Born in Paris in 1865, Gustave Loiseau escaped the confines of his parent’s butcher shop to become a leading light in the burgeoning post-Impressionist movement, embracing the ‘en plain air’ technique to capture some of the most dramatic and engaging landscapes of the era.
Having shown little interest in his family’s trade, young Loiseau served his apprenticeship with a family friend who worked as a decorator, although he found this role equally unfulfilling. A lifeline came when he received an endowment from his grandmother in 1887, which he used to fund a course in life drawing at École des Arts Décoratifs.
Sadly, his tenure at the college was short lived as Gustave left just a year later, rejecting the institution’s traditional academic approach to art. Ironically, returning to work as a decorator would offer Loiseau a better opportunity.
While working on the apartment of landscape painter Fernand Quignon, Gustave was able to convince the artist to take on his tutelage and shortly after, Loiseau became a pupil at the Quignon’s studio.
Although their agreement was hugely beneficial to Loiseau’s development, the pair did have one significant difference of opinion. Quignon’s method was to reproduce landscapes in his studio based on sketches made on location. Gustave was appalled by the concept, believing that landscapes should not be rendered directly in situ, to more accurately capture the atmosphere and environment.
At Quignon’s suggestion, like many artists of his time, from 1890 Gustave began spending his summers at the commune of Pont-Aven in Brittany. It was here that he developed friendships with Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, and Henry Moret, all of whom had an influence on the young artist’s maturing style.
He began showing his works at Impressionist exhibitions in 1891, and first exhibited with some acclaim at the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1893, and later at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1895.
Another important milestone for the young artist came when Gustave signed a two-year contract with art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. A major influence in the Impressionist scene, Durand-Ruel had represented the likes of Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste-Renoir, and the resulting income would allow Loiseau to travel further and significantly expand his oeuvre.
Inspired by the contrasting effects of light on the landscape, Gustave would frequently revisit the same settings in Paris, Brittany and Normandy, painting at unusual hours of the day to capture the subtle variances of contrasting times and seasons.
Although he favoured Pointillism in his early years, many of Loiseau’s later and most powerful works display his trademark technique of cross hatching, known as ‘en treillis’ which he employed to great effect to capture the energy and motion of fast flowing rivers or snow laden skies.
Vibrant examples of his work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the Fuji Art Museum, Tokyo.
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