LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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ADRIEN LOUIS DEMONT (Douai 1851 – Wissant 1928)

Le Potager au Printemps

signed, inscribed and dated adrien Demont., Montgeron, 1885. in the lower right

oil on canvas

34¾ x 64 inches (90.5 x 163 cm.)


PROVENANCE

Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris, 1885 (stamped with his red wax seal on the stretcher)

Property of New Jersey Estate, 2014

 

EXHIBITED

Paris, Salon, 1885, no. 759 (from the collection of Charles Sedelmeyer)

Paris, Galeries Georges Petit, Exposition Adrien Demont, June 11–July 13, 1912, no. 6

 

LITERATURE

Société des Artistes Français pour l’Exposition des Beaux-Arts de 1885, Salon de 1885, E. Bernard et Cie, 1885, p. 68, no. 759 (Appartient à M. Sedelmeyer)

F.G. Dumas, Catalogue illustré du Salon, Libraire d’art L. Baschet, Paris, 1885, p. XXII, no. 759

“Le Salon de 1885” in Gil Blass, no. 1991, Paris, May 1, 1885, p. 1

“Plats Du Jour” in Le Radical, no. 58, May 8, 1885, p. 2

Paul Leroi, “Salon de 1885” in Courrier de L’Art, Libraire de l’Art, Paris, May 8, 1885, p. 221

Henry Fouquier, “Le Salon de 1885” in Le XIX Siècle, no. 4800, Paris, June 6, 1885, p. 2

Pierre des Brandes, “Le Salon de 1885” in Le Voleur Illustre: Cabinet de lecture universe, no. 1461, Paris, July 2, 1885, p. 426

J. Noulens, Artistes Français et Étrangers au Salon de 1885, E. Dentu, Libraire-Éditeur, Paris, 1885, pp. 64-65

Henry Havard, Salon de 1885, Goupil & Cie, Paris, 1885, p. 48

M. Charles Bigot, “Le Salon de 1885” in Revue Politique et Littéraire, volume IX, Bureau des Revues, Paris, January – July 1885, p. 679

John Denison Champlin, Jr. & Charles C. Perkins, eds., “Adrien Louis Demont” in Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, volume I, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1887, p. 391 (Kitchen Garden in Springtime, 1885)

Pierre Larousse, “Adrien-Louis Demont” in Grand Dictionnaire Universel, Deuxième Supplement, volume 17, Administration du grand dictionnaire Universel, 1890, p. 1017

Gustave Vapereau, “Adrien-Louis Demont” in Dictionnaire Universel des Contemporains, Libraire Hachette et Cie, Paris, 1893, p. 445

Le Livre D’Or des Peintures Exposants, Bureau du Livre d’Or des Peintres, L. Humbert-Drosz, Paris, 1906, p. 212 (Sedelmeyer Collection)

Paul Montz, Exposition Adrien Demont, Galeries Georges Petit, June 11–July 13, 1912, Imprimerie Georges Petit, Paris 1912, p. 17, no. 6

Pierre Sanchez, Les expositions de la Galerie Georges Petit, 1881-1934: répertoire des artistes et liste de leurs oeuvres, volume 3, Editions de l’Echelle de Jacob, Dijon, 2011, p. 635

Pierre Sanchez and Xavier Seydoux, “Salon de 1885” in Les Catalogues des Salons des Beaux-Arts, volume 14, L’Echelle de Jacob, Paris, c. 1999-2014, p. 68, no. 759

 

