Sunday, 17 January 2016


“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.” - Vincent Van Gogh

Claude Émile Schuffenecker (1851 - 1934) was a French Post-Impressionist artist, painter, art teacher and art collector. A friend of Paul Gauguin and Odilon Redon, and one of the first collectors of works by Vincent van Gogh, Schuffenecker was instrumental in establishing the Volpini exhibition, in 1889. His own work, however, tends to have been neglected since his death – and even worse, recent season campaigns in the media have reactivated resentments virulent since the late 1920s, when Schuffenecker was suspected to have imitated the work of other contemporary artists, among them, Van Gogh. Still a contentious issue, it has not been established whether he produced forgeries…

The artist was born in the Franche-Comté, and his father, a tailor originating from Guewenheim (Alsace, today Haut-Rhin), died when Émile was little more than two years old; the same year his brother Amédée was born in Charentenay (Haut-Rhin). The widow with her two boys moved to Meudon, close to Paris, where part of her mother’s family lived, and where she had found work at a laundry. In the years to follow Emile was raised by his mother’s sister, Anne Fauconnet Monnet, and her husband Pierre Cornu in Paris, educated by the Frères des Ecoles chrétiennes, and started work in his uncle’s business, a chocolate and coffee-roasting facility in the Les Halles quarter.

Émile Schuffenecker studied with Paul Baudry in Paris in 1870, and later met Paul Gauguin when both worked at the stock brokerage firm of Bertin. He remained close friends with Gauguin throughout his life, and an extensive correspondence between the two artists survives. The stock market crash of 1882 led Schuffenecker to abandon his career as a stockbroker, and to support himself as an art teacher; a career he maintained, alongside his work as an artist, until 1914. In 1884 Schuffenecker was one of the founders of the Société des Artistes Indépendants and, along with Albert Dubois-Pillet and Odilon Redon, signed the statutes of the organisation.

Among the artists exhibiting at the inaugural Salon des Indépendants was Georges Seurat, whose work greatly impressed Schuffenecker. Two years later, Seurat’s painting of A Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants to immense popular interest and critical attention, alongside works by Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross and other Neo-Impressionists. Schuffenecker, who himself briefly painted in a pointilliste manner, was invited to take part in the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886.

He began to sell his paintings around 1888, after Theo Van Gogh held an exhibition of his work, alongside that of Gauguin and Federico Zandomeneghi, at the Boussod & Valadon gallery in Paris. The following year Schuffenecker organised an exhibition at the Café Volpini of paintings by the Groupe Impressioniste et Synthésiste, including works by himself, Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Louis Anquetin and others. The only solo exhibition of Schuffenecker’s work to be held in his lifetime took place in 1896 at the Librarie de l’Art Indépendant in Paris, and included seventeen paintings, twenty-one pastels and three drawings.

Although by no means wealthy, Schuffenecker was able to support the careers of Gauguin, Emile Bernard and other artists, whose works he purchased. In time he came to own a large number of works by Gauguin, as well paintings by Cezanne and Van Gogh and drawings by Odilon Redon and Charles Filiger, although he was forced to sell his collection following his divorce in 1903. As an artist, Schuffenecker remains relatively little known today in comparison to Gauguin and some of his contemporaries, and only a handful of exhibitions have been devoted to him outside of France. Indeed, he remained relatively obscure even in his lifetime, once describing himself as a man who, ‘placed in the margin, made himself at home there, without bitterness, without desire.’

The portrait above, “Jeune femme à la robe rose”, of 1893 is in the Portland Art Museum. The sitter is the Comtesse Antoine de la Rochefoucauld and there is also a pastel drawing corresponding to the oil portrait above. Schuffenecker experimented much with his painting and his style underwent frequent changes, chameleon-like depending on the company he kept at the time…

1 comment:

  1. Actually came here for Tue travel, but then I started reading this interesting history of Schufenecker! Appreciate the research done here:)