Paul de Longpre -
A famous French and American flower
painter, Paul de Longpre was the most significant watercolor specialist
to arrive in Los Angeles in the late 19th century and became the city's
first major still-life painter. It is likely he was the first southern
California painter to earn a major national reputation.
He was born in Lyons, France, where he was a member of the artistocratic,
although not wealthy, Maucherat de Longpre family. Growing up in Lyon,
noted for many flower painters because it was the center of the
textile-design industry, he was exposed to that subject matter from his
youth. At age twelve, he was in Paris, using his obvious talent to paint
flowers on fans. By age 21, he had a painting accepted at the Paris
Salon. He studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts with Jean Leon
Gerome and Leon Bonnat and became well known in France, especially with
a successful exhibition at the American Art Galleries.
In 1890, he brought his family to New York City where they lived until
1899. There he had a successful career in commercial illustration as a
window decorator and also did much painting in the New Jersey
countryside as well. In 1896, he had his first New York exhibition, all
floral subjects, and it was very well received. Many of the pieces from
this exhibition were reproduced as lithographs and distributed across
the United States.
At the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, he met many of the
country's prominent artists, which led to his being invited to exhibit
in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles.
Paul de Longpre
In 1899, he moved his family to Southern California because he was so
impressed by the floral landscapes and flowers he saw. He paid only ten
dollars for a huge lot at Cahuenga and Hollywood Boulevard, now part of
downtown Hollywood. He built an extravagant Moorish style mansion
surrounded by a three-acre lot on which he grew four-thousand rose
bushes. This site became the first tourist attraction in Hollywood,
(more than 25,000 people annually), and from the gardens, he found many
floral still life subjects. The combination of his unique life-style and
obvious talent brought him celebrity status, and his name lives on
geographically as De Longpre Avenue, named for him, runs parallel to
Paul de Longpre
He continued to send work back to New York for exhibition at galleries
including M. Knoedler and Co. Known for his energy, he was highly
prolific, also publishing many chromolithographic prints. He worked
tirelessly for a National Art Gallery, and taught watercolor workshops.
He died at age fifty-six from what many thought was overwork.
He has become the subject of a major retrospective at The Irvine Museum
in California. He was also a talented musician and between 1891 and
1907, and completed sixteen compositions.
Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Gordon McClellan and Jay Last, "California Watercolors, 1850-1970"