Bernard Boutet de Monvel

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Bernard Boutet de Monvel
Bernard Boutet de Monvel.jpg
Bernard Boutet de Monvel en 1926
Born Charles Louis André Bernard Boutet de Monvel
(1881-08-09)9 August 1881
Paris, France
Died 28 October 1949(1949-10-28) (aged 68)
São Miguel, Açores, Portugal
Nationality France
Known for Painter, Illustrator, Decorator

Bernard Boutet de Monvel was a French painter, sculptor, engraver, fashion illustrator and interior decorator. He was born in Paris' IVth district on 9 August 1881[1] and died in a plane crash on the island of São Miguel in the Azores on 28 October 1949.

Firstly known for his masterly etching work, his pioneering "rectilinear painting" laid the foundations for what would later be known as Art Deco. He became well-known in the U.S.A. also as a portrait painter and travelled extensively to that country.

Early life[edit]

Son of the painter and children's illustrator Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1850–1913),[2] Bernard Boutet de Monvel was raised in both Paris and Nemours, and he set his sights on becoming a painter from the age of sixteen. First off, he became a student of Luc-Olivier Merson (1822–1867), with whom he took courses starting Easter 1897,[3] before also going on to study sculpture with Jean Dampt (1854–1946), from autumn on that same year.

In the autumn of 1898, Louis McClellan Potter (1873–1912), an American painter who was also a student of Merson, introduced him to etching.[4] Bernard Boutet de Monvel, who had taken up with the printer and engraver Eugène Delâtre (1854–1938) at the time, then turned his attention to colour etching using the 'au repérage' method (with a separate plate for each colour),[5] the technique for which had only just been rediscovered.


Bernard Boutet de Monvel very quickly became the undisputed master of this technique. His first etchings, which he always did as a follow-up to an oil on canvas, shows, in a stretched format reminiscent of James MacNeill Whistler's work (1834–1903), his nearest and dearest – his brother Roger at Maxim's ("L'habitué" (The Regular),[6] 1902) or with his huge hounds ("L'homme aux chiens" (Man with dogs), 1905),[7] his friend Louis Potter (1900),[8] as well as the humble people of Nemours and the riverbanks of the Loing ("L'éclusière" (The lock keeper), 1901;[9] "Les haleurs" (The haulers), 1899;[10] "Le chaland" (The lighter), 1899;[10] and "La péniche" (The barge), 1899...).

His etchings were done with such modernity and mastery that The Studio devoted an article to them entitled "Coloured Etching in France" in 1901.[10] Following this, his etchings mainly revolved around dandies of the past ("Le beau" (The handsome), 1906; "La merveilleuse" (The marvellous), 1906; "Le lion" (The lion), 1907; "Les hortensias" (The hydrangeas), 1911...[11] and the countryside surrounding Nemours, which Bernard Boutet de Monvel became increasingly fond of ("L'heure du repos" (Resting hour), 1908...).[12] In 1912, The Art Institute of Chicago devoted a retrospective to his colour printing.[13]

Oil painting[edit]

At the same time as this etching work, Bernard Boutet de Monvel was working on oil painting and notably portraits, which he began to exhibit at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts or "SNBA" (The New Salon) in 1903.[14] He rapidly began sending works to the Salon d'Automne (Autumn Show) and the Salon des Indépendants (The Independent Artists Show) too. From 1907, with his talent recognised equally well in Europe and the United States, he began to regularly send his works to exhibitions at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania).[15]

His material, which was tortuous and stark initially, using brightly coloured pastes outlined with marine blue shadows ("Les boucheries" (Butcher's stalls), 1904),[16] suddenly became pointillist in 1904, after a field trip to Florence.[17] The lighting then became light and vibrant, the motif was ringed by a slender, pale yellow halo, the perspective disappeared and already, the straight line, drawn with a ruler, began to put in an appearance here and there ("Rita del Erido", SNBA, 1907;[18] "Le Sophora" (The Sophora tree), circa 1907...).[19] "The Portrait", that Bernard Boutet de Monvel sent to the Nationale in 1908[20] – a self-portrait showing him in the Nemours countryside on a stormy day flanked by two greyhounds – earned him definitive recognition from the critics and his peers, who nominated him a member of the SNBA (The New Salon).

