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Rehs Galleries - A Visual History


EDOUARD LEON CORTÈS
(1882 - 1969)


 

The Breton Family
Oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 32 inches
Signed and dated 1913

Cortès was born in Lagny, France on April 26, 1882.  During his early lifetime, Paris was the center of the art world.  Artist from across the globe traveled there to study and paint it’s beautiful countryside and cities; views of Paris, or as it became known ‘the City of Lights’, were in great demand by both collectors and tourists. Édouard Cortès, along with other artists like: Eugene Galien-Laloue (1854-1941), Luigi Loir (1845-1916) and Jean Beraud (1849-1936) answered their call.  Specializing in Paris street scenes, each of these artists captured the city during its heyday and continued with these scenes well into the 20th century.

Édouard was the son of Antonio Cortès – the Spanish Court painter – who was himself the son of the artisan André Cortès.  Antonio was born in Seville in 1827 and established himself as a painter of rural genre.  In 1855 he traveled to Paris for the Exposition Universelle and was drawn to the town of Lagny-sur-Marne – where he settled.  He continued to paint scenes reminiscent of Troyon, Jacque and Van Marcke.  Antonio had three children - Édouard, Henri and Jeanne - and while all had artistic talent, it was Édouard who had the passion. 

Antonio began teaching Édouard at an early age and enrolled him in a private elementary school where he continued his schooling until the age of 13.   From this point on he devoted his life to art – working and studying with both his father and older brother.   In 1899, at the age of 16, he exhibited his first work at the Société des Artistes Français entitled La Labour.  The work was well received by the critics and the public - helping establish Édouard’s favorable reputation in Paris.

It was at the turn of the century (c.1900) that he began to paint the scenes that he would become most famous for – Paris’ streets and monuments.  One of the more prolific artists of his time, Cortès found his niche and stayed with it.  His views of Paris are among the most telling and beautiful images of this genre; capturing the city during all it’s seasons for more than 60 years.

In 1913, the year The Breton Family was painted, Cortès exhibited a number of works both in Paris and in regional exhibits, including a number of lamplight interior scenes.  Léon Plée wrote in the May 4th, 1913 edition of Les Annales that: One of the interesting and unusual aspects of the exhibition are these paintings of intimate family scenes, in the evening by lamplight.  La Nappe mise [The tablecloth laid] by … Cortes  (a young man whose talent I would like to describe fully) captures the family atmosphere and happy contentment. 

Édouard married Fernande Joyeuse in 1914 and had a child – Jacqueline Simone in 1916.  Fernande died in 1918 and shortly thereafter Édouard decided to marry his sister-in-law Lucienne Joyeuse.  They settled in Paris and Édouard continued to paint views of Paris.  By the mid 1920’s, Édouard and his family moved back to Lagny (in Normandy) and he began painting scenes of country life - including landscapes, interior scenes and still lives.  He was an active member of the Union des Beaux-Arts de Lagny and was the Unions first president.   Their inaugural exhibition was held in 1927 and Cortès continued to exhibit there until the late 1930’s.

During this period he received many awards, gained great notoriety and was a frequent exhibitor at the exhibition halls in Paris, including the Salon dNationale de ’Automne, Salon d’Hiver, Salon de la Société l’Horticulture and Salon des Indépendants.

During the years of World War II, Cortès and his family spent their time in Cormelles-le-Royal (in Normandy) in an attempt to remove themselves from the harsh realities of war. By the early 1950’s he had relocated to Lagny, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

A.P Larde makes the following observation about Cortès in his book on Antoine Blanchard:

 [he] was preeminently the painter of Paris of the Nineties, which he had loved and known well; his qualities as a painter, in addition to his sensitivity, allowed him to paint the street scenes of that time under their most charming, attractive and real light.

Transposed by his brushes, each spot of Paris becomes a veritable sparkling jewel.  The most ordinary scene, through a sensitive, generous and elaborate palette, irresistibly fascinates and moves us.

Only through a detailed study of his canvases can we understand how this artist, with apparently simple means, could obtain such gripping effects.  His bold touch never lingers over a superfluous detail.  What best proves his talent is the accuracy of his drawing and the naturalness of the scene he paints, his extraordinary use of sun or rain, with reflections in the puddles in the streets.

It was therefore natural for such a talent to be recognized in France and throughout the world as that of a first class artist with great sensitivity and high artistic qualities.  It is not surprising that his works, more valuable each day, were appreciated by many collectors.

Cortès’ beautiful depictions of Paris were always in demand and he continued to paint them until his death in 1969.


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