Boussingault, Jean-Louis - Biography

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We will pick the biography of Jean-Louis Boussingault from the remarkable book by Michel Charzat, "La Jeune Peinture Française, 1910-1940", published by Editions Hazan in 2010:

Jean-Louis Boussingault (1883-1943) did everything he could to discourage fortune, he was stubborn and lonely and managed to stay in the shadows of his two friends (André Dunoyer de Segonzac and Luc-Albert Moreau, GN*). Life had given birth to him under a good star: a patrician family with the name haloed by the glory of the grandfather, the illustrious chemist friend of Pasteur, a senior official father who does not at all thwart the vocation of his son; military service in the "exempted" platoon where he met Segonzac. At the Salon des Independants in 1907, the young Jean-Louis asserted himself from the start. Newly created, the prize Bernheim paid him as a welcome for a Nu au chapeau haut de forme, modern Olympia with a dark and contrasting making that announces the Bande noire. The young artist poses so much in dandy that the chroniclers distinguish him in the great parade of the Belle Epoque. Jean Oberlé describes him "superb of elegance and pace with his aquiline nose, his face with broad flats, his beautiful eyes and wavy hair, lavishly dressed with fabrics". He is a snobbish party-goer, quick to disguise himself as a femme fatale with a cherry-red dress for the banquet organized by Picasso in the honor of Douanier Rousseau. He prolongs the evenings until the early morning by games of poker at René Kerdyk, poet at his hours and last of Parisian boulevardiers.

Dunoyer de Segonzac (left) and Boussingault (right)

The beginner Boussingault is a draftsman skilled to camp the dummy decor of the end of an era. His feature is located first in Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard as shown in Souvenir of Maurice Bar in Montmartre dated 1905. Recommended by Desvallières, he collaborates with Temoin (periodical GN*) of Iribe and Scheherazade of Cocteau and Benouard. After illustrating one of Poiret's articles, he became one of his familiar, soon one of his designers with Dufy and Fauconnet. His association with the patron culminates in an imposing, frescoed canvas designed to adorn the fashion designer's new salons. At the end of three years of work, he presented at the Salon d'Automne in 1913 Le Pesage which stylized, with spirit, the elusive of fashionable bars and turf, the universe of elegant women who sway on a sword, the silhouette amazons. The form that combines cubism and a hieraticism not exempt from mannerism, contributes to success. So think: Picasso and Piero della Francesca dressed by Poiret!

His easel painting he exhibits with those of Luc-Albert Moreau and Segonzac in 1910 at Barbazanges is less appreciated. The austere manner of the Bande noire does not yet correspond to the taste of the amateurs. Illustrator of high life, Boussingault remains a prisoner of his job. A photograph taken by Valdo-Barbey, who stays with him in Egypt, sets the image of a gummy man, helmeted in white and covered with leather. It is in June 1914; a few weeks later, he changed his helmet. Wounded in Belgium in September 1914, he joined Segonzac in the Camouflage section of the 3rd Army. From the war, he did not come out unscathed. After a disastrous marriage and a moral crisis, the dandy turns into a mysanthropist, living recluse in his sad workshop near the Place Victor Hugo in Paris. He continued some time to haunt the bars. From Footit, rue Montaigne, where the legendary clown immortalized twenty years earlier by Toulouse-Lautrec had turned into a bartender, he contracted the habit of going up the Champs-Elysées. He will give a series of boards that rank him among the great illustrators of the period. Returning to the lithography of his years of learning, he develops his "black manners" on lithographic stone and produces an illustrator's work, all the more sought after by bibliophiles that it is rare. Essentially, these are paintings of venery and shopping, images of Old Paris (Léon-Paul Fargue), commentary on Amants, Heureux Amants by Valery Larbaud and Spleen de Paris by Baudelaire, his favorite poet.

Back in civilian life, Boussingault went through a period of questioning, destroying many more paintings than he realized. Then, in compensation for his difficulty in being, his painting becomes a hymn to happiness and good life that have dodged. In the twenties, Boussingault's palette remains sober with dominant browns and ochres. His canvases, solidly constructed and amply ordered, are magnified by a creamy material. He is not interested in landscapes like Segonzac, nor in the damned of the flesh like Moreau, but in his contemporaries represented in their daily ambience. From this time dates Rendez-vous des chasseurs, Femme se coiffant (1926), Femme au bonnet orange, La violoniste (Ginette Neveu), works bathed in a vaporous atmosphere that softens the harshness of style.

Some still lifes like these shoes and this fan thrown carelessly on a pedestal table remind us that it remains sensitive to the elegant world. From pre-war dandyism, "the bear Boussingault" retains its predilection for distinguished beings and luxury objects. In the twenties, his participation in the group of painters Gallery Marseille just allowed him to maintain his rank. In the thirties, his painting will blossom, voluptuously (...) The flavor of the material meets the chromaticism brought to the incandescence of its yellows and its orange. From now on, the light seems to emanate from a paste all the thicker as the chromatic range is sunny. The painter of Pesage excels at rendering, by a multitude of intertwined keys, the fruit pulp, the vibration of the complexions, the variegation of a bodice. He is, with Desnoyer, the diarist of the woman of the thirties of which he stylizes the elegant, slender and sporty look. His hymn to the good life, comfortable and of good taste, finds an extension in the ease of his gouaches. Table servie painted in 1941 evokes by its composition certain works of the 40s of Matisse.

His decorations for the foyer of the Palais de Chaillot - the Harlequin, the Pierrot, the Colombine of The Italian Comedy (1937) - and a fresco for the War Museum confirm the ornamental character of his art

Boussingault the tormented has regained confidence, argued that he is by a new generation of collectors. At the beginning of the 1940s, a firework of several hundred oils and gouaches, a bunch of bouquets of flowers, is an accomplishment of the work. Became, according to Segonzac, "almost happy", Boussingault disappears in March 1943, shortly before the great retrospective of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris (March-April 1944) that would do him justice.

It was late or too early!