However, a year later in February 1909, Bernard Boutet de Monvel exhibited a manifesto painting entitled "Esquisse" (Sketch),[21] for a portrait made entirely using only a ruler and a pair of compasses. This geometric vision of a dandy in Place de la Concorde, which was painted in the autumn of 1908,[21] and which Bernard Boutet de Monvel was to present in the context of an exhibition devoted to him by the very famous Devambez Gallery, didn't fail to unleash a barrage of criticism. His "rectilinear painting" was mocked,[22] despite it laying the foundations for what would later be known as Art Deco;[21] and incidentally, what would from then on, through until 1926, constitute Bernard Boutet de Monvel's new style.

His paste then became firm and solid once more; his palette was reduced to a few greys, a few earths and a lot of black; his illustration was always dealt with in a flat tint and at a low angle so as to accentuate the monumental aspect; and most importantly, his line now consisting solely of lines from the arcs of a circle, is refined to an extreme degree so the figure is reduced to the bare essentials (""'Comte Pierre de Quinsonas" (Count Pierre de Quinsonas), 1913; "MM. André Dunoyer de Segonzac and Jean-Louis Boussingault", 1914...).

At the same time as his career as a painter and engraver, and with more of an eye on making cash, Bernard Boutet de Monvel made very regular deliveries of cartoon illustrations and, above all, fashion drawings, to magazines such as Fémina and Jardin des modes nouvelles... Fashion designer Paul Poiret, who was a very early admirer of his talent, ensured from 1908 the painter's collaboration as, due to his great beauty and his impeccable taste, he passed for the prince of the Parisian dandies.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel's meeting with Lucien Vogel during a preview of his works at the Henri Barbazanges gallery in 1911, was to be the source of his very active collaboration with the Gazette du Bon Ton,[23] the first edition of which appeared at the Librairie centrale des beaux-arts in November 1912. There he hooked up with Pierre Brissaud, Georges Lepape, Charles Martin and George Barbier... That same year, he also became a contributor to the Journal des Dames et des Modes (the Women and Fashion magazine) founded by Georges Barbier, Paul Poiret and Tommaso Antogini.

In 1908 he belongs to the Mortigny circle founded by Dimitri d'Osnobichine,[24] that gathers numerous artists and other people well-known in Parisian circles: Paul Poiret, Pierre Brissaud, Georges Villa, Guy Arnoux, Joë Hamman, Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scevola, Joseph Pinchon, André Warnod, Pierre Troisgros, Jean Routier, Henri Callot, Pierre Falize, Pierre Prunier... This circle lasts up to the fifties.[25]

First World War[edit]

When war broke out in August 1914, Bernard Boutet de Monvel was called upon as a reservist and was then injured during the Battle of the Marne.[26] After a brief recovery he joined the 4th Bombardment Group as bombardier. When the group disbanded in November 1915, he was appointed to the Orient Bombardment Group, based in Salonika, Macedonia. In June 1916, when this group also disbanded in turn, he remained in the Orient and joined a new squadron, the C389. In September 1916, he pulled off the feat of flying from Salonika to Bucharest with his pilot, a mighty feat of arms which earned him recognition both in France and Romania. Over the winter, he undertook the creation of "Les mois de la guerre" (The war months), 1914–1918, a sizeable album that ultimately was never published.[26] After several plane accidents and the loss of several of his pilots, Bernard Boutet de Monvel, whose courage was saluted many times over, left Macedonia in June 1917 with the glory of a Légion d'Honneur and five commendations.[26] He applied for Morocco and settled in Fez, where the 551st squadron was based in October 1917.[27]

Work in Morrocco[edit]

At the request of General Lyautey, who was the Resident-General of French Morocco, he picked up his brushes again, which he hadn't touched since war was declared. From his terrace he painted the city of Fez at every hour of the day, the walls of which were achieved using solid material, that he built up with the knife and synthesised in the extreme, becoming a juxtaposition of rectangles, which rigorously delimit the segments of lines drawn with the ruler. However, he also painted Fez's empty or busy alleys, its beggars, its water carriers, its black slaves or its women wearing haiks, but always as a respectful witness who would never strive for intimacy to unveil a look or the body. He also painted Rabat, in whose masterly canvasses highly impregnated with decorative arrangements, he captured the women veiled in white and seated on the terraces of the houses. In response to the vast, flat bluish tint of the façade, which occupies the main part of the composition, their compact outlines are grouped together in the upper half of the painting. Finally he painted Marrakech, where he mainly captured the processions of donkeys or camels in front of the high walls; and the palm trees whose foliage falls within a perfect circle drawn with a pair of compasses.[27]

