|Emile van Marcke was born in Sèvres - into a family of artists. His grandfather was Charles van Marcke (1773-1830), a Belgian artist who settled in Brussles and specialized in porcelain painting. His father was Jean-Baptiste (1797-1848), the eldest son of Charles van Marcke and a painter who specialized not only in landscape and animal paintings, but also works on porcelain. Jean-Baptiste, along with his parents, moved to Liège in c.1810 and worked at the Manufacture de Sèvres from 1825 – c.1832; where he met his wife Julie Palmyre Robert who was not only the daughter of the director of the Manufacture, but an accomplished still life artist.
Their eldest child, Emile, was born on August 25, 1827 and from an early age was surrounded by artists and artisans. In c.1832 his family returned to Liège, in Belgium, and as soon as he was old enough, Emile was enrolled in a local academy to study drawing. Emile obviously received a great deal of additional support and training from his family and like many of them, he began his career at the Manufacture of Sèvres – where he worked from 1853 – 1862. During his employment he had the opportunity to meet the famous animal painter Constant Troyon who convinced Emile to ‘paint from nature’.
In 1857 Emile exhibited two works at the Paris Salon and it was at this time that he decided to further his studies and enrolled in the agricultural schools in Villeneuve-L’Etang and Grignon. He traveled throughout the country in search of subject matter but favored the landscape and cattle of the Normandy area – which would become the inspiration for many of his works. He eventually bought a farmhouse in Boutencourt where he set up his studio; however, like many successful artists of the period, he also kept a studio in Paris where he lived and worked during the winter months.
Emile and his wife had two children: Marie Dieterle (1856 – 1935) who, like her father, became a successful landscape and cattle painter and Jean van Marcke de Lummen (1875 – 1918), who became an accomplished equestrian artist.
Throughout his lifetime Emile’s works were highly sought after and collectors in the United States purchased a great deal of his art. In February of 1870, through the art agent George Lucas, John Taylor Johnston, who was the President of the New Jersey Central Railroad and the first President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, visited van Marcke in his Paris studio and acquired his Salon painting of that year for 8000ff. In 1872 William T. Walter, through Lucas, acquired van Marckes’ Troupeau de Vaches Passant un Gué for 12,000ff. In July of 1876, Samuel P. Avery commissioned a large oil from the artist for 8000ff which was to be started after the Salon of 1877; in March of that year Avery ordered an additional 3 works. In June of 1879 William H. Vanderbilt authorized Lucas to purchase van Marcke’s Salon painting for 25,000ff; later that year Vanderbilt acquired another, smaller work, for 10,000ff.
Emile continued to paint in the French countryside until his death in 1890. His obituary appeared in The Magazine of Art in February of 1891and read as follows:
In M. Emile v[a]n Marcke de [L]ummen, France has lost one of the most distinguished of her animal painters. Born at Sèvres in 1827, he was a pupil of Troyon, to whom, as to Corot, he owed a conspicuous debt. He was an indefatigable worker, and since 1857 the Salon has never been without a specimen of his skill. He received the customary honours and decorations. He was awarded medals in 1867, 1869 and 1870, and was appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1872. At the Universal Exhibition of 1878 he received a medal of the first class.
Today his works are house in many public and private collections and three wonderful examples – The Approach of a Storm (Troupeau de Vaches Passant un Gué), Early Morning, and The Pool - can be seen in the collection of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD.
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