It is springtime in the garden of Adrien Louis Demont’s home in Montgeron. Located just about 11 miles from Paris it is another world. The month of May is depicted and the garden is in full bloom. A spectacular cherry tree in the center foreground dominates the scene. Other plantings include peach, plum and pear trees, orange Asiatic lilies, along with rows of cabbage. A profusion of cloches, the glass domes used to protect early garden plants from the cold and frost as well as to hasten growth, are visible in the left field. Along the central path a young woman holding a baby in one arm and a large straw basket in the other converses with a gardener planting bulbs, while to their left another lays down straw. Most of the property is bordered by poplars with a view of a neighboring house to the right. The term potager refers to a kitchen garden in which vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers are all grown. Intended to be functional but simultaneously decorative, some vegetables or herbs were planted solely for aesthetic purposes. A pleasing interplay of color and form was the ultimate goal[1] and is dazzlingly captured by Demont. The center path leads down to the rear of the house. In 1896 Lee Bacon visited Montgeron while writing an article on Demont’s wife and fellow painter, Virginie Demont-Breton, and described it as a “pretty but simple country house.” She noted its most startling feature as inside where twin ateliers had been installed with individual winding carved wooden stairways. Each had skylights and side windows, with the remaining wall spaces painted grey and filled with narrow shelves containing hundred of studies of past works.[2]

Demont was the son of the notary of the village of Douai. He attended its lycée and afterwards received some training from the artist Célestin Lepollart. Destined to follow in his father’s footsteps he was sent to l’Ecole de Droit, but by 1870 abandoned the school and set his sights on a career as an artist. In 1871 he spent time working with Camille-Jean-Baptiste Corot. By 1873 he painted under the tutelage of the brothers Emile and Jules Breton at Courrières. It is there that he encountered his future wife, Jules’ daughter Virginie.  Although by 1875 Demont had left Courrières for Paris to study with Joseph Blanc and make his debut at the Salon with Vielle Église de Montmartre, they would marry in 1880. After honeymooning in Holland the couple eventually settled in Montgeron. Summers were spent in the small fishing village of Wissant in the north of France. Virginie developed into a highly respected and celebrated artist of genre and historical subjects. Demont painted genre scenes, but the majority of his works ranged from sublime garden views to dramatic landscapes that bordered on the fantastic, at times featuring religious or mythological subject matter. The wildly untamed landscape of Wissant proved a motivating force within his oeuvre. He was highly decorated during his career, wining a third class medal in the 1879 Salon, a second class in 1882 as well as classified hors concours that year, followed by gold medals at the Universal Expositions of Paris in 1889 and 1900 and those held in Munich, 1890, and Antwerp, 1894. Further honors included membership in the Comité and Jury of the Société des Artistes Français, 1890; Officer of the Légion d’honneur, 1891; Knight of the Order of Saint-Michel, Bavaria, 1892; Knight of the Order of Leopold, Belgium; Officer of the Order of San Iago, Portugal, 1893; and Officer of the Order of Nichan Iftikher, Tunisia, 1895.[3] Purchasers of his works included the Prince of Monaco as well as the museums of Amiens, Arras, Douai, Dunkirk, Le Havre, Lille, Luxembourg, Melbourne, New York, Orléans, Paris and Saint-Omer.

Le Potager au Printemps was first shown in the Salon of 1885 and the importance of exhibiting at the Salons in Paris at this time cannot be overstated. The Salons set the standards for the art market not only in France but throughout the entire Western world, and from 1848-1898 it was at the peak of its power. Thousands of paintings were hung at each Salon, creating the largest exhibition of contemporary art in the world. Thousands poured into
Paris to attend the Salon, with years that had 500,000 visitors not unusual. The public regarded painters whose work had been accepted by the Salon as worthy of purchase, with the exact opposite being true for those whose paintings had been rejected.[4] Undoubtedly an artist’s submission to the Salon was agonized over, with only his best work sent, as each time the future success of his career was at stake.

Demont would have understood this completely, and Le Potager au Printemps is a testimonial to his artistic prowess. Charles Sedelmeyer, who owned Le Potager au Printemps by the time it was exhibited at the Salon, would also have fully comprehended the importance of the painting and its subsequent showing at the Salon. At this time Sedelmeyer was one of the most successful art dealers in the world.[5] This is perhaps best exemplified by the introduction from his yearly catalog, published in English, which stated “Charles Sedelmeyer…has the richest stock of original paintings in Europe. His gallery includes over 500 pictures from Old Masters…and a similar number of pictures from living artists and of the Barbizon School.”[6] Emile Zola the novelist referred to Sedelmeyer as “le dernier chic” (the utmost chic).[7] The gallery was in an exquisite hotel particulier on the rue de la Rochefoucauld. Sedelmeyer was perceived as an “art-marketing genius”, who sold works by the greatest of Old Masters including Rembrandt, Rubens, Bellini, Titian, Raphael, Boucher, Constable and Turner as well as the brightest of stars on the contemporary scene.[8]

