Private Collection, France
Lévy-Dhurmer’s extensive career began as a noted ceramist, exhibiting frequently in Paris. An exhibition which included paintings as well as ceramics held at Galerie Georges Petit introduced his talent as a painter. Influenced heavily by the Symbolist Movement and artists such as Puvis de Chavannes and Gustave Moreau, Lévy-Dhurmer became very interested in the complex relationship between music, emotion and painting. Although his later works predominantly depict landscapes, he never abandoned music and emotion as primary influences. Following the 1896 exhibition, Lévy-Dhurmer began exhibiting with a group of artists which included Henri Le Sidaner, whose influence is evident in the present work. Lévy-Dhurmer was honored with a posthumous retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1973.
Levy Dhurmer was influenced by the Symbolist movement and artists Puvis de Chavannes and Gustave Moreau. Dhurmer was a master of pastels and painter of fantastical scenes and Mediterranean landscapes. From Symbolists and Symbolism by Robert L. Delevoy Lucien Levy-Dhurmer began to study drawing in Paris when still very young, then worked as a painter in a factory which produced fine china-ware in the South of France. When about thirty, he made the classic pilgrimage to Italy and throughout his life he travelled extensively in Spain, Holland, North Africa, and Turkey. In 1896 he used, for the first time, the name by which he came to be known (his real name was Levy); this was at his first one-man show organized at Georges Petit's which was extremely successful.
He used pastels a great deal, this medium with its suggestive blurred effects, lending itself to the magic of symbolism; several of his contemporaries, particularly Fantin-Latour and Khnopff, were equally attracted by his pastel technique. He was influenced by the ideas both of Khnopff and the Pre-Raphaelites (this latter influence can be seen particularly in his rather lanquid women and his idealized figures).
He exhibited frequently at the Salon d'Automne. By the end of the century both critics and literary men began to admire his work: Mauclair, Soulier, De Miomandre praised him at great length and Leon Thevenin devoted his book La Renaissance paienne (1898) to him. His style, which played skillfully on the academic treatment of visionary subjects, delighted a society which flattered him, encouraged in this by the admiration which the well-known Belgian poet Goerges Rodenbach had for him.
The painter did a famous portrait of Rodenbach set against the background of the city of Bruges. He also did the Pierre Loti's portrait, with Bosporous as the background, in 1896: “In the twilight Stamboul of Loti's portrait, I have lit little lamps today, which are reflected in the Bosporus, and which are the small trembling souls of Aziyade and Achmet," he wrote. He also painted several portraits of the actress Marguerite Moreno, particularly an ambiguous one of her in the part of Sister Gudule in Rodenbach's play The Veil, Autumn, The Squall, Silence, and Salome were some of his typical subjects. Music also fascinated him and he tried to turn Debussy's The Afternoon of a Faun and Gabriel Faure's Roses of Isphan into paintings. He never ceased to use symbolist inspiration even after the turn of the century, but this was never held against him as it was against others. In 1910, he decorated the dining room of a house on the Champs-de-Mars in Paris with a peacock motif; in general his landscapes were much sought after for many years.