This delicate portrait by Achille Laugé will go under the hammer in Paris a few weeks after being shown at the Fondation de l’Hermitage exhibition in Lausanne.
Achille Laugé (1861-1944), Portrait de mademoiselle Jeanjean, 1892, signed and dated, 120 x 84.5 cm/47.24 x 33.26 in.
“Achille Laugé, Neo-Impressionism in the Light of the South”, the French artist’s first major retrospective in Switzerland, closed in Lausanne on October 30. The same institution had already held exhibitions on Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, the fathers of Divisionism, in 2016 and 1998, respectively. Their disciple Laugé, who was slightly marginalized by the movement because of his geographical distance from Paris, received the same honor this year. The show starts with the soft yet piercing gaze of a little girl alongside some of the Occitan painter’s most beautiful portraits. All of them feature simple compositions and an economy of detail to keep the viewer focused on the model. Throughout his career, Laugé continuously cultivated his love of emptiness and sense of tranquility, the characteristics of his environment: the dry, austere landscape of his native Aude, where he returned after studying art in Toulouse and Paris. Unlike those of his neo-Impressionist colleague Theo Van Rijsselberghe, Laugé’s models have no history, attributes or context: he gets straight to the point. His portraits are sometimes called hieratic. Simple forms combined with stiff poses can create that sensation, especially since Laugé worked from photographs and shared a studio with his friend Antoine Bourdelle, where he had plenty of time to observe his sculptures. But the Divisionist technique he used breathes life into the models, making the material vibrate with differentiated strokes. In 1888, Laugé left Paris for the inspirational peacefulness of Cailhau, his small village in the Aude. Attracted by the requisite rigor, he took up Divisionism in 1891-1892, the period during which he painted Mademoiselle Jeanjean, the five-year-old daughter of his Cailhau neighbors, of whom the Musée d’Orsay has two portraits from 1898 and 1899. In February 2019, a shoulder-length portrait study of the girl painted on a similar powdery background in 1902 sold for €130,200. The Fondation de l’Hermitage show offered the unique opportunity to see both paintings side by side.