Choices in an Artist's Life / by Jeannine Cook

As always, there are new artists about whom to learn when wandering though a museum, especially one like the National Gallery in London. Towards the end of a dizzying array of wonderful art in room after room, I found myself in the Impressionist section of the Gallery.

I was delighted to find that there were all sorts of new and unfamiliar paintings hung, many lent by generous private collectors but some from other museums; the juxtapositions with the more familiar works made everything swing into different relationships and conversations.  I was stopped in my tracks by one painting, seemingly at first glance by an Impressionist, but then somewhat different.  The artist's name was new to me: Norbert Goeneutte.  This was the painting,.

 The Boulevard de Clichy under Snow, Norbert Goeneutte,  1876, oil on canvas, (Image courtesy of Tate Britiain)

The Boulevard de Clichy under Snow, Norbert Goeneutte,  1876, oil on canvas, (Image courtesy of Tate Britiain)

I was intrigued, and began to investigate.  Goeneutte was certainly a contemporary of the Impressionists, living from 1854-1894, and he apparently had many friends among these artists. He started studying art in Paris after the 1870 Prussian War and then set up a studio in rue Bréda, across the landing from Marcellin Desboutin, a master engraver who taught him engraving.

 Norbert Goeneutte, (image courtesy of . w  ww.van-gogh.fr

Norbert Goeneutte, (image courtesy of .www.van-gogh.fr

He got to know Edouard Manet though his great friend, Henri Guérard, and became part of Manet's circle. He was thus friendly too with Henri Guérard's wife, Eva Gonzalès, model for Manet and a painter.

 Secretly, oil on canvas, Eva Gonzales, 1877-78, Private Collection

Secretly, oil on canvas, Eva Gonzales, 1877-78, Private Collection

As part of Manet's circle, his selected path to exhibit was through the official Salon, not with the Impressionists.  Nonetheless, he was friends with Renoir and eventually Dr. Gachet, but he chose not to exhibit with the Impressionists, aligning himself with Manet's refusal to participate in exhibitions with the Impressionists.

Nonetheless, even as he painted,  engraved and exhibited in traditional circles, he found time to pose for his Impressionist friends. For instance, he is in Renoir's masterpiece, Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette, lower right, smoking a pipe, opposite Georges Rivière, together with Gustave Cailebotte and other Impressionists.

 Au Bal du Moulin de la Galette, oil on canvas, Auguste Renoir, 1876, (Image courtesy of the Musée d'Orsay

Au Bal du Moulin de la Galette, oil on canvas, Auguste Renoir, 1876, (Image courtesy of the Musée d'Orsay

He tended to see-saw between traditional approaches to art and working en plein air in the streets of Paris and along the rivers nearby or at the French coast.  He met the collector, Hippolyte Fortin, who already was collecting work by Boudin and Renoir, and painted portraits of him. By the 1880s, he was doing quite well with sales of his paintings, but also came into  money, which allowed him to travel extensively both in France and abroad.

 Hippolyte Fortin, oil on canvas, Norbert Goeneutte, 1879, (Image courtesy of the UK Art Museum Collecton)

Hippolyte Fortin, oil on canvas, Norbert Goeneutte, 1879, (Image courtesy of the UK Art Museum Collecton)

Goeneutte moved back and forth in style and technique, making choices that apparently allowