Alphonse Legros (1837 - 1911)

Head Study, circa 1880

SKU: 8010
Signed with initials
Oil on canvas

Height – 57.2cm
Width – 43.2cm


The Fortunoff collection [HF30]

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.90.

According to a formula favoured by Legros for his teaching demonstrations at the Slade School of Fine Art, this Head Study is rapidly painted, placing the onus on rendering the personality of the sitter. The majestic features of the model stand out against the neutral background, following a layout that the artist would also adopt in the composition of his medals. 

This oil sketch was most likely executed during a single sitting, thus showing the mastery of the French draughtsman.
Comparable works include Legros’ Portrait of Auguste Rodin (1882) in the Musée Rodin, as well as the Study of Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1879), Victoria & Albert Museum, London. 

This portrait comes from the collection of the late Alan M. Fortunoff (1933-2000), a retail visionary, who transformed the Fortunoff Department Store, and aided the appreciation of Modern British Art in North America.

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Alphonse Legros
1837 - 1911

Painter and etcher, was born at Dijon, France. He studied firstly at his local art school and was apprenticed to Maître Nicolardo a house decorator and painter. In 1851 Legros left for Paris to take another situation, but passing through Lyon he worked for six months as journeyman wall-painter under the decorator Beuchot, who was painting the chapel of Cardinal Bonald in the cathedral. Arriving in Paris he studied Cambon a theatrical scene painter and simultaneously attended the drawing-school of Lecoq de Boisbaudran. In 1855 Legros attended the evening classes at the École des Beaux-Arts.

Legros migrated to England in 1863 and in 1864 married Miss Frances Rosetta Hodgson. At first he lived by his etching and teaching. He then became teacher of etching at the South Kensington Schools, and in 1876 Slade Professor at University College, London. His work was exhibited at the Paris Salon, with the Society of Twelve and at the RA and RE. He became a naturalized Englishman in 1881, and remained at University College for seventeen years. He also made medals and examples of his oeuvre are in the collection of the BM, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and the Museum of Dijon.

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Alphonse Legros (1837 - 1911)
Head Study, circa 1880