A drawing attributed to Robert Lefèvre acquired by the Getty

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23/3/23 - Acquisition - Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum - We admired it last spring in the abundance of exhibitions in Parisian galleries (see the news item of 20/4/22), the large portrait attributed to Robert Lefèvre presented by Alexis Bordes has joined the Getty Museum. A fine addition to the remarkable French graphic corpus already conserved, the new drawing has temporarily taken its place in the West Pavilion alongside other recent acquisitions, the sublime drawing by Victor Hugo (see the news item of 31/10/22), the painting on copper with its preparatory sketch by Lavinia Fontana (see the news item of 30/1/23), and also the Head of a Man in black chalk by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, to which we will return shortly.

Attributed to Robert Lefèvre (1755-1830)
Portrait of an artist in his studio, c. 1800
Black chalk, blur and white highlights - 73 x 54 cm
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo: Galerie Alexis Bordes
See the image in its page

A large virtuoso sheet, this representation of an artist in his studio bears no mention of its author, date or model. The Galerie Alexis Bordes proposes in its detailed notice a rather convincing attribution, dating and identification. The painter is depicted leaning on his easel in a refined interior characteristic of late 18th-century studio representations. The gallery compares it to the French anonymous painting dated circa 1780-1795 in the Dallas Museum of Art, where an unidentified painter is shown holding a palette in a very similar interior, with bare walls, a brief wooden shelf, drawing board and plaster casts. The format of the oval canvas shown, which did not last until the last years of the 18th century, and the model’s "à la noyade" hairstyle, adopted at the turn of the century, as well as his outfit - a "de dessus", double-breasted waistcoat, wide white collar, high-waisted trousers and fine boots - are also cited in support of this dating to the end of the 18th century or to the turn of the 19th century, as well as the rhomboidal locks on the paint box, which are characteristic of the Directoire style.

It is in the light of another painting that the Galerie Alexis Bordes argues its attribution to Robert Lefèvre, which nevertheless remains cautious since, as it points out, the rare sheets known to exist by this famous portraitist of Louis XVI, the First Empire and the Restoration disappeared during the Second World War [1]. The drawing is similar to the portrait by Lefèvre of Carle Vernet kept by the Louvre Museum. In addition to the common quality of execution, the same great attention to detail, the similar illumination of the model’s face, the note points out the presence on both works of the same type of "A" easel, which is quite rare, and of a very similar paint box. It should be noted here that the Getty holds two large drawings by Carle Vernet, The Return of the Race and The Death of Hippolyte. As for the identification of the model, the gallery is equally cautious in suggesting that the features of the artist depicted are similar to those of the painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin. It cites a portrait of the latter by his friend Robert Lefèvre, which he met in Jean-Baptiste Regnault’s studio and which is kept in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Orléans.

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