Champigné 1865 - 1937 Le Cannet
Hailed by critics and artists alike as ‘the painter of the good life’, Henri Lebasque was acclaimed for his individuality, his delicate sense of light and his personal charm. Such were the qualities that prompted Beaunier to write: ‘Lebasque merits the renown of a lovely original artist, who knows his calling, uses it well, and never abuses it’ (Gazette des Beaux Arts, May 1908, p.366).
Born in Champigné in the Loire valley, the son of a wood merchant, Lebasque went to Paris in 1885 and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He then entered the atelier of the portraitist Léon Bonnat and began to exhibit at the annual art society exhibitions and the Paris Salons. He later assisted Ferdinand Humbert with the decorative murals of the Panthéon.
Lebasque’s vision was coloured by his contact with younger painters, especially Vuillard and Bonnard, founders of the Nabis group and Intimists who favoured the calm and quietude of domestic subject matter. From his acquaintance with Seurat and Signac, Lebasque learnt the significance of a colour theory which stressed the use of complementary colours in shading.
Lebasque was a founding member of the Salon d’Automne in 1903 with his friend Matisse. Two years later a group of artists exhibited there who included Rouault, Derain, Vuillard, Manguin and Matisse. They were dubbed ‘Les Fauves’ for their stylistic ‘savagery’. The critic Vauxcelles noted that Lebasque’s talent arrived ‘in the midst of the roaring of the unchained beasts’. Like Les Fauves, Lebasque adopted a similar flattening of the picture plane, but blended with a sophisticated, subtle fluidity. He painted domestic scenes with his family as models, still lifes, landscapes, portraits and nudes.
From 1900 to 1906 Lebasque lived at partly at Lagny on the Marne, but also visited Paris, London and Venice. He was enchanted by the light of the Midi on a trip to St Tropez in 1906 and spent many summers in the south of France. During the First World War, Lebasque was a war artist. He exhibited in America from 1916 and from 1918 was represented by Galeries Georges Petit. In 1924 Lebasque moved to Le Cannet on the French Riviera, where he shared a model with his friend and neighbour Bonnard. He died in Le Cannet on 6th August 1937.
The work of Henri Lebasque is represented in the Louvre, Paris; the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Musée d’Angers; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA; the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO; the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.