“The Parisian from Philadelphia”
An Interesting Letter
A dose of Monday afternoon pretty from Belle Époque painter Julius LeBlanc Stewart.
Julius was very, very far from your traditional starving artist living in a garret in Montmartre. His father was William Hood Stewart, a sugar millionaire, who moved his family to Paris from Philadelphia in 1865, a move that would later earn his son the nickname that provides the title for this post. Julius didn’t have to paint to earn a living, but he painted anyway (and prolifically) and he was lucky in that he could more or less paint what he liked.
So he did. He painted nudes :) But mostly he painted his friends: the ‘Beautiful People’ of Society. He painted them at balls, on yachts, in salons, and perhaps it’s because his subjects were his friends and equals that he manages to avoid aggrandizing or idealising his subjects. He manages to avoid the kind of sentimental reverence which a lot of Society portrait painters of that time couldn’t seem to escape. (Or perhaps his subjects knew him so well they let their guards down and relaxed?) Here’s one of his yachting scenes- Edwardian actress and royal mistress Lillie Langtry is the lady on the right, sporting a very early fashion example of a stripey breton top!
He has a photographer’s eye for the arrangement of a scene, and the colours in it, and also for capturing a Moment, whether it’s a moment of solo reverie:
Or a moment of dervish-like activity, such as in the group scenes that would become his speciality:
Apparently he inserted himself in a lot of his group portraits (in a late Victorian “Where’s Wally?” kind of a way??) His self-portrait is here if you want to try spotting him in these two paintings. I’m wondering if he’s the chap under the left of the chandelier in the background in the picture below (click to enlarge); you can only just see his head:
A Hunt Supper
I think if I were him I’d have made myself the waiter, just for larks.
Pictures are from Wikimedia Commons.