Demobilised in March 1919,[27] in the space of a year and a half Bernard Boutet de Monvel left behind him a singular and powerful vision of Morocco, far from the orientalist clichés, the harems of cheap junk and garish palettes; a vision endeavouring to bring out the main themes and the values of this ancient architecture; a vision which had no equal until then and, for this reason, deeply influenced his friend Jacques Majorelle, who recognised the validity of it ten years on, in March 1928. Indeed, he confessed to The Moroccan look-out:

“But remember that my initial mistake has been to do as the others: to use many colours. Only at the end was I fully aware that the various ensembles of this country could be rendered using simple values”.[28]

His Moroccan paintings and his bas-reliefs, which Bernard Boutet de Monvel always considered to be the finest element of his work, were exhibited in 1925 at the Henri Barbazanges gallery,[29] under the patronage of Marshal Lyautey. The introductory text to the catalogue, written on this occasion by Jérôme and Jean Tharaud, ended with these words: “(In Morocco) Boutet de Monvel set down on paper the appearance of a day and forever, just at the point where this profound element is at risk of disappearing; at the dramatic moment where the old city of Islam is beginning to feel the threat of our civilisation bearing down upon it”.[30]

Inter-war years[edit]

When Bernard Boutet de Monvel returned to Paris, he first took up his career as a painter again, and as a portrait painter of sportsmen and dandies in particular, that gave him his pre-war fame. In this way, he painted "Portrait du Prince Sixte de Bourbon-Parme" (Portrait of the Sixth Prince of Bourbon-Parma) (SNBA, 1921)[31] and "Portrait de Georges-Marie Haardt" (Portrait of Georges-Marie Haardt) (1924).[32] He also took up his collaboration with the Gazette du Bon Ton again, as well as several fashion magazines, including Vogue, before working for Harper’s Bazaar in 1925, which took him on under an exclusivity agreement from 1926 to 1933.[33] Furthermore, he did the illustration for "Général Bramble" (General Bramble) by André Maurois (1920) and "La première traversée du Sahara" (First crossing of the Sahara) by car by Georges Marie-Haardt and Louis Haudouin-Dubreuil (1924). Finally and most significantly, at Louis Süe's behest, he joined La Compagnie des Arts Français on its creation in 1919.[34] In this way, he participated in the fitting out of Jean Patou's Parisian hotel (1923), actress Jane Renouardt's villa in Saint Cloud (1924–1925); and decorated Mrs Edeline Jacques' Biarritz dining room acting on his own behalf (1925).

A retrospective of his work organised in November and December 1926 at Anderson Gallery in New York,[33] followed in 1927 by an exhibition of his paintings at the Baltimore Museum of Art,[15] were his first trips to the United States. From then on, he travelled there every year and in so doing he became very much in demand by the American café society for his talents as a portrait artist, as well as one of the most celebrated painters of the day. As such, his models went by the names of Frick, du Pont, Astor, Payne Whitney, the Vanderbilts, etc.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent cancellation of several portrait commissions were an opportunity for him to finally and freely paint a series of New York cityscapes,[33] through which he endeavoured to capture the cold, dehumanised modernity of a city under construction. Using a mixture of abstraction and photographic realism, this element of Bernard Boutet de Monvel's work, to which you must add several views of a Chicago steelworks that he made in 1928, put him on a par with the major figures from the Precisionist movement, such as Charles Sheeler.

In 1934 he exhibited portraits of the Maharajah and Maharani of Indore in court dress at New York's Wildenstein gallery.[35] In 1936, whilst having an octagonal house built in Palm Beach by Maurice Fatio, called La folie Monvel, he undertook a series of portraits in profile, of which the figureheads were Lady Charles Mendl (1936)[36] and the Marquis de Cuevas (1938).

Back in Paris when the Second World War was declared, he opted not to leave France and his main work involved a series of "Bouquinistes des quais de la Seine" (Secondhand booksellers along the quays of the Seine).