Sedelmeyer was a consistent champion of Demont’s work, and both must have been pleased by the reviews Le Potager au Printemps received when shown at the Salon. Whereas most artists did not dare hope for more than inclusion in the Salon, to be singled out by the press from the 2,488 paintings on view in 1885 was in itself an important achievement.[9] Demont would not have been eligible for any medal as the recipient of the hors concours classification in 1882 excluded him from the competition, but in turn afforded him the right to be automatically included in the Salon and his work exempt from examination by its jury. This system was implemented to give younger artists an easier chance of obtaining medals, and it is the reason why after a certain point the individual artist’s medal count at successive Salons becomes irrelevant. Further it explains why such paintings as Le Potager au Printemps were not awarded medals when exhibited at the Salon.[10] Both Paul Leroi of the Courrier de L’Art and Henry Havard in his guidebook Salon de 1885 recommended the work as one not to be missed when visiting the Salon.[11] Charles Bigot reporting for the Revue Politique et Littéraire wrote, “It is a pleasure to view Le Potager by M. Demont, filled with cherry, plum, pear and peach trees in bloom.”[12] Most enthusiastic was J. Noulens in Artistes Français et Étrangers au Salon de 1885: “An attractive painting depicting a potager has been composed by M. Demont, planted with cherries, prunes and apricot trees in bloom, it is springtime which bestows a feast, proffering gigantic bouquets. This landscape of great quality equals that of La Nuit (The Night) by the same painter which last year was honored by the Luxembourg.”[13] (The Luxembourg Museum, Paris, acquired La Nuit at the Salon of 1884.)

Le Potager au Printemps’ next and last public exhibition was at the legendary galleries of Georges Petit in a retrospective devoted solely to the painter which featured 185 of his works including 10 on loan from museums. Petit’s gallery, described as a “palace”, was located on the rue de Sèze. Each May, according to Emile Zola, Petit eagerly anticipated the American buyers who flocked to Paris and timed his exhibitions to coincide with their arrival. He particularly favored artists whose reputations had been touted at the Salons.[14] To quote from his obituary, published in American Art News in 1920, he “was one of the pioneers in Paris of independent exhibitions of both classic and modern works. …he directed most of the important sales in modern pictures held during the last thirty years and the gallery called after him (Galeries Georges Petit) became one of the busiest and most popular in the capital.”[15] The truth of this statement is borne out by the four volumes Pierre Sanchez published in 2011 recording the exhibitions held in the gallery from 1881 through 1934.[16]

The Exposition Adrien Demont at the Galeries Georges Petit ran from June 11–July 13, 1912. The art historian Paul Montz wrote the accompanying catalog in which he described the artist’s landscapes as the work of a poet.[17] The art critic from The New York Times reported, “A Summer exhibition that has justly commanded much attention is that of nearly 200 works of Adrien Demont at the Petit Gallery. Demont is represented in the Luxembourg by the well known painting The Night and in the Metropolitan Museum in New York by his Garden of Old Age. His distinction is his untiring endeavor to make nature really speak in her own terms through his canvas. It is not so much with the precise forms of objects that he is preoccupied, as it is with their visual value…nearly every one of Demont’s canvases could be classed as a poem in pigment.”[18]

In the exhibition three works were labeled as the property of Charles Sedelmeyer. Le Potager au Printemps was not, meaning in all likelihood it had been sold by Sedelmeyer sometime prior to the spring of 1912. At what point it reached the United States is a mystery. When or where the New Jersey collector acquired the painting is also unknown. No documentation of its purchase was found among the estate papers and all that the family could recall was that it had been in their possession for decades.

