Leonard Sarluis 

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Biography of Leonard Sarluis  ( 1874-1949 )

Salomon Léon Sarluis was born in The Hague where his father had a renown antiques shop. Due to a fragile health, the young boy grew up in his house and has been attracted by art very early. At the age of 13, he started to draw and from this time, drawing became a necessary release to his exuberant imagination. 

After beginning financial studies in Hanovre he quickly turned back to The Hague and entered the Academy of Fine Arts where he followed lessons between 1891 and 1893. During this time, he started to use “Leonard” as his first name, in reference to the great Leonard Da Vinci. He had his first studio at 18 and realized at that time a monumental painting of eight by three meters. This neo-byzantin painting decorated the walls of the castle of a Russian prince in Ukraine before being destroyed during the Bolshevik revolution.

He exhibited for the first time in The Hague in 1894 and get favorably welcomed by critic who encouraged the arrival of this young prodigy in the art. Obviously, his monumental paintings with mythological subjects full of nude males were very different from the conformist landscape paintings of his contemporaries Joseph Israël or Hendrik Mesdag. But the young artist was already captivated by the symbolist movement and though some imagined that Sarluis would never be more than a decoration painter, during the 1895’s Rotterdam exhibition, the impressionist painter G.H. Breitner recognized him as the “New Rubens”, due to the strength of his anatomies and the brilliance of his palette.

From 1894, Sarluis regularly went to Paris where he continued his artistic training. He definitely settled in the French capital in 1904. During this decade between Paris and The Hague, he get friend with many Dutch artists from whom the symbolist painters Georges de Feure and Peter Cornelis De Moor and also the nabi painter Jan Verkade. He quickly became a figure of the Parisian avant-garde movement and became close friend with Jean Lorrain who liked to say that Sarluis "had the smile of a Vinci, the eyes of Donna Ligeia, the neck of the Beatrice by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the talent of Michelangelo”. The description of this fascinating beauty can also been compared to Sarluis' artistic production, deeply influenced by the Italian Renaissance and the English preraphaëlist movement.

As a very mystic artist, Leonard Sarluis wrote a volume of poetry titled “Hommes ! Voici le Messie” with a preface by his friend the writer and journalist Ernest La Jeunesse published in 1898. He regularly exhibited in the Paris’ Salon and also at the Salon de la Rose-Croix near to Armand Point with who he realized the poster of the fifth edition in 1896. It represented the Ideal under Perseus features holding the Gorgone, which is the decapited head of Emile Zola, symbolizing in this way the confrontation between naturalism and symbolism.

Becomen a key figure of Parisian artistic life, Leonard Sarluis exhibited at the galerie Georges Petit where his works were greatly admired by Puvis de Chavanne. In 1919, he became a French citizen. The Galerie Bernheim put the light on him through a solo show that met a great success. In 1923, he made the illustration of Gaston Pavloski’s book “Voyage to the Land of the Fourth Dimension » a work which is said to have been a major inspiration for Marcel Duchamp’s masterpiece “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors”, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

During more than 4 years, Leonard Sarluis worked on 360 paintings which he called “A mystical interpretation of the Bible” shown at the Grafton Galleries in London in 1928. At the same time, he also worked for the realization of movie sets.

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