentioned (aR2), so probably this was not a technique he applied much. Some pictures known of Levert, are indicated as ink drawings, who look a bit like etchings (aR3=iR80). Anyway, Beraldi doesn’t include Levert in his ‘Graveurs du XIX siècle’ (1889=R85IX,p172). Therefore I don’t find it appropriate to call Levert explicitly an etcher, better is to say he did some etching.

 

Léopold Levert also was an illustrator and designer of clothes:
Levert did in his early career some fashion illustration (aR1;R92,p16). Levert also was first a designer of military uniforms (iR69;iR60;R3;iR4;aR1;R87;R88). Levert was befriended with Henri Rouart, especially after 1870. Rouart his father also made military uniforms  (R3;iR4).
Maybe Léopold Levert was also a book illustrator. Maybe he did drawings on wood for a school book ‘Primary education for the deaf and dumb’ (iR40). A ‘Léopold Levert’ was one of the illustrators of ‘L’Écolier, a new journal for children’ (announced 1846-48) (iR40). In a book called “Topographie, statistique, histoire de la ville de Vézelay (1990)”, contributions are made by Adolphe Guillon  (1829-1896) (illustrateur) et L. Levert; he also was an illustrator, but it is unclear if he also lived in the 19th century (iR26).

Was Léopold Levert an Impressionist?
Levert was befriended with Henri Rouart, his brother Alexis and also with Degas (R3;aR1;R1). In 1866 Levert spent the summer in Brittany with Henri Rouart (aR6). After the French-Prussian war Levert did dine every Friday at the Rouarts’ home together with Degas, Brandon and Tillot (R88I,p790;cpR92,p12). Around 1874 Degas portrayed Levert and owned at least one work of Levert (iR4;iR35;R87,p241;R45;R92,p16;M125). Levert also had at least 3 works made in and around Melun, where the Henri Rouart family-in-law had an estate (aR2; PA1883-9/12/19). In the 1874 catalogue Levert gave the address of Rouart as correspondence address (R2,p121).
In the posthumous auction sale in 1883 there were also works sold of other artists, that were in the studio of Levert when he died. Including 3 works of Cals; 1 study of Colin, 3 copies made by Debras and 3 of Rouart (aR2). So probably Léopold Levert also had contacts with Cals, Colin and Debras. Looking at the places where Levert did paint, maybe there were some connections with Guillaumin and Pissarro. But more is not known about his contacts with the ‘impressionists’. Levert is mentioned by some as co-founder of the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc(R2,p105;R1,p313;R89,p18;iR4); others mention him as being invited by Degas (R88II,p232;R9;R3;iR4). He participated 4x with the ‘impressionist’ expositions. All this makes Levert surely part of the impressionist art-movement.
By lack of images of his art-work, especially his oil-paintings, it is hard to say if he did paint in an impressionist style. He very often gave in his titles an indication of the place where he did paint. Though mostly more common than precise. This could indicate he painted en-plein-air. In all the known titles he rendered just 6x the influence of sunlight, weather and season. Which doesn’t indicate an impressionist painting style.
Note 2: Caillebotte didn’t mention Levert in his famous letter (1881/01/24) to Pissarro where he divided ‘impressionist’ partakers and realist partakers of the expositions (R102,p275).
Note 2: In his book on Impressionism (1878) Théodore Duret doesn’t mention Levert (apart from a review of Ballu) (R7).

Namesakes:
Schurr & Cabanne only mention our Jean-Baptiste Levert and no other artists with this last name.
In the Salon database (iR1) there appears a Gustave-Léopold Levert, who exhibited in 1877 and 1882 both times one work:
S1877-1354. Eglise de la Madeleine, à Vézelay (Yonne) and:
SdAF-1882-1669 Au Colombier, à Fréjus (Var).
He was born in Paris, lived at the Rue du Abbesses, 38 in Paris and was a pupil of Pils and L. Levert. It was not indicated of this L. Levert was a relative.
Louis Levert, an 19th century French artist (iR60). This Louis Levert doesn’t appear in the Salon database (iR1).
Commons Wikimedia (iR6) render a photograph of a Charles-Alphonse Levert (11 June 1825 – 6 April 1899) taken around 1872, who was a French public servant and politician.
In the Louisiana State Museum is a portrait of a Jean-Baptiste Levert, made around 1909-13.
Gallica.bnf (iR40) also renders some documents including persons with the name ‘Léopold Levert’. It is unclear if it refers to our Léopold. In the École théorique et pratique de notariat, Tome 2, dated 1842-44, there is a passage about a ‘M. Léopold Levert’ and his wife Elisa Bernard, who lived 8, Rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs and rented from M. and Mme Malteste, whom they owned 22.000frs. April 1861 a ‘Léopold Levert’ did the same meteorological experiments in Paris as were done earlier in Rouen ( iR40; iR40; iR40).
It is necessary to discern our Jean-Baptiste-Léopold Levert from his namesakes. The signatures Levert and L. Levert could also refer to Gustave-Léopold Levert or to Louis Levert.

