Raoul Victor Maurice Maucherat de Longpré (1843 – 1911)
Bouquet of Roses
Signed and inscridbed ‘Fils’
Water colour and Goauche on Paper
21 x 29 in (52 x 74 cm)
Raoul Victor Maurice Maucherat de Longpré was a masterful painter whose floral still lifes combine botanical accuracy with artistic acumen. Born in Paris on 2nd December 1843, the son of Jean-Marie-Antoine-Victor and Marie-Thérèse née Pinchaud de Longpré, he came from a strong artistic family whose younger brother Paul Gaston (1855-1911) also distinguished himself as a floral painter. Paul had been born in Lyons, where Raoul also grew up and absorbed the floral tradition that was so closely tied to the town’s textile design industry. Showing an early talent, from the age of 12 Raoul de Longpré began painting flowers on fans for a Parisian based company. From this and from his close observation of botanical studies he went on to produce works of exquisite detail. His subject matter evidently reflected his awareness of ‘the language of flowers’, a coded means of communication popular during the nineteenth century. For instance white lilacs signified youthful innocence, whereas purple lilacs symbolized the first emotion of love. Roses had a multitude of meanings dependent upon what other flowers they were combined with. As here de Longpré’s compositions focus specifically on the blooms rather than how flowers might appear in their naturalistic habitat, thus reinforcing his interest in them as allegorical devices. Raoul de Longpré’s work has a depth of space and richness of colour while his preference for gouache and watercolour as a medium always gives a vitality and freshness to his outstanding creations.
Our picture is directly comparable to the painting of roses in the collection of the National Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC. Both paintings combine a very successful formula which J. White (Art Professor and Curator) describes as “a bouquet of lilacs and roses floating in space on a surmounted plinth rendering a delicate water colour of great beauty”. Raoul’s work was so much in demand that in 1877 he moved to Paris to further his career and then made his debut at the Paris Salon in 1880. Five years later he married Adelaïde Chapelle.
Although Raoul and his younger brother painted similar subjects, their styles differed. Raoul painted in a softer manner while his floral displays tend to be presented in a conventional setting, often on a marble base or ledge with a neutral green background. Paul eventually lived in America. It is also very probable that Raoul also visited the United States since in 1883 one of his paintings, entitled Floral Bouquet, was exhibited at Denver, Colorado, (as reported in the Rocky Mountain News, July 27 1883). In 1890 Paul, his wife Josephine (whom he married in 1874) and their children moved to New York City, where Paul did commercial illustration work and also painted in the New Jersey countryside. In 1899, he moved his family to Southern California because he was so impressed by its floral landscapes. He paid a mere ten dollars for a large plot at Cahuenga and Hollywood Boulevard (now part of downtown Hollywood), where he built a Moorish style mansion surrounded by three acres of land on which he planted thousands of rose bushes. This site became one of the first tourist attractions in Hollywood, when more than 25,000 people came each year. Today his name lives on geographically as De Longpre Avenue, which runs parallel with Sunset Boulevard.
Unlike his brother, Raoul spent the majority of his distinguished career in Paris where he continued painting up until old age. He died in 1911, the very same year that his brother did. Today works by Raoul de Longpré can be found in the Fletcher Museum, Scotsdale, Arizona; the Margaret Woodbury-Strong Museum in Rochester, New York; the Brockton Art Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts; the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC.