Octave Denis Victor Guillonnet (1872-1967)

Biography

Octave Denis Victor Guillonnet was extraordinarily precocious as an artist, entering the studio of Lionel Royer at the age of thirteen and, incredibly, gaining his first medal at the Paris Salon two years later. His glittering youth was continued when he was classed Hors-Concours by the Salon at 21 years of age, (which meant his exhibits did not have to be judged by the committee - his six exhibits were hung as a matter of right) and in 1901 he won the national travel scholarship, which was only awarded every two years and which allowed him to spend a year in Algeria. This proved to be a decisive turning point in his career, because he was greatly affected by the bright light and colours of Algeria, as have many artists before him, notably Delacroix. It was also in Algeria that Guillonnet developed his interest in the painting of 'half shadows'.

From about 1915 Guillonnet changed his style to a more strictly descriptive Post-Impressionist expression, depicting figures in gardens. The figures were either passive, as when he painted his wife Emile in one of their gardens, or active and central to the theme of the painting, as in this painting of bathers under lilac trees. Another example of Guillonnet's use of 'active' figures in his work is his depiction of figures in fancy dress. He became an Official Painter of the 3rd Republic, and his classical training and good connections helped him obtain many commissions for work, often of a monumental size. Other than many lucrative portrait commissions, important examples were for the Hotel de Ville of Paris, 46 panels for the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Caracas, and the Stations of the Cross in Philadelphia.

Guillonnet died in 1967 and his paintings are represented in the Paris Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Luxembourg and the Museum of Bordeaux to name a few.