Coupe verte, oranges et citrons, 1909
b. 1869, Dieppe, France
d. 1952, Paris, France
Louis Valtat was one of the preeminent painters of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Growing up in Versailles, Louis Valtat's father, the painter François-Victor Valtat, inspired in Louis his love of art. When he was seventeen, the young Valtat moved to Paris, first studying at the traditional École des Beaux-Arts, and later at the avant-garde Académie Julian. It was at the Académie Julian that he befriended fellow students Albert André, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, and Edouard Vuillard, who considered themselves part of a brotherhood called the "Nabis". Valtat, on the other hand, was much too independent to associate himself with a singular art movement. Although Valtat was born the same year as Matisse and is often considered a Fauvist painter, he remained on the fringes of Fauvism, never fully embracing its ferocity of color. His paintings, although emblematic of the time, reveal his unique aesthetic vision.
In 1894, Valtat collaborated with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Albert André to design a set for Aurélian-François Lugné-Poë's play Chariot de terre cuite, and in 1896 he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants. His work, Sur la Boulevard (1893) was positively reviewed by critic Félix Fénéon in the art and literary magazine La Revue Blanche. Valtat's friend, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, recommended him to the prominent art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who represented Valtat for over a decade and once said, "Patience, one day you will see that Valtat is a great painter." In 1927, Valtat was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor. In 1948, Valtat was forced to quit painting due to his weakening eyesight; he died in 1952, at the age of eighty-three.