George Clairin

French, 1843-1919 Biography

Georges Jules Victor Clairin studied with Pils and Picot at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but chiefly under his friend and mentor Regnault, with whom he travelled to Brittany, Spain and Morocco. The two fought in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, during which Regnault was killed.

Clairin subsequently lived and worked in Paris, Morocco, Italy, Spain, Algeria, Egypt and Brittany. He exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français and the Salon des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes in Algiers, and won a silver medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889. His work was the subject of a major exhibition in Paris in 1901. He was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1897.

Clairin produced a number of decorative works at the city theatres of Cherbourg and Tours (a painted ceiling and panels), and the Opéra Garnier in Paris, where Garnier commissioned him to paint three ceilings and six panels, and to complete Pils’s unfinished monumental staircase. Other decorative commissions included the Paris stock exchange, the Sorbonne, Paris city hall and the Eden-Théâtre. His varied subject matter includes Venetian festivities, ballets at the Opéra Garnier, genre scenes based on his travels, sumptuously dressed and bejewelled Oriental women, and landscapes.

An enthusiast of literature and the theatre, Clairin was a friend of Sarah Bernhardt, with whom he often stayed in Brittany. He painted a number of portraits of the actress in her most celebrated roles. His work has sometimes been criticised as mawkish, but remains notable for its finely observed and executed detail and spirited still-lifes.

Silver medal, Exposition Universelle, Paris, France, 1889
Chevalier, Légion d’Honneur, 1897

Salon des Artistes Français, Paris
Salon des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes, Algiers, France
Exposition Universelle, Paris, France, 1889