Lines and Colors art blog

Luigi Loir, painter of Paris
I’ve written previously about three of the four late 19th and early 20th century painters whose styles are sometimes called “Parisianism”, or more simply “Painters of Paris”, Eugéne Galien Laloue, Edouard-Léon Cortès and Antoine Blanchard.

Never a formal group, these were just painters working in slightly different times, with similar intentions and shared influences. They were noted for their portrayals of the city of light, its boulevards and landmarks, often with the intense yellows and oranges of luminous shop windows set against low chroma backgrounds in complementary blue-grays and earth colors.

(Jean Béraud is often added to that list, but his style was different enough that I don’t generally include him in with the others.)

Though Galien Laloue remains my personal favorite, Luigi Loir is the originator of the characteristic style the others — particularly Cortes and Blanchard — later became known for; he is also arguably the most original and artistically sophisticated of the painters.

Loir sought to capture the streets of Paris in varying conditions of atmosphere and light, but often chose twilight, evening, or overcast days in which the lights of shops and cafes were set aglow against the muted colors of the city’s beautiful monuments and architecture.

Loir and the others populated their streets with throngs of gesturally indicated shoppers, travelers and cafe goers, on foot and in carriages. Though they look romanticized to us (and likely to Cortes and Blanchard), to Loir, these were scenes of contemporary, everyday life — at the time, a novel approach that he shared with the Impressionists.

Loir was also a prolific designer and illustrator, given the distinction of creating official exhibition cover for the 1900 Exposition Universelle (what we now think of as the “Worlds Fair”) in Paris.

Loir was adept with gouache, watercolor and oil, as well as being a pioneer in the use of chromolithography, a process that allowed the wide publication of large scale color images for the first time.

As with Galien Laloue, it is Loir’s gouache paintings that I find most compelling — part painterly, part graphic, alive with vibrant contrasts of chroma, value and delineation.


6 responses to “Luigi Loir”

  1. Thanks for putting Loir in context with the other boulevard painters. I always saw his paintings come up with the other names in the auction catalogs, and wondered where it came from. He did have quite a range of colors and moods. Very inspiring.

  2. You and James Gurney are really gouache washing us lately. A good thing!
    Enough that I am going to back to it again. I miss gouache. Are all of these in your post gouache? This was an artist who treated it like a (respected) finished medium and not one relegated to only studies.

    1. Yes, Galien Laloue also treated it as a finished gallery art medium. The images I’ve shown are a mix of gouache and oil. The Athenaeum site has a fair selection listed with the medium. In general, when they say “watercolor” for Loir, it’s usually gouache or a mixture of gouache and watercolor.

  3. Richard Sica Avatar
    Richard Sica

    As the registrar and researcher at a much respected New York City art gallery for over 35 years, I had a chance to handle and examine the work of the artist you mentioned.
    Luigi Loir is by far the best of the group. His preliminary drawing , which often bleeds thru the paint layers, is almost architectural in its precision in handing of multi point perspective. His treatment of atmosphere is on a par with Whistler. Although most of his work has layers of delicate impressionist paint handling adding depth and mood; I have seen works that were brought to a very high level of finish. Also, there is a very satisfying balance and rightness to his compositions.
    Frankly, Galien-Laloue and Cortes painted for the tourist trade. Their paintings are the kind that wealthy dilettantes doing the “tour of the continent” would take back to Indiana or Ohio as souvenirs of Paris. It’s the kind of painting that today is turned out in workshops.
    When I first came across these 2 artists, I at first thought they were the same person using pseudonyms. I am sure that these fellows knocked these pictures out as fast as their dealer could sell them. Then spending their spare time and money in bars and brothels. I am still amazed when collectors today pay $40 to 50,000 for this hack work,

    1. Richard,

      Thanks very much for your insight and personal experience. It’s much appreciated as few of us have actually had the benefit of seeing Loir’s work in person.

      I might disagree with the classification of Galien Laloue and Cortes as “hacks” (grin), but I recognize their approach as formulaic, intended to have a certain calculated appeal and focusing on landmarks and the grand boulevards, but it happens to be a formula I like, particularly in Galien Laloue’s handling of gouache. Yes, they certainly “turned out work”, it’s acknowledged that Galien Laloue chose to work in gouache so he could produce salable paintings more quickly than in oil, and used pseudonyms so he could bypass his single gallery commitment, but I still like his approach. Simply a matter of personal preferences.

      I do see Loir as the originator of the style the others picked up and made into a formula, and I’ve been able to tell from my limited exposure to images of his work that he is certainly a higher level of artist than the others; though I have to admit I was surprised (and delighted) at your assessment of his atmospheric effects as in a league with Whistler — a mark of exceptionally high regard.

      Thanks again for your contribution to our understanding of Loir; it’s prompted me to try to dig a bit further into his background in art school and university libraries when I have the chance.

  4. Paris belongs to you …