In November 1946, during a trip back to New York, the Wildenstein gallery offered to organise an exhibition for him called "Profiles – Bernard Boutet de Monvel",[15] which was ultimately showcased a year later at the Knoedler Gallery.[37] Bernard Boutet de Monvel then got back into the habit of travelling to the United States to paint portraits like that of Millicent Rogers (1949).[38]

It was during one of these trips between Paris and New York that he died on 28 October 1949, in the Azores plane crash, alongside Marcel Cerdan and Ginette Neveu.

Posthumous retrospectives[edit]

The Galliera Museum, known back then as the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Fine Art Museum) in Paris, organised a retrospective of his work from January to March 1951. In 1975, the Luxembourg Gallery, which in 1972 enabled the rediscovery of work by Tamara de Lempicka, organised a sizeable exhibition of his paintings. In 2001, Stéphane-Jacques Addade published the first monograph devoted to Bernard Boutet de Monvel with Editions de l'Amateur. This publication was preceded in 1999 by an exhibition in a room, which Stéphane-Jacques Addade devoted to his Moroccan works at the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris, within the context of "Maroc, les trésors du royaume" (Morocco, the kingdom's treasures) exhibition. This was accompanied in 2001 by a large retrospective of Bernard Boutet de Monvel's work, which Stéphane-Jacques Addade organised at the Mona Bismarck Foundation.

Exhibitions and shows[edit]


  • Société Nationale de Beaux-Arts (The New Salon): 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1921.
  • Salon d'Automne (Autumn Show): 1905, 1906, 1907, 1909, 1920, 1921, and 1922.
  • Salon des Indépendants (The Independent Artists Show): 1905, 1906, and 1918.
  • Société Moderne (Modern Society): 1910.
  • Salon de la Société des Dessinateurs Humoristiques (Society of Cartoonists' Show): 1911.
  • Carnegie Institute at Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania): 1907, 1908, 1912, 1913, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1929, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949.

Exhibitions, Galleries[edit]

  • 1908: Cinquante gravures en couleurs de Bernard Boutet de Monvel (Fifty colour etchings by Bernard Boutet de Monvel) – Devambez Gallery in Paris.
  • 1909: Peintures, aquarelles et gravures par Bernard Boutet de Monvel, Jacques Brissaud, Pierre Brissaud, Maurice Tacquoy, sculptures par Philippe Besnard (Paintings, watercolours and etchings by Bernard Boutet de Monvel, Jacques Brissaud, Pierre Brissaud and Maurice Tacquoy, sculptures by Philippe Besnard) – Devambez Gallery in Paris.
  • 1909: April Ausstellung – Die galerie Eduard Schulte in Berlin.
  • 1911: Works by Bernard Boutet de Monvel, Georges Lepape, Jacques and Pierre Brissaud – Henri Barbazanges Gallery.
  • 1913: Colour Etchings by Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Leicester Galleries in London.
  • 1914: Exposition des collaborateurs de la Gazette du Bon Ton (Exhibition of contributors to the Gazette du Bon Ton magazine) – Levesque Gallery in Paris.
  • 1915: The Panama Pacific International Exposition – San Francisco (California).
  • 1918: Exposition "France – Maroc" (France – Morocco) – Excelsior Hotel in Casablanca.
  • 1921: Exhibition by Pierre Brissaud and Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Belmaison Gallery in New York.
  • 1924: Exposition de l'Association des peintres et sculpteurs du Maroc (Exhibition by the Morocco painters and sculptors Association) – Georges Petit Gallery in Paris.
  • 1925: Morocco, Peintures et bas-reliefs de Bernard Boutet de Monvel (Paintings and bas-reliefs by Bernard Boutet de Monvel) – Henri Bargazanges Gallery in Paris.
  • 1926: Société des Artistes IndépendantsGrand Palais in Paris.
  • 1926: The Art of Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Anderson Gallery in New York.
  • 1927: Exhibition of colour etchings by Bernard Boutet de Monvel – C. W. Kraushaar Galleries in New York.
  • 1927: Exhibition of paintings, bas-reliefs and decorations by Bernard Boutet de Monvel – The Arts Club of Chicago (Illinois).
  • 1932: Paintings by Bernard Boutet de Monvel – C. W. Kraushaar Galleries in New York.
  • 1932: Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Reinhardt Gallery in New York.
  • 1933–1934: A century of progress – Chicago World Fair (Illinois).
  • 1934: Portraits by Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Wildenstein Gallery in New York.
  • 1937: Bernard Boutet de Monvel – The Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach (Florida).
  • 1944–1945: Paris et ses peintres (Paris and its painters) – Galerie Charpentier in Paris.
  • 1947: Profils Bernard Boutet de Monvel (Bernard Boutet de Monvel's Profiles) – Knoedler Gallery in New York.


