Among the most representative of what is commonly called the Rouen School is Léon-Jules Lemaître (18501905). A talented pupil of his city’s drawing school, he received a grant which enabled him to continue his studies in the capital. Between 1873 and 1879, he attended the first exhibitions of the Impressionists, who interested him more than the lessons of his teacher, the uncompromising Gérôme. A link to the Paris scene, he converted his friends who had remained in Rouen, Charles Angrand, Charles Frêchon and Joseph Delattre, to Impressionism, then to neo-Impressionism. Together, they were ‘the four musketeers’ of the Rouen School. He continued this adventure until 1890, before focusing on views of Rouen which guaranteed him real success among the art lovers of the time, confirmed by following generations. To date, no personal exhibition has traced this career, and no publication has been dedicated to this artist, who was key in the spread of Impressionism in Normandy. In partnership with the Association des Amis de l’École de Rouen, the Musée des Beaux-Arts intends to bring together a representative group of the painter's various periods, from public and private collections, thus producing the first monograph devoted to Léon-Jules Lemaître.
Léon Jules Lemaitre, Vue de Rouen: Le Pont Corneille à Rouen, temps de pluie, 1891. Réunion des Musées Métropolitains Rouen Normandie, Musée des Beaux-Arts
“The term [Rouen school] appeared in 1889, written by Eugène Brieux in the Nouvelliste de Rouen on 26 April to honour Angrand, Delattre, Frechon and Lemaitre, ‘The three musketeers’. However, it was the critic Arsène Alexandre , friend of François Depeaux, who by analysing Joseph Delattre's second exhibition in 1902, created entirely by Depeaux at the prestigious Galerie Durand-Ruel, put it in the spotlight. He introduced the term in ‘Le Figaro’ to refer to local painters and it flourished. Depeaux bought paintings locally, therefore encouraged Delattre, Frechon, Guilbert, Lebourg, and Vignet and ensured the start of Robert-Antoine Pinchon's career, that is to say almost 200 paintings, the figure speaks for itself!” - François Lespinasse, Rouen School Specialist