Bernard Boutet de Monvel

(1884 - 1949)

Bernard Boutet de Monvel was born in Paris in 1884, the son of Louis Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1851 – 1913). His father was a painter of portraits, genre and historical subjects, but was well known above all as highly successful illustrator of childrens books.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel followed in his father’s path. He studied under Luc Oliver Merson (1846 – 1920), appointed Professor of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1891, a painter of historical works and under the sculptor Jean Dampt (1853 – 1946). He rapidly developed significant success as an etcher, and illustrator for numerous journals and magazines including ‘Journal des Dames et des Modes’ and ‘Gazette du Bon Ton’

As a painter he exhibited from 1903 at the Societe Nationalé des Beaux and from 1905, at the Salon d’Automne. It was in these early formative years of his career that Boutet de Monvel adopted what was to become a style closely associated with the Art Deco movement; a two dimensional clearly delineated style set in distinct planes. It was a style that was to become unmistakably distinctive and one that brought de Monvel significant success and recognition. He exhibited in Brussels and Copenhagen in 1911 and continued to exhibit in Paris.

During the First World War, de Monvel was wounded at the Marne and on his recovery was posted to Salonika flying as an observer or bomb aimer and earning the Légion d'honneur.

In 1917 de Monvel was posted to Fez in Morocco and started again to paint, in addition working in Rabat and Marrakech, his work was to influence the Orientalist painter and friend Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) and were exhibited at the Henri Barbazanges gallery in Paris with which de Monvel had a long relationship.

Following the war, de Monvel again worked for magazines and journals including Vogue and Harpers Bazaar and exhibited portraits at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. In 1919, he joined the newly formed Compagnie des Arts Français.

The 1920’s saw him achieve real success in the U.S.A., a retrospective was held in New York in 1926. As a portrait painter he received commissions from the elite of United States society, painting the Fricks, Mellons and Whitney’s, Du Pont, in addition to Mrs Vincent Astor, Mrs Warren Pershing, W.K. Vanderbilt and the The Maharaja and Maharani of Indore. In the 1930’s he had a home in Palm Beach, where he and his wife and daughter entertained, and where he would garner new commissions.

During the Second World War de Monvel remained in France; Paris and Nemours, painting some portraits and Parisian subjects. Post-war, he resumed his annual visits to the U.S.A. and in 1949 died in a plane crash in the Azores.

A retrospective was held at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1951 and in 1975 an exhibition of his work was held at the Luxembourg in Paris.