Some data about Jean-Baptiste (-Léopold) Levert:

  • 1819/10/11: Levert was born in Gognies-Chaussée, close to the Belgian border. The French Wikipedia site on Léopold Levert refers to  an archive of ‘départementales du Nord, acte de naissance no 28 dressé le 12 octobre 1819, vue 133 / 148’ (iR4). I assume this is correct.
    Note: Many sources state that Jean Baptiste (Léopold) Levert was born in Paris in 1828 (iR69;iR60;R9;iR4;iR13;iR11;R2;R3;R87). Anne Distel mentions 1820 as possible birthdate (R92,p16). Lugt mentions 1821 (iR65). Some sources don’t give a date of birth (iR24).
  • 1866: Spent the summer in Brittany with Henri Rouart, in the Lamballe, Rosporden and Quimperlé areas (aR6).
  • 1874: Levert gave as his correspondance address 34, Rue de Lisbonne, Paris, where Henri Rouart lived (R2,p121)
  • 1876+77+80: Levert lived in the Rue Dalayrac, 53 in Fontenay-sous-Bois, see map, about 13km east of Paris (R2).
  • 1882/07/24: Levert died in in Fontenay-sous-Bois. The French Wikipedia site on Léopold Levert refers to  an archive of ‘départementales du Val-de-Marne, acte de décès no 49 dressé le 24 juillet 1882, vue 446 / 458’, adding: “The death certificate gives the wrong month of birth” (iR4). I assume this is correct.
    Note: Other sources mention Levert died around 1882 (in Paris) (iR24;iR65). The sale catalogue of  1883/02/26 mentions ’the sale will take place following his death’ (aR2=iR40). Some sources mention he died after 1880 (when he exhibited for the last time with the Impressionists) (iR60). Some sources don’t give a date of death (R2;R3;iR4;R87). Some sources render clearly wrong years of departure: Schurr & Cabanne (R9) give 1912; Anne Distel claims that he died after 1900 (R92,p16).
  • 1883/02/26: posthumous sale at Hôtel Drouot of Léopold Levert his own works from his studio. Total numbers: 146; 61 oil paintings (no.1-60bis); at least 63 watercoulors and drawings (no.61-119+146); at least 29 works of others (no.120-145), see account. Many of his paintings were studies. (aR2;iR65).
  • 1918/11: a work of Levert ‘Un port de mer’ (21×30) was sold at the Degas auction for just 16 francs (iR4). Maybe the same as 2IE-1876-95 ‘Port de Portrieux’.

Sources:
Most sources about Impressionism don’t mention Levert at all (R4;R4;R6;R8;R17;R19;R22;R86;R94;R95;R102;R116;R181). Spiess (R16) forgets to mention him as partaker of the 1880 exposition and Dayez (R87) also that of 1877. Adler, in her book ‘Unknown Impressionists’ hardly mentions Levert (R89).
My main sources are Rewald (1973=R1), Moffett (1986=R2), Walther (2013= R3,p675), Schurr & Cabanne (2008=R9,p476), Adhémar / Dayez (1974=R87,p241), Monneret (1878-81=R88I,p449), Adler (1988=R89), the Salon database (iR1), french Wikipedia (iR4; iR3; iR5), RKD (iR24), BNF (iR26), gallica (iR40), Lugt / marques (iR65), Bénézit (iR69) and ULAN (iR60). For other general references (=R) see. My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are Wikimedia (iR6), mutualart (iR11), Artnet (iR13), Invaluable (iR17), Arcadja (iR18) and Google images (iR10). 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:
Isaacson: Crises of Impressionism (iR60;R175)

Additional references:

  1. Vanished impressionists 8 (an article at eclecticlight.co=iR35)
  2. www.gallica.bnf.fr//12443053.r (the posthumous auction catalogue at Hôtel Drouot 1883/02/26; =iR40)
  3. lebrech-associés.com (Paris auction house with 6 drawings of Levert with zoom option; pen and black ink, stamped on the back=iR80; see on iR10)
  4. www.delcampe.net (one vague painting of Léopold Levert auctioned in 2018, also on iR10; also on Pickclick (iR253), referring to Ebay (iR42); signed on the back ‘Levert; 2-39×24)
  5. www.lofty.com (one work on paper with option to zoom=iR44, also on iR10)
  6. journaldespeintres (Duvaleix; on the 2012 exposition of Henri Rouart in Marmottan (=M2); with chronology)
  7. metayer-auction.com//17155198 (auction of 2 landscapes by Levert)

 

Recommanded citation: “Impressionism: Jean-Baptiste-Léopold Levert, a forgotten landscapist. Last modified 2024/02/28  https://www.impressionism.nl/levert-jean-baptiste-leopold/.”