Jean Francis Auburtin

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Biography of Jean Francis Auburtin ( 1866-1930 )

Jean Francis Auburtin was born in Paris on 2 December 1866. His father, Emile Auburtin, originally from Metz, arrived in Paris in 1857 to study architecture, and went on to become the city's architect. His mother, Louise Jeanne Marion, was the daughter of a banker, and he grew up in a well-to-do bourgeois family.

In 1875, he entered the Ecole Alsacienne de Paris, where his father became a shareholder and director. He graduated in 1884, having worked with André Gide and Pierre Louÿs, a Symbolist writer and poet.

From an early age, he showed a talent for drawing and a keen sense of observing nature. The painter Théodore Devilly, a friend of his parents, introduced him to painting and took him on his artistic campaigns.

At the age of 18 he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was taught by Jules Lefebvre and Benjamin Constant, with whom he developed a deep friendship. He won several competitions at the school and made a name for himself as soon as he finished his studies in 1892, exhibiting his painting "L'Enfant Prodigue" at the Salon des Artistes Français, where the symbolist influence of Puvis de Chavannes was already apparent. That same year, he married Marthe Deloye, daughter of General Félix Deloye. The newlyweds went on a long honeymoon to Italy, and Auburtin discovered Tuscany, particularly Florence, where he studied the great frescoes of the Italian Renaissance.

In 1895, he met Puvis de Chavannes and presented his work to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He studied underwater fauna and flora at the aquariums in Roscoff and Banyuls, from which he brought back numerous sketches that enabled him to create the large decor for the zoology amphitheatre at the Sorbonne in 1898. From then on, he embarked on a career as a decorator, receiving numerous commissions for public buildings during the Third Republic, as well as from private clients: two paintings for the staircase of the Natural History Museum in Marseille, a decoration for the column room at the Conseil d'Etat, several decorations for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, the vestibule of the restaurant "Le train bleu" at the Gare de Lyon the following year and two panels for the ballroom of the private mansion of the Countess of Béarn.

Alongside these major decor commissions, Auburtin continued to paint easels in oil, pastel, gouache and watercolour. His first private exhibition was held in 1897 at the Galeries de la Bodinière. From 1895 onwards, he travelled the French coast, his favourite subject being the meeting of land and ocean: Brittany, Normandy and the Mediterranean were all sources of inspiration. He also travelled to Annecy, the Netherlands, Lake Como, Corsica and then to the Landes and the Pyrenees.

He specialised in decorative seascapes in which nymphs and naiads populate landscapes inspired by the French shores he had surveyed. Maurice Denis called him "the painter of blond naiads and azure seas".

He became a member of the Beaux-Arts and received Rodin and Camille Flammarion, with whom he kept up a correspondence, in his studio in St Cloud. After his father's death in 1899, he bought a plot of land in Varengeville on which his brother Marcel, an architect, built him a house and studio. Between 1914 and 1919 he exhibited successively in Munich, San Francisco and Chicago. He died in Dieppe in May 1930.

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