Louis Abel LauvrayFrench, 1870-1950
The name Lauvray is well known to the historians of Claude Monet. It is that of a resident of Vetheuil, Notary Public by profession, who became Claude Monet’s neighbor in the Ile-de-France. The two men became friends and stayed in contact even when Monet decided to settle in Giverny, a little below Vetheuil. In 1893, Claude Monet purchased a parcel of land situated on the other side of the road, where he wanted to make two ponds, which were to become the famous Water lily Ponds. In order to do this, he needed to install an off takes from the river. The inhabitants of Giverny protested, so Claude Monet asked Lauvray to intervene on his behalf with the Sub-Prefet of Andelys. The intervention was successful and it is thus partially thanks to Pierre-Abel Lauvray that the installation of the Water Lily ponds took place. The two men stayed in contact.
The notary public had a son named Abel, born in 1870. As a child he watched Monet work. A vocation of painter awoke in the young man, who enrolled at the Fine Arts School and Studied traditional learned technique from him. Back in Vetheuil he saw Claude Monet again who allowed Lauvray to accompany him on location. Monet sometimes took him on his boat-studio, which he later gave him. Contact with Monet lightened Lauvray’s palette, and he developed a fine sensitiveness to light.
In 1895, Lauvray went to the south of France, where Monet himself had gone ten years earlier. There, he painted views of Antibes, Cannes and de la Napoule. Finally, Lauvray went to the Cormon Academy following in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Leon Joubert. He learned a great deal, and in 1897 he completed four paintings for the Champ de Mars Salon.
In 1900, Lauvray was 30 years old. He had learned that Greece was the mother of Western culture, and in possession of his craft, he departed for this country. To our knowledge, he is one of the rare artists from this period to have sojourned in Greece. In 1901, Lauvray went to Pond-Aven, the place made famous by Nabis’ Sojourn.
In 1904, a letter addressed, to his parents, Lauvray shared his Love for Avignon, and starting in 1930, he spent every winter in this local. Lauvray also exhibited at the Independents Salon in 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, and 1914.
On February 3rd, 1908, Abel Lauvray married Jeanne Lejard. She was an orphan to whom her father an important notary public, had left a very large dowry, which, combined with the assets of the Lauvray family, placed the newly-weds above any financial worries. In 1913, a daughter, Genevieve, was born to the couple. His marriage did nothing to modify his style of life. He continued to paint constantly. He hardly traveled, but floated on the Seine in the special boat Monet had constructed in order to dedicate himself to his art in any weather. During World War I, Abel Lauvray was drafted but because of his age, was posted to the Territorial, which left him some time for his art. After his marriage, he totally abandoned cities and isolated himself on the banks of the rivers, in the fields and the forest, always in search of a ray of light, transparent water, the green of the leaf, a sky, cloudless or heavy with gray. He who had so traveled, in Italy, Greece and all of France hardly ever moved again.
Lauvray had his own personal exhibit in 1920 at the gallery Danthon. He gained great popularity exhibiting in many Parisian and New York galleries. His exhibitions included the Salon of French Artists, at the Salon des Beaux-Arts and the Salon of Independent Artists.
In 1928, he exhibited a painting, entitled “Along the Seine in Vetheuil” at the salon des Artistes Francais. In 1939, the war locked him into Villeneuve les Avignon; the demarkation line cutting France in two, separating him from his homes in Vetheuil and Mantes, and from Tours where his only daughter, his son-in-law and his grandchildren lived.
Finally, in 1945, the war ended and he returned to his home in Vetheuil and the rest of his family joined him as well. But many disappointments awaited him. During his forced absence, his beautiful home had been occupied by the Germans, his studio partially charred by incendiary bombs. But despite his age, 75, he did not get discouraged and continued to paint until his death in 1950.
Some people of Vetheuil still remember today seeing the old tired looking man with the white beard, struggling to carry his easel and his painting box in hand. He walked along the linden-tree lined path that led to the banks of the Seine and there painted for hours and hours. Nothing stopped him, not even the bitter cold. Mrs. Lauvray replied: “It was his passion.”
The fact that Lauvray distanced himself from the artistic milieu had the disadvantage of making him forgotten, not only by the dealers, but also by critics and collectors. His first major posthumous exhibition took place in 1963. To celebrate the centenary of his birth in 1970, a huge exhibition took place at the Yves Jaubert Gallery, and there again, collectors discovered paintings worthy of the master’s. The critics in the art magazines and the newspapers raved.
Guy Dormand in the ‘Courrier des Arts’ wrote “… a veritable impressionist, friend and companion of Claude Monet. His only fault was to have lived and painted for himself all of his life. Henceforth, one will never be able to forget him: he must be listed after Monet, Sisley and Pissarro, of which he appears to be like the fraternal, persuasive emulator”.
An article in art and literature magazine stated that “ The centenary exhibition of Abel Lauvray at the Yves Jaubert gallery, was placed under the presidency of Edmond Michelet, then government secretary, Charge of Cultural affairs, and Coincided with the release of the book that Claude Roger Marx consecrated to abel Lauvray.”
In fact, Lauvray, who had gone to so much trouble in his youth, to perfect himself, to participate in the big salons, to meet the juries in vogue, to frequent other painters, changed a great deal over the years. Painting remained his great passion, but with the mastery of art and technique worked without worrying what others thought.
Dictionnaire des Petits Maitres de la Peinture 1820-1920 by
Gerald Schurr & Pierre Cabanne, pg 91-92, Tome II, I a Z