(b. 1848, Paris, d. 1929, Paris)


French painter and collector. He was initially a pupil of Louis Lamothe (1822-1869) in 1864 but never went to the École des Beaux-Arts. Independent in outlook, he began working in the Louvre, where he met Albert Besnard and Jean-Louis Forain, and made copies after Nicolas Poussin, Veronese and Rubens. He attended the Académie Suisse and exhibited at the Salon from 1868.

A wealthy man, Lerolle was a friend and patron of Maurice Denis, Degas and Renoir. He was an almost exact contemporary of Renoir, who painted Lerolle's portrait in addition to several pictures of his family. A famous composition by Renoir shows Lerolle's two daughters at the piano. Along with his brother-in-law, the composer Ernest Chausson, Lerolle collected works by Bonnard, Degas, Denis, Renoir, Vuillard, and other colleagues. A composer himself and a violinist of some accomplishment, Lerolle's fine art proved fair his reputation as a subtle colourist and accomplished painter of form.

Having briefly been influenced by Henri Regnault, Lerolle painted works that owed much to the scenes of contemporary life by Jules Bastien-Lepage, Henri Gervex, Alfred Roll and Jean Charles Cazin, who introduced the taste for naturalistic observation, bright colouring and plein-air painting to the official Salons. At the Organ Rehearsal (1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and At the Water's Edge (1888; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) disseminated in more accessible terms the still controversial innovations of Edouard Manet and the Impressionists. Lerolle's concern for the structure of his compositions, in which the figures were sometimes off-centre, can be seen in his portraits, such as the Artist's Mother (1895; Musée d'Orsay, Paris), whose spare, austere realism is reminiscent of Henri Fantin-Latour and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

His work was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1868, 1885, and 1895. In 1889 Lerolle painted the murals The Crowning of Science and The Teaching of Science in the Hôtel de Ville, Paris. He painted Flight into Egypt in the Sorbonne, and also did works in Schola Cantorum (the establishment of which he was involved), and the church of St. Martin des Champs, both in Paris. Lerolle was made a Chevalier, Légion d'honneur in 1889.

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