“Captain and Impressionist,” Albert Dubois-Pillet was part of the Republican Guard for a few years before a letter of denunciation dated April 1886 forbid him to mix his military career with his artistic one. He chose to devote himself completely to his passion for painting.
Admitted to the Salon of the Independents for the first time in 1877, Pillet was a self-taught artist who declared “not being the student of anyone, it was not in keeping with my character to give myself someone imaginary,” not even his friend George Seurat, who inspired him at the beginning with both his technique and his subjects. “Seurat! He’s the one who swept me along. I owe him everything ! I should say that his sense of order, discipline, , immediately made a deep impression on me. Naturally, there was danger in remaining in his wake; that’s why I forced myself to paint other subjects than his.”
As a matter of fact, after studies of the Seine and Marne shores, which were highly appreciated by most of the Impressionists, including Seurat, Dubois-Pillet turned towards portraiture. “Mr. Dubois-Pillet is above all a portraitist. He poses his figures against tapestry grounds, polychrome series, [and] harmonizes background with portraits.” Our portrait, recently included in the artist’s catalogue raisonné, illustrates this tendancy. Dubois-Pillet’s friend Paul Boucher is stippled against a background of colored tapestry highly prized by the artist. Complex in the color choices thus utilized in its realization, this portrait reveals the artist’s special interest in the recent development of photography and its repercussions on color, for which Charles Cros and his work, Solution générale du problème de la photographie des couleurs, 1869, remains the reference.
Cros’ description on photographic procedure evokes the trouble with rendering colors on account of the artificial white light produced by the apparatus. Through his experiments, Dubois-Pillet thus attempted to reduce this displacement by rendering the real light and colors, as his eye perceived them, through pointillism: “in order to express a sensation of red in painting, one has to take into account these quantities of green and violet; similarly for the sensations produced by the other colors.” Thanks to this “knowledgeable and curious chemistry,” his portraits harmonize perfectly: colors are wisely selected and juxtaposed so that the final work renders reality in the best way.
“An extraverted eccentric” categorized as an Impressionist, “Pointillist-Divisionist” or even Neo-Impressionist, Dubois-Pillet could have been attached to many movements without any single one being capable of defining his exact manner of working. His “individual way of seeing” places him as one of the most important original characters of the late 19th century Salon of Independents.
Bibliography of the Work:
Offenstadt Patrick, Albert Dubois-Pillet Catalogue raisonné, Galerie Offenstadt Publications, 2018 (our picture will appear in the catalogue supplement in progress).