American & European Paintings - September 2008
Victor Emile Prouvé
(French, 1858–1943)
Jacques Majorelle, 1890
Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 × 15 inches
Signed, dated, and inscribed at lower right: “Vr. Prouve/a l’ami L. Majorelle/1890”
ILLUSTRATED: Félix Marcilhac, La vie et l’oeuvre de Jacques Majorelle (1886–1962) (Paris: ACR Edition/Les Editions de l’Amateur, 1995), p. 11 (repro. in color)
RS 4745

Born in Nancy, France, Victor Emile Prouvé studied in Paris with the painter Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1889). For the next ten years he concentrated on painting, but an early interest in the decorative arts can be traced to his father’s association with the ceramicist Gallé-Reinemer. The latter’s son, the celebrated Nancy glassmaker Emile Gallé (1846–1904), was Prouvé’s friend from childhood. Prouvé returned to Nancy in 1902 and became part of a group of artists and craftsmen known as the Ecole de Nancy, who were interested in the integration of the fine and decorative arts. Prouvé himself exemplified the integration of the arts that these artists sought, for he was a painter, sculptor, engraver, lithographer, and decorator. Collaborative projects involved him in leatherwork, jewelry, textiles, wrought iron, ceramics, embroidery, and furniture design. Prouvé’s many awards include an honorable mention (1885) and a third-class medal (1886) from the Salon des Artistes Français in Paris, and a bronze medal (1889) and silver medals (1900 and 1910) from the Expositions Universelles in Paris. He became director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 1891, and an officer of the Legion of Honor in 1925.

This impressionist portrait represents the four-year-old Jacques Majorelle (1886–1962), son of the Art Nouveau furniture designer Louis Majorelle (1859–1926) to whom the painting is inscribed. Prouvé often collaborated with Majorelle by designing marquetry for his furniture. Jacques Majorelle became an artist who was noted for his orientalist watercolors. He moved to Marrakech, Morocco, in 1919 for health reasons. His most famous work there is the Majorelle Garden, a botanical garden that he designed in 1924. The cobalt blue color that he used extensively in the garden and its buildings was named after him, bleu Majorelle. The property was formerly owned by the French couturier Yves Saint-Laurent and his patron Pierre Bergé. Majorelle returned to France in 1962 after an automobile accident and died from his injuries soon afterward.


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