  • 1951: Retrospective Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Palais Galliera Museum in Paris.
  • 1952: Portraits of Personalities – Portraits Inc in New York.
  • 1975: Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Galerie du Luxembourg in Paris.
  • 1976–1977: Cinquantenaire de l'exposition de 1925 (Fiftieth anniversary of the 1925 exhibition)- Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
  • 1977: Tendenzen der Zwanziger Jahre – Neuen Nationalgalerie de Charlottenburg, Berlin (Germany).
  • 1984: Images et imaginaires d'Architecture (Images and the imagination of Architecture) – Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou in Paris.
  • 1987: Costumes of Royal India - The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
  • 1991: The 1920s Age of Metropolis – The Museum of Fine Art in Montreal.
  • 1993: Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Verneuil-Saints-Pères Gallery in Paris.
  • 1994–1995: Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Barry Friedman Ltd Gallery in New York.
  • 1999: Maroc, les trésors du royaume – Petit palais à Paris
  • 2001: Retrospective Bernard Boutet de Monvel – Mona Bismarck Foundation in Paris.
  • 2001: Bernard Boutet de Monvel Décorateur (Interior decorator Bernard Boutet de Monvel) – Galerie du Passage in Paris.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Consultation des Archives numérisées de Paris archive
  2. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 29 & follow.
  3. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 37 & follow.
  4. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 42 & follow.
  5. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 44–45
  6. ^ Addade 2001, p. 73
  7. ^ Addade 2001, p. 58
  8. ^ Addade 2001, p. 45
  9. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 52–53
  10. ^ a b c Addade 2001, p. 47
  11. ^ Addade 2001, p. 76
  12. ^ Addade 2001, p. 88
  13. ^ Art Institute of Chicago, 1912, Monvel
  14. ^ Addade 2001, p. 56
  15. ^ a b c Family archives
  16. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 60–62
  17. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 63–66
  18. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 79–81
  19. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 90–92
  20. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 100–103
  21. ^ a b c Bernard Boutet de Monvel ou la naissance de l'Art déco
  22. ^ Addade 2001, p. 68
  23. ^ Addade 2001, p. 117
  24. ^ (in French) Les Modes, revue mensuelle illustrée des Arts décoratifs appliqués à la femme, February 1906
  25. ^ (in French) Bec et ongles, weekly satyre news sheet, January 16, 1932
  26. ^ a b c (in French) Les mois de guerre 1914-1918 on
  27. ^ a b c (in French) Stéphane-Jacques Addade, « La parenthèse marocaine de Bernard Boutet de Monvel », in Maroc, les trésors du royaume, Petit-Palais, musée des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris, 1999, p. 234 à 239.
  28. ^ Addade 2001, p. 173
  29. ^ Addade 2001, p. 175
  30. ^ Catalogue for the exhibition « Le Maroc, Peintures et bas-reliefs de B. Boutet de Monvel » p. 1 to 3.
  31. ^ Addade 2001, p. 183
  32. ^ Addade 2001, p. 185
  33. ^ a b c Addade 2001, p. 202
  34. ^ (in French) Boutet de Monvel Décorateur
  35. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 262 & follow.
  36. ^ Addade 2001, pp. 269–271
  37. ^ Addade 2001, p. 301 & follow.
  38. ^ Addade 2001, p. 307

Further reading[edit]

  • Addade, Stéphane-Jacques (2001). Bernard Boutet de Monvel. Paris: Éditions de l’Amateur. ISBN 978-2859173210. , 318 p., colours illustrations.
  • Lynne Thomton, Les Africanistes, peintres voyageurs, ACR. éditions, 1990.
  • Jérôme Coignard, Boutet de Monvel dans l'enfer de la mondanité dans: L'Œil, juin 2001

External links[edit]