339. Self Portrait in Hat (1932) by Emile Delobre
339. Self Portrait in Hat (1932) by Emile Delobre by Emile Delobre
Who was Emile Delobre? A French Impressionist Master and Contemporary of Renoir & Monet

While not as well known as some of his contemporaries, Emile Victor Auguste Delobre has risen in stature among the names of the French Impressionist movement over the last two decades. Delobre was born in Paris in 1873 and the facts of his life speak of a young man whose enchantment with art began at an early age.

At age 14 Emile was already enrolled in the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs and by 17 he was studying at the revered École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, instructed and inspired by the visionary Gustave Moreau, among others. His fellow classmates included Matisse, Marquet, Roualt, Dufy, and Manguin.

While at Beaux-Arts, and later at Paris Salons where he chose to exhibit, he won numerous prizes and was met with great acclaim. And while already an "an accomplished painter," Delobre was "discovered" by Nathan Wildenstein at the Louvre, copying a picture with his accustomed skill and accuracy. Legend has it that Wildenstein was so impressed that, then and there, he asked Delobre to come work for him and Delobre worked at Wildenstein's gallery as a consultant-restorer until he retired at age 72.

Delobre's talents have also been acknowledged more recently, in an oblique way. According to Christopher Wright in "The Art of the Forger" (Dodd Mead, 1985), Georges de la Tour's The Fortune Teller, a painting that was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Wildenstein Gallery in 1960 for $675,000, was actually done by Emile Delobre. Wright believes that Delobre forged the painting and has attributed to Emile Delobre a very sophisticated technique, masterly skill and exceptional talent.

Delobre's works are also to be found in the Gustave Moreau museum in Paris (1898, Les Lyres Mortes) and in private collections around the world.

One look at the intimate pieces in the Delobre collection and it became obvious that many were not intended for public sale; they were painted purely out of pleasure. Relieving himself of the pressures of pleasing a general public, he freed himself to explore his own ideas and methods, seeking his own expression. And what did he choose to paint while relaxing after dinner, or on vacations or weekends?

His subject matter speaks of a man concerned with the enduring beauty of everyday life. His beloved landscapes are gentle and romantic. His quest for the interesting landscape often took him to the countryside of France: Normandy, with its fishing villages and orchards; the Loire Valley, with its rolling rivers; and the south of France with its sunny beaches. He also traveled outside of the country to Italy, and Tunisia, travels that inspired many lovely paintings.

The portraits of his family (with whom he lived his whole life) include his parents, sisters Louise and Marthe, and nephew Albert (whom he raised). Here we find the intimacy and affection reflective of a gentle and harmonious life. His self-portraits are most interesting - revealing and at the same time mysterious. Delobre has provided us with a pictorial chronology of himself through the years until his old age. His vast repertoire includes classically posed nudes, delicate and serene, and floral and still-life studies, all painted with a reverence for the beautiful.

Emile Delobre lived a modest life. Perhaps, overshadowed by the artistic giants of his age, but he comes to us to be rediscovered as an artist of great sensitivity and grace. His purpose in painting seems to not have been to revolutionize art, but rather to reaffirm it as the representation of all that man finds beautiful and inspiring since the beginning of time. In the depiction of ordinary people, we see their simplicity and nobility. In his interpretation of nature - whether it be tree or flower, or sea, or sky - we are reminded of a world that was, and remains, gentle and beautiful.

As Emile Delobre emerges from obscurity, we will surely find a master of the impressionist technique, committed to the traditions of Art, and devoted to the expression of universal human sentiment.