Charles Lacoste 

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Biography of Charles Lacoste  ( 1870-1959 )

Charles Lacoste lives in the land of discreet harmony, where taste is so perfect that never a discordant cry disturbs the landscape. Francis Jammes

The son of a Bordeaux accountant and a Creole mother, Charles Lacoste was born in Floirac, a commune bordering Bordeaux in the Gironde. Driven from an early age by the desire to become a painter, he observed the play of light in the dust of an old cowshed, and taught himself by visiting public and private collections in Bordeaux. In addition to his meticulous observations, Lacoste took a course in perspective, which he felt was essential to the art of landscape painting, to which he would devote himself fully.

Existing solely for his art and detached from material contingencies, Lacoste lived simply, often helped and supported by his friends. Among his early friends were the collector Gabriel Frizeau and the poet Francis Jammes, both of whom he met at the Grand Lycée in Bordeaux. Thanks to Jammes, Lacoste became friends with the Rouart family (the brothers Henri, Eugène and Ernest and their uncle Arthur Fontaine, who were great collectors), André Gide and the musician Henri Duparc.

A lover of Japanese art and a collector of prints, Charles Lacoste's canvases feature simplified forms and vast perspectives underlined by soft, supple flat tints of colour.

His artistic output can be divided into four main periods.
The first, from 1884 to 1893, was characterised by plein air works, close to Impressionism. The second, from 1894 to 1899, was marked by decorative stylisation and urban night views that brought him closer to the symbolist Nabis movement. The third, between 1900 and 1908, was more luminous and radiant. The modelling of the motifs revolved around his work on light. Finally, the fourth and last period, which lasted until the painter's death, was characterised by a return to classical naturalism.

Like many artists of his time, Lacoste made several trips to London between 1894 and 1897. He stayed with the writer Hubert Crackanthorpe, whom he had met at Francis Jammes's house. The foggy, smoky atmosphere that reigned over the industrial city at the time was captivating for studying the ghostly play of light reflected in the Thames. Lacoste also carefully studied Turner's works, particularly his Venetian watercolours, in which he perceived feelings of joy or sadness, calm or agitation. The same feelings come to the fore in Lacoste's landscapes. 

The young painter exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Cent in October 1898 in Paris, then at the Salon des Indépendants from 1901 to 1914 and regularly at the Salon d'Automne from 1903 to 1956. Thanks to Gide, he met the art dealer Druet, who supported him and exhibited his work every year from 1904 to 1938. His first solo exhibition at the Galerie Druet brought together 86 works in January 1905. Charles Lacoste's work was also shown in Europe, particularly at the Salon de la Libre Esthétique in Brussels in 1907, and at the Salon de la Toison d'Or the following year in Moscow. He also received government commissions to decorate the east staircase of the Palais du Sénat in 1928 and a mural for the Museum of Natural History in Toulouse in 1930. 

Despite often rave reviews and his first successes in 1906-1908, his work gradually fell into oblivion in the late 1930s. Lacoste had been dividing his time between Béarn and Paris for many years and retired to his house in Pradies in 1939. He continued to paint and write extensively. In 1952, he began writing his Notes sur la Peinture, a veritable artistic and spiritual testament, which he completed in 1958.

It was not until the 1971 exhibition celebrating the 2,000th anniversary of the city of Bordeaux that some of his paintings were rediscovered and placed alongside those of his illustrious contemporaries, the painters of the Nabi and Symbolist movements.

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