Louis Léon Gausson was born on February 14, 1860, and lived until October 27, 1944 (and not 1942 as commonly reported). The evidence of his surviving work, however, seems to prove that he was a painter of high quality only for a handful of years. He was born at Lagny-sur-Marne, just east of Paris, the fifth child of a prosperous merchant couple.
At an early age he studied engraving with Théophile Chauvel, and then entered the shop of Eugène Froment, devoted to woodcuts used widely for illustrations. Maximilien Luce was a fellow worker at Froment’s. In 1883, they were both thrown out of work by the rapidly spreading zincograph process (just as mechanical equipment had earlier put Renoir on the streets, when his hand-painted porcelain work foundered), and they turned to painting. Gausson later stated that Cavallo-Peduzzi and Antonio Cortès were his teachers. Together with Cavallo, Gausson and Luce formed what Dr. Jean Sutter had called the “Lagny group”, and they shared studios off and on for several years in Lagny and in Montmarte.
Gausson’s first public exhibition seems to have been the Salon of 1886, which accepted a plaster medallion of his. In 1887 he began to show paintings with the Indépendants, and continued to do so through 1895. He was given his only one-man exhibition at the Galeries Laffitte in 1896, but after that his activity seems to have diminished steadily. In 1899 and 1900 he showed drawings, paintings, sculptures and jewelry in the Lagny salon, but thereafter he painted seldom and in an irregular manner. He did a good many engravings before the turn of the century, including several after Millet. From 1901 to 1908 he travelled in Africa and stayed for a long time at Conakry.
The balance of his life was spent in minor government posts. Gausson’s work seems to have been best from 1886 to about 1890. He then began to flirt with the styles of other artists and, perhaps through his friendship with the poet Adolphe Retté (whose books he illustrated), he adopted a “Symbolist” manner close to that of the Nabis. His landscapes remained his most interesting work, but softened with smoothly-brushed tones and the gradual abandonment of the color and texture of Neo-Impressionism. None of his paintings are well-known, and they often appear now with the forged signatures of Dubois-Pillet or Luce. His sketches directly after nature were regarded by Fénéon as his best paintings.
Gausson was included in the earliest exhibitions devoted to Neo-Impressionism, but was usually omitted from such shows between the wars.
Salon des Indépendants, Paris, regularly from 1887-1895
Le Barc de Boutteville, 1891
first Salon of the Rosecrucians, 1891
Les XX, Brussels, 1892
L'Association pour L'Art, Antwerp, 1893
Galeries Laffitte, Paris, March-April 1896
Théâtre Antoine, 1899
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Musée van Gogh, Amsterdam
The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis
Musée Gatien-Bonnet, Lagny-sur-Marne