MODERN FRENCH PASTELLISTS : L. LÉVY-DHURMER. BY FRANCES KEYZER.
IT was about eight or nine years ago that the name of Lévy-Dhurmer began to make a stir in the art world. An exhibition which he held at the Georges Petit Galleries, comprising a collection of the work he had done during a period of ten years, attracted the attention of connoisseurs and since then every canvas he has produced has been welcomed as an interesting achievement. M. Lévy-Dhurmer has undoubtedly studied the methods of Leonardo, whose influence is especially noticeable in his early manner, and has sought the same forms of expression as the great Florentine. As remarked in an article on his work as a painter which appeared in THE STUDIO for February, 1897, it was from the. great Italian masters of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
that he acquired his love of the imaginative and the ideal.

The two women had fused into one

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer The two women had fused into one

 

Eve

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Nevertheless modern art has had an unmistakable influence on the smile of the Circes and Naiades of his fantastic symbolisms, and the meaning is decidedly more degenerate. His paintings and pastels are generally one-figure studies; but the significance of each picture is conveyed as much by the background and surroundings as by the figure itself.

Salome

salome

The surroundings play a special and important part in this artist’s work, for they are almost invariably imaginative, or efforts of memory. In other and less able hands such a proceeding might affect the earnestness of the work, but that clearness of vision which is one of M. Lévy-Dhurmer’s salient characteristics enables him to reconstitute and reproduce a landscape that has impressed him. In fact the painter not only sees again the rocks and the trees, the hills and the valleys he has admired, but the same sensations that moved him at the time are revived in him with scarcely any diminution of strength.

Dolomites – and – Notre Dame

dhurmer-dolomites dhurmer-notre-dame

In his Portrait of Georges Rodenbach, at the Luxembourg Galleries–a view of " Bruges la Morte " constitutes the background– that city whose pinioned roofs and associations of dreamy dulness appealed so powerfully to the poet–M. Lévy-Dhurmer evokes the remembrance of the work that made Rodenbach famous, and places the bust in the same atmosphere in which the poet wrote, like a monument raised to his glory. No one can look upon his portrait without recalling the talent of the departed author, and herein M. Lévy-Dhurmer pays a graceful tribute to his memory. As a portrait painter he has the gift of grasping the character of the person before him. He is the painter of the mind as well as of the flesh. In this respect he reminds me of a passage in the "Journal des Goncourt," where Edmond de Goncourt tells of the impressions of M. de Montesquieu, after a séance with Whistler. M. Lévy-Dhurmer seems also to " pump out something of your individuality–to take the life out of you "; he sees through your body into your soul.

Woman with medallion– and – Muslim womens

savettieri4 Lucien_levy-dhurmer

If M. Lévy-Dhurmer paints a native of Morocco, of Italy, or of Holland, he is so impressed with the climatic influences on the nature of the indvidual that the work becomes enveloped with the characteristics of the country. This is exemplified in the children’s heads in his pastel drawing, Jeunes Tunisiens. It is not the colouring of the laughing, mischievous little faces, with their tufts of black, frizzy hair upon their little round heads, that makes them Tunisian, but an indefinable something in the work itself, that leaves no doubt as to the country in which they were born.

Florence – and – Eden

Levy-Dhurmer_Florence dhurmer-eden

Aicha is also a native of Tunis, and her eyes with their brilliant blackness tell their own tale. The portrait of a young lady reproduced on the preceding page is executed in another atmosphere ; it is of lighter facture altogether. The lighting of the face, the eyes with their peculiar intentness, have much of the personality of the painter in them; in fact, the eyes are the illustration of his soul.

Danae – and – La semptieme symphonie

Danae 92a80148510a289145815adc5b2

Le Mal d’Aimer is another expressive work, and needs little description. The moonlight, the water, the deep shadows of the trees, the pensive man and woman, are beautiful. This work could have been called with equal significance "Silence"–the silence of night, the silence of love. La Ville Close, another remarkable work, illustrates the peasant in her limited sphere with limited intelligence–everything white and colourless. For many years M. Lévy-Dhurmer devoted his energies and talent to the management of M. Clément Massier’s Artistic Pottery Manufactory on the Golfe Juan, and his labours in this direction have been of great service to him as a painter. It was, indeed, during his tenure of this office that much of his best and most imaginative work was done. His work, say the majority of his critics, is essentiallv decorative.

Female Nudes

2cebd9cb1045b99bd2f9eff4ce7 dhurmer-female-nude

But it seems to me that the word decorative is not always understood by those who use it. If by decorative is meant colour–the beautiful, harmonious combinations and arrangements of tones that serve to ornament and enliven the walls of a building–and the eyes of the public are to rest upon the walls and be impressed therewith, then may colour be called decorative. But if men and women–the public–are assembled for one another and not with the purpose of admiring a building, they themselves become more important than the decoration.

Medusa – and- le Silence

Medusa Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1865-1953, le silence 1895, Orsay

Then the grey and brown background is more helpful, as it brings out the colour in the central subjects, in the people; and these greys and browns are decorative. When the interest is concentrated on the walls the decoration should be colour; but when the interest is in the figures the decoration should be neutral. M. Lévy-Dhurmer’s works are more than decorative. I cannot better conclude this brief notice of the talented artist than by reiterating the characterisation of his art which was uttered by a critic nearly ten years ago.

Automne – and – Helene

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A determination to master the mysteries of his art, an astonishing power of draughtsmanship, taste of a rare order, a flexible and delicate fancy, a genuine love of all that is exquisite and subtle, without any trace of affectation, a fine sense of order and harmony of line and colour–these are the qualities by which the work of this versatile genius is distinguished.
FRANCES KEYZER.

Various

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Publication: The Studio

Article Title: Modern French Pastellists: L. Lévy-Dhurmer

Author: Frances Keyzer

Volume: 37 Issue:156

Date: March 1906

Page no.: 144

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