From 1880 onwards Demont had been painting panoramic garden scenes that suggest the influence of both Claude Monet and Pierre Renoir but imbued with a personal clarity of vision.[19] Exemplified by Le Potager au Printemps, since its unveiling at the 1885 Salon and its subsequent heralding in the press, this painting has been regarded as one of the artist’s most important works. Showcased and exhibited successively by two of the period’s preeminent Parisian art dealers, the painting’s reemergence after more than one hundred years is a revelation. Its charm undiminished, Demont’s evident joy bursts forth from this canvas painted under sunny skies in the springtime of the garden of his first home in the early years of his marriage.

 

 

[1] Dr. D.G. Hessayon, The Vegetable and Herb Expert, Mohn Media Mohndruck, U.K., 2003, p. 122.

[2] Lee Bacon, “A Painter of Motherhood, Virginie Demont-Breton, Chevalière de la Legion d’honneur” in The Century, The Century Co., New York, December, 1896, p. 212.

[3] Biographical information taken from Eugéne Montrosier, op.cit., p. 115; Lee Bacon, “A Painter of Motherhood, Virginie Demont-Breton”, op. cit., pp. 210-215; “Adrien Louis Demont” in Catalogue of the Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April–November 1898, p. 177; Le Livre D’Or des Peintres Exposants, op. cit., p. 213; Exposition Adrien Demont, catalogue Galeries Geroges Petit, Paris, 1912; Adrien Demont 1851–1928, exhibition catalogue Musée de l’hôtel Sandelin, Saint-Omer, June 26–September 9, 1974, pp. 2, 17; and E. Bénézit, “Adrien-Louis Demont” in Dictionary of Artists, volume I, Gründ, Paris, circa 2006, pp. 706-707.

[4] Gerald M. Ackerman, “The Glory and Decline of a Great Institution” in French Salon Paintings from Southern Collections, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, January 21–March 3, 1983, pp. 8-9, 12.

[5] John Brewer, The American Leonardo, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009, pp. 29-30.

[6] Sedelmeyer Gallery, Illustrated Catalogue of 100 paintings of Old Masters of the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French and English Schools, Paris, 1894, p. 2.

[7] Robert Jensen, Marketing Modernism in Fin-de-Siècle Europe, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1994, p. 61.

[8] Caroline de Costa & Francesca Miller, The Diva and Doctor Good, Letters from Sarah Bernhardt to Doctor Samuel Pozzi, Xlibiris Corporation, 2010, p. 152.

[9] Gerald M. Ackerman, op. cit., pp. 12, 18-19.

[10]  Harris C. White, Canvases and Careers: Institutional Change in the French Painting World, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1993, pp. 31, 47.

[11]    Paul Leroi, Courrier de L’Art, op. cit., p. 221; and Henry Havard, Salon de 1885op. cit., p. 48.

[12]  “C’est un plaisir de regarder le Potager de M. Demont, plein de cerisiers, de pruniers, de poiriers et de péchers en fleur.” In M. Charles Bigot, “Le Salon de 1885,” op. cit., p. 679.

[13]  “Un tableau savoureux par la facture et par les espérances qu’il donne c’est Le potager, de M. Demont, planté de cerisiers, de pruniers et d’abricotiers en fleurs; c’est le printemps qui se donne une fête et s’offre ces gigantesques bouquets. Ce paysage d’un grand caractère est digne de figurer à cote de La Nuit, du même peintre qui eut l’année dernière les honneurs du Luxembourg” in J. Noulens, Artistes Français et Étrangers au Salon de 1885, op. cit., pp. 64-65.

[14]  Robert Jensen, op. cit., p. 61.

[15]  “Obituary, Georges Petit” in American Art News, volume 18, no. 33, June 5, 1920, pp. 3-4.

[16]  See Pierre Sanchez, Les expositions de la Galerie Georges Petit, 1881-1934: répertoire des artistes et liste de leurs oeuvres, op. cit..

[17]  Paul Montz, Exposition Adrien Demont, op. cit., p. 5.

[18]  “Art Notes from Paris” in The New York Times, August 25, 1912.

[19]  Adrien Demont 1851-1928, exhibition catalogue, op. cit., p. 2.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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