Léon-Augustin Lhermitte was born in Mont-Saint-Père on July 31, 1844. He was an oil painter who also was known for his works in pastel and charcoal as well as etchings. He is considered part of the French Naturalist School, which emerged from the influence of the Barbizon School. The Barbizon School is also credited for influencing what were to become the impressionist painters such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir who used brighter primary colors, versus the earthier blended colors of the Barbizon school. The leaders of the Barbizon school are Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), the landscape painter Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), and Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878). Other important artists in the Naturalist movement were Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan Bouveret (1852-1929) who was a pupil of Gérôme, Jules Bastien Lepage (1848-1884) who was a student of Cabanel, and Julian Dupré (1851-1910).
Lhermitte studied under the tutelage of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1802-1897), at the École Impériale de Dessin in the early 1860's. From looking at Lhermitte's work, It is not surprising that he studied under Boisbaudran, as Boisbaudran became known for his innovative teaching method as a drawing instructor who emphasized memorization and therefore encouraged the use of drawings where gesture and subject were more important then complete anatomical accuracy. This influence is evident in Lhermitte's work, who, although he is not formally considered part of the impressionist movement, is undoubtedly in many ways a French Impressionist. Lhermitte later studied at the École des Beaux Arts, the national school for the arts.
Lhermitte was well respected during his lifetime and was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1884, which was considered the highest decoration a French artist could achieve. He also exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon and won 'Grand Prize' at the Exposition Universelle in 1889. He was most known for paintings and drawings of the poor and especially of workers in the field. He was a religious man and painted several important religious works including Friend of the Humble
, 1892, which is currently at the Museum of fine Arts, Boston and Among the Humble
, 1905, which is the property of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. The painting was part of the famous John and Catharine Wolf Collection, to which Bouguereau's Nymphs and Satyr
. and Pierre August Cot's painting of Springtime
belonged, but Among the Humble
is not currently on display.
Lhermitte also produced a series of church drawings and paintings, often depicting young girls having first communion or individuals praying. He became especially known for his pastel and charcoal drawings. His charcoal drawings were often considered and conceived of as stand alone individual works of art, which was unusual for the period. Most black and white drawings at the time were either created for printmaking purposes such as etchings or illustrations, or were done as studies or for preliminary work leading up to the creation of a finished painting. Vincent Van Gogh was known to have been inspired by Lhermitte's work and spoke of him on more then one occasion in his published letters to his brother Theo. Lhermitte died in Paris, France, on July 28, 1925.
- Kara Lysandra Ross