LÉON AUGUSTIN L’HERMITTEFrench 1844 - 1925


Literature: Monique le Pelley Fonteny, ‘Leon-Augustin Lhermitte (1844-1925), Catalogue Raisonné', Paris, 1991, no 290

LÉON AUGUSTIN L’HERMITTEFrench 1844 - 1925

It was through the intervention of a neighbour chancing upon the young Lhermitte’s drawings and sending them to the Minister for the Beaux-Arts that the artist won a scholarship to the Ecole du Dessin. There he was taught by the director, Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, famous more for his teaching than for his own paintings; his pupils included Alphonse Legros and Henri Fantin-Latour.

Lhermitte made his Salon debut in 1864 with a charcoal drawing and until 1880 nearly all his work was in this medium. An excellent draughtsman, Lhermitte chose from the outset to depict landscapes and scene from rural life, inspired by his native region of the Aisne to which he returned periodically for holidays. The artist was much influenced by Millet’s treatment of the subject but, as his admirers have always stressed, Lhermitte’s harvesters and grape-pickers lack the more sobering elements of Barbizon ‘Realism’, even though he was well acquainted with exponents such as Daubigny, going on several painting holidays with him in the 1870s. One easily understands why Durand-Ruel, who met Lhermitte in London during the Franco-Prussian War, was so successful in selling his charcoal drawings.

Around the mid-1880s Lhermitte moved on from drawing to pastels and began to work more in provincial France and the Low Countries. At the end of the First World War he returned from Paris to find his native village and studio but nonetheless continued to paint in his old age. His work is summed up by a line from Benezit: ‘Il reste fort estime, tant en France que l’etranger, par les amateurs qui se refusent rechercher dans un tableau autre chose queun sujet pittoresque traite avec matrise.’