Charles-Amable Lenoir by Damien Bartoli

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Charles-Amable Lenoir

by Damien Bartoli

Published on 1 January, 2003

Note from the ARC Staff

We were just donated this wonderful article by the world expert on Bouguereau, about the sale of the estate works of Charles Amable Lenoir, one of Bouguereau's finest students. It just took place last week, and the finest work in the show, Dream of the Orient (Rêve d'Orient) was purchased by ARC Chairman and President of the Bougureau Committee, Fred Ross. We were just donated this wonderful article by the world expert on Bouguereau, about the sale of the estate works of Charles Amable Lenoir, one of Bouguereau's finest students. It just took place last week, and the finest work in the show, Dream of the Orient (Rêve d'Orient) was purchased by ARC Chairman and President of the Bougureau Committee, Fred Ross.

We extend our warmest thanks to Mr. Igor Yegorov who translated the article into English.


An important event has drawn quite recently the attention of art lovers devoted to the traditional painting. In fact, after years of anonymity, the direct descendants of Charles-Amable Lenoir have decided to break silence at last!

First, we would like to remind our readers that Charles-Amable Lenoir was at the same time a student and close friend of William Bouguereau . Both came from the same province of Aunis, that is, to put it more precisely, the Charente Inférieure, rebaptised these days as Charente Maritime.

Lenoir was born on 22 October, 1860 in Châtellaillon, a small locality situated in the immediate vicinity of La Rochelle. His father was a customs officer, and it is easily understood that the conditions for upbringing of children in his family were far from favorable.

However, apart from revealing his artistic gifts soon, young Charles-Amable has shown his intellectual facilities as well, so he could also have devoted himself to education, as he wanted to become a teacher. Having successfully passed the exams, he was to definitely leave Fouras, the small town in Charente where his father had been nominated, and go to the Teacher's College in La Rochelle. After graduation from the college he went to work as a supervisor in the secondary school of Rochefort.

Then he suddenly decided to choose the artist's career, probably, on the advice of Eugène Bouguereau, then the curé of Notre-Dame de Rochefort. This is our deep conviction, although we do not have any proof for that at the moment! And, on the contrary, the fact that Lenoir went to Paris in 1882 and was admitted after competition to the L'École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in August, is well verified. Thanks to the letter of introduction by Eugène Bouguereau, he has also entered the Julian Academy where he joined the class of Messrs William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury .

A trade colleague of his, the artist and future politician Louis Tider-Toudant, one more Charente friend of Bouguereau, wrote in this connection:

...Thanks to his tenacity and patience he has saved several thousand francs from his modest salary and decided to take his chance. Despite much hardships and vicissitudes, his continuous efforts and exceptional gifts have brought him the highest rewards in career, including a second place in the Grand Prix de Rome.

His genre paintings have attracted attention but failed to make him a fashionable artist at his forty years. Lenoir then took to paint "à la Bouguereau" and succeeded in this to make a good fortune while he kept excelling himself in portrait painting. He had to return to Fouras to die....

After severe trials in the famous "loges", Charles-Amable Lenoir obtained the Second Grand Prix de Rome, second grade, in 1889 and then the Second Grand Prix de Rome, first grade, in 1890.

Although obliged to settle down in Paris to make a successful career, Lenoir always remained, like his teacher Bouguereau, true to the Charente, and each year both returned to their native province where they used to meet, either in La Rochelle where Bouguereau lived or in Fouras where Lenoir had acquired a piece of land.

After his death it was precisely in Fouras that the painter's wife, born Eugénie Lucchesi, kept the artwork from the late artist's studio including his paintings, études, drawings, furniture and even the primary sources on visual arts.

His descendants have continued this pious attitude until this day. Thanks to this a part of the family house in Fouras looks the way Lenoir left it in 1926, with all the paintings, études, cartons and even the furniture he has bought himself during the years. Altogether the preserved pieces of art present a wide panorama of Lenoir's work embracing different facets of his style and tracing his evolution.

Mr Ravon, the expert commissioned not long ago to prepare the sale of the studio collection, has also had a good fortune to discover among all the amassed treasures a few drawings and études by Bouguereau, including a superb study for it was Nymphs and Satyr, 1873". The auction which followed, took place in Saintes, on Tuesday 8 November. This auction which, we would stress, is by far not a common event in France, was a big success and a number of works and studies have been purchased by art lovers from beyond the Atlantic.

Today we have the pleasure to announce to our readers that a monograph has been compiled by Mr Jean-Charles Trebbi, one of the artist's descendants; it was just published. Visitors of our site will surely love this small, lavishly illustrated work. We will let you know soon the conditions for purchase of this monograph whose edition is limited for financial reasons.

We let you know the conditions for purchase of this monograph whose edition is limited. It is sold on the site of the famous book seller Fnac. Besides, Mr Trebbi is supposed to meet shortly the author of this article. So, we will be able to exchange information regarding not only William Bouguereau and Charles-Amable Lenoir, but also their common friends, such as William Barbotin, Lévy and even some less known artists.