LOUIS EDMOND POMEY (Paris 1831 – Gérardmer, Vosges 1901)
La Fête de la Grand’maman, Portraits de Famille
signed in the lower left Louis Pomey
oil on canvas
38 ½ x 51 ½ inches (97.8 x 130.6 cm.)
Private Collection, Malba, New York
Private Collection, New York, New York until 2010
Paris, Salon de 1880, no. 3070
Salon de 1880, Exposition Officielle, Explication des Ouvrages de Peintre, Sculpture, Architecture, Gravure et Lithographie des Artistes Vivants, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, May 1, 1880, p. 371, no. 3070
F.G. Dumas, Illustrated Catalogue of the Paris Salon, British and Foreign Artists’ Association, London, 1880, p. 54, no 3070
Emile Bellier de la Chavignerie, “Louis Edmond Pomey” in Dictionnaire general des artistes de l’école français depuis l’origine des arts du dessin jusqu’à nos jours. Architectes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs et lithographes, volume II, Renouard, Paris, 1882-85, p. 293
Pierre Sanchez and Xavier Seydoux, “Salon de 1880” in Les Catalogues des Salons des Beaux-Arts, volume 12, L’Echelle de Jacob, Paris, c. 1999-2014, unpaginated, no. 3070
Louis Edmond Pomey was a painter of genre, portraits and miniatures. He was also a poet, lyricist and translator. He studied with Marc-Gabriel-Charles Gleyre, Charles Vallet, Timoléon Marie Lobrichon and Florent Willems. From 1867 onwards he was a regular exhibitor at the Salon and in 1899 was awarded a medal for a work of a similar title, La fête de la grand-mère, now in the collection of the Musée Baron Martin, Gray. Another of Pomey’s paintings is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules-Chéret, Nice titled Simplicité. He was the instructor of his daughter Thérèse Pomey-Ballue, a painter of genre and miniatures.
Pomey was friendly with Pauline Viardot (a leading nineteenth century mezzo-soprano and composer in France) and the Viardot family were in attendance on November 14, 1864 when the artist wed Jeanne Fawtier in Nancy. Pomey wrote poems for the vocal versions of twelve of the mazurkas by Frédéric Chopin in collaboration with Viardot who did the arrangements. He also wrote the lyrics for La Truite by Franz Schubert (the only piano quintet by the composer). For Viardot’s edition of fifty Schubert songs published by Hammelle, Pomey provided the translations from German to French.
La Fête de la Grand’maman provides an intimate glimpse into the interior of the home of a well-to-do family in the midst of celebrating the grandmother’s birthday surrounded by her children and grandchildren. For the artist it provides a wonderful opportunity to combine his specialties of genre and portraiture with a miniaturist’s eye for detail. The viewer’s glance is immediately led into the scene by the riveting red hair and dress of the young girl presenting a red rose to her grandmother, while receiving encouragement from her older brother, in the center of the composition. The left hand of her brother clutches a scroll which must be a poem or verse to be delivered in due course. To the left, the mother sits entranced while holding a young child on her lap with her feet supported by an elegant footstool. The mother’s arm encircles the waist of another daughter who waits patiently yet expectantly to play a musical piece on the piano as her contribution to the celebration. On the right two grown daughters stand attentively behind their mother gazing fondly at the scene’s center and heart. The finery of the family’s dress is reflective of the importance of the occasion.x
The room is pristine with verdant colored walls and gleaming wooden floorboards. A parasol leaning against a Louis XV armchair on which yellow gloves and a black hat trimmed with yellow roses rests are in the left foreground, and a beribboned sewing basket of finely filigreed straw with needlepoint and flaxen yarn on the right, serve to frame the scene. In the right corner of the background a patterned screen draped with red satin is visible. The walls are hung with oil paintings in substantial gold frames. In the center of the background a delicately paned window embedded with two circular pieces of stained glass of heraldic shields is partially covered by a double set of curtains. The outer curtains appear to be intricately detailed tapestries depicting flora and ducks in landscapes. A glimpse of the exterior’s sunny landscape serves to bring light and depth into the composition. A table covered in green velvet displaying a bouquet and treasured objects fronts the window. To the left is an upright piano with sheet music from the Répetoire des Opera Français and F. le Marquand, Le Père Angot, quadrille pour piano. Placed on top of the piano are a samovar, metronome and lamp.
The interior contains emblems of the passions that ruled Pomey’s life – poetry, music and painting. The majority of the artist’s works capture beautiful women in lovely gowns surrounded by rich interiors draped with sumptuous fabrics filled with decorative objects and antiques. La fête de la Grand’maman is an example of Pomey at the height of his powers, and it has been decades since a work of this caliber and size by the artist has surfaced from a private collection. Through Pomey’s skill and the immediacy of his imagery a vibrant portal into the nineteenth century has again opened.
 Biographical information taken from Emile Bellier de la Chavignerie, op. cit., p. 293; E. Benezit, “Louis Edmond Pomey” in Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, volume 8, Libraire Gründ, 1976, p. 416; Joachim Busse, “Louis Edmond Pomey” in International Handbuch Aller Maler und Bildhauer des 19. Jahrhunderts, Verlag Busse Kunst Dokumentation GMBH, Wiesbaden, 1977, p. 991; and written communication from Marie-Piere Loye, Musée Baron-Martin, dated November 30, 2010.
 Henri Granjard & Alexandre Zviguilsky, eds., Ivan Tourguénév – Lettres Inedites à Pauline Viardot et sa Famille, Editions l’Age d’Homme, Lausanne, 1972, p. 96, fn. 7.
 Graham Johnson, Gabriel Fauré: The Songs and their Poets, Ashgate publishing, Ltd., Farnham, 2009, p. 88.