A Lovely Oil on Panel painting of the Dunkerque Harbor, By Eugène Galien Laloue, under his pseudonym of M Lenoir.
Transcribing faithfully the harbor’s misty atmosphere with admirable realism, E. Galien
Laloue, proves once again the extent of his talent through this representation of the Docks
This view, taken from the South end of the Quai des Hollandais, shows, drowned in the mist, the famous Belfry of Dunkirk’s city hall (now a UNESCO world heritage site).
By placing the ship in the center of the composition, the painter reminds us of the importance
of maritime freight at that time and the bustling activity of the ports, gateway to all the
goods entering the country.
The human figures in the painting, enhanced by small touches of bright colors, animate the foreground of what could be a market day on the docks.
In the distance the colors fade and give way to the famously rainy and misty atmosphere of the city.
The light blue, mauve, ochre and light pink tones create the perfect palette drawing the spectator into the painting.
A magnificent testimony of the past, of a great quality of execution.
The painting is identified by the painter on the back in ink and in pencil.
At the end of the 19th century, with the arrival of the railroad, Dunkirk became the 3rd largest port in France. An oil mill was set up, increasing the import of oilseeds, followed by a mechanical sawmill. But the major provider of work was the jute industry, which employed up to 5,000 people in 1914.
The port’s activity was then strongly oriented towards imports of raw materials necessary for industry: wool from Argentina for the textile industry in Roubaix / Tourcoing, wool from Russia for Armentières / Lille, ores for the metallurgical industry in the Valenciennes or Maubeuge coalfields
The import of cereals also made Dunkirk an important marketplace.
The treatment of this panel is typical of that used by Eugène Galien-Laloue, the fineness of the drawing of the masts, the anchoring of the gaze on the hull of the ship with a vivid color, the misty atmosphere rendered in these yellow tones, the vivid touches enhancing the crowds cloths all a perfect signature.
Similarly, the calligraphy used for the signature is the same as for his other pseudonyms and his real name.
Eugène Galien-Laloue (1854 Paris, 1941 Chérence), signs here under his pseudonym of Maurice Lenoir.
As noted by Noé Willer in the Catalogue Raisonné retracing Galien Laloue’s life , ‘Le Triomphe de PARIS’ :
“There are some painters who are easier than others to define, Eugène Galien Laloue is particulary difficult in this regard.
I know of no other artist who worked under so many pseudonyms.
Eugène Galien Laloue contributed to this confusion himself, covering his tracks well, perhaps because he had an exclusive contract with a major gallery?”
Willer goes on:
“After long and tedious research into various administrative and civil records, regional and national archives, museums, salons and exhibitions catalogues we can today confirm that J. Lievin, E. Galiany and L. Dupuy are all pseudonyms used by Eugène Galien Laloue.
He may have used upon occasion other names, as well.
‘There are also mysteries about his name itself. He signed “Galien” with one “L”, but there are two “L”s in many of his official papers.
Was Galien his first name or his family name? In fact, on his birth certificate in the city hall of Montmartre, Gallien (with two”L”s) is listed as his second name, though it is known that Galien Laloue’s father was Charles Laloue, a set designer.
Surprisingly, many reference books of the time list Charles Laloue as the artist’s uncle.’
When his father died, Eugène Gallien Laloue- the oldest of nine children- was only 16 years old. His mother, Endoxie, found him a job at a notary and he had to leave school.
Eugène however felt the calling of his country at the start of the Prussian war, thus leaving his job, faking his age and enlisting in the army.
By the time he had returned home from the Prussian war it seems that his vocation as a painter was already a fact.
Upon his return to civilian life, he was employed by the railroads as an illustrator. His role was to paint the railroad tracks between Paris and the provinces.
At the same time, he painted the surrounding countryside, carefully choosing the season and time of day.
Interestingly, while later he preferred painting Paris in the Fall or Winter, taking advantage of the water puddles to reflect the city lights, his Countryside painting always reflected Spring or Summer, full of warmth and tranquility….
His training appears to us as most original, more practical than theoretical, for a young artist. It seems that he learned his art in a more academic way from a certain Mr. C. Laloue, probably his uncle.
In 1876, he exhibited for the first time at the Museum of Rheims, “Le Quai aux Fleurs par la Neige”.
The following year he participated in the Salon des Artistes Français where he presented two gouaches and an oil painting “En Normandie”. From 1877 until 1914, Galien Laloue was present every year at the Salon apart from 4 years between 1898 and 1903, due to the birth of his daughter.
Galien Laloue was rather reclusive, preferring to work in the solitude of his studio and rarely painted from life. His views of cities or provincial landscapes were usually based on postcards or photographs.
His stern personality kept him from mingling with other painters that worked in Paris.
As best expressed by Noé Willer in the Catalogue Raisonné:
“…He was not eccentric but always conservative, practically a royalist. He was obsessed with his painting. In his private life he found simplicity alluring: he married three sisters, one after the other (beginning with the youngest and ending with the oldest). They had all lived next door to him. He lived a monastic life. All worldly pursuits, games, alcohol, the pleasure of the flesh were not for him. Riding his bicycle to places in Paris to paint was his only physical exercise…”
Though he painted Paris all his life, it was not always known that only sketches were done on site. He would then return to the solitude of his studios and ask his family to pose in costume for all the rest, shunning the long hours ‘in situ’.
However, the fame of his views of Paris should not make us forget that he was attached to other subjects. He also painted beautiful landscapes of Normandy, including its harbors, and the surroundings of Barbizon and the forest of Fontainebleau.
In his tiny gouaches Galien-Laloue rendered every detail of fin-de-siècle Parisian architecture with absolute precision, but in his landscape works he was more attuned to the painterly tradition of the Barbizon School and the Impressionists, recording life in the rural French countryside in light-filled canvasses.
While Paris was undergoing its transformation into the City of Lights due to the extensive renovations going on in the 1870 under the Baron Haussmann, many people travelled to the Capital in search of work and relished its lights and the excitement of its novelties.
Yet many as well regretted the more tranquil lifestyle they had left behind.
Paintings depicting rural landscapes hence became popular and Galien-Laloue and the Barbizon painters of the time filled the void in the market for those people who wanted a landscape painting to remind them of the peaceful serenity of nature they had left behind.
By specializing in both ‘genre’ Galien-Laloue had in essence, cornered both markets.
Galien Laloue exhibited his paintings in most French cities, Dijon, Orleans, Versailles, Roubaix, Saint Etienne, Bordeaux, or Monte Carlo.
The Painting measures: 6 1/4 inches high X 8 inches 3/4 inches long
The Gilt wood Frame measures: 13 ¾ inches high X 15 ½ inches long