Louis Abel-Truchet

French, 1857-1918 Biography

Louis Abel-Truchet was a major French painter, etcher and lithographer of his time. He was born on December 29, 1857 in Versailles.

Abel-Truchet is well known for his paintings portraying turn-of-the-century life in Paris. Working mainly in oils, his paintings included portraits of elegant young Parisian women, landscapes of the city and scenes depicting everyday life in the city. He particularly liked to paint the artists quarter of Monmartre. He also produced some magnificent works showing other cities such as Venice, Padua, Sienna Marseille or Monte Carlo. 

The artist was a student at the well-known Julian Academy in Paris, and was a student of Julian Lefebvre and Benjamin Constant. In 1891, he began to exhibit his works in various salons, notably the Salons d'Automne, the Salon des Artistes Français, and at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, where he became a member in 1910.

Abel-Truchet held many roles as an artist. He was deemed by many to be an Impressionist due to the style of work he created, yet the wealth and variety of his work makes it impossible to define his work by just one style. Abel-Truchet's role as a satirist of the time was also a major part of the journey of his art, and this motivated him to be one of the founding members of the Society of Humorists. He has favorably been compared to the great satirists of the day, such as Forain and Steinlen. 

Abel-Truchet was also a member of the Cornet Society - a fraternity of artists, musicians, academics and other prominent Parisians who met regularly to discuss matters of the day. The society invited artists of the group to supply illustrations that were made into postcards and menus and Louis produced a number of illustrations for them.

At the age of fifty-seven, Abel-Truchet volunteered to fight in World War I. This also became material for his art, as he produced a series of lithographs depicting scenes from the war and his own firsthand experience. One particularly well-known lithograph is entitled Stalemate at the Western Front. Defeat at Home. It shows an officer being told off by a woman, who seems to be his wife. It has been said that this is a self-portrait of Louis himself. Apparently some said he joined up to get away from his own domestic problems. He commanded a section of fighting troops during the war and was awarded the Legion of Honour and La Croix de Guerre. 

He sadly died whilst carrying out his military service in the last few months of the war. Following his death, a number of Abel-Truchet's paintings were exhibited at the Salon D’Autome in a commemorative exhibition entitled Artists who died for their country.

La Société des Humoristes, founder
Cornet Society
Legion d'Honneur
La Croix de Guerre

Salon d'Automne, Paris, France
Salon des Artistes Français, Paris
Sociéte Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France
La Société des Humoristes, Paris, France

Dahesh Museum, New York, New York
Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Pau, France
Musée d'art Moderne André-Malraux, Le Havre, France
Musée de Grenoble, France

Oil on canvas
21 ½ x 29 inches
29 ½ x 37 inches framed
Signed and dated lower right: Abel Truchet / 1902
Executed 1902

Private collection, Paris

Abel-Truchet’s scenes, like A L’Opera from 1902, celebrated an elegant evening with the upper crust of French “Belle Epoque” (Beautiful Era) society bedecked in glorious couture fashion. The works of Louis Abel-Truchet often recorded the bustle and gaiety of the Parisian streets and cafes with their joyous crowds. An early French Impressionist, Abel-Truchet could point to his most successful canvases that depicted the cafés of Montmartre, Monte Carlo, and Avignon especially at nightfall as well as the canals of Venice. Out of all the Impressionist painters Abel-Truchet was one of the few who approached the task of articulating nighttime café scenes.

In this instance the artist has richly captured the “Golden Age” of France, a time of significant peace, prosperity, and advancements in medicine, science, technology, and architecture. Similar in subject matter to our painting entitled A L’Opera, which also dates from 1902 and is also by the hand of Abel Truchet, this example is instead a closer upfront “snapshot” of the well-heeled opera crowd from a slightly different angle. Perhaps Abel-Truchet was experimenting with the representation of this classic scene of Paris nightlife. Like its counterpart this picture lacks the satirical judgment for which Abel’s contemporary and counterpart Toulouse-Lautrec was often known and instead portrays the elite social class of Paris with their affluence and luxury on display in the course of their artistic pursuits. Abel-Truchet often used a thicker paint application as well as a richer color palette that more closely resembled the approach of Sorolla. He also would typically employ a modicum of detail to capture the atmosphere, costumes, and stances of the richly festooned scene before him as in our A L’Opera. The fact that Abel-Truchet used a more flamboyant paint application coupled with the large number of figures he chose to articulate especially in our example made his pictures more attractive and valuable. Artists like Abel-Truchet captured the fin-de-siècle feel of Paris with all its opulence and hope for an endlessly brighter future which still holds an allure to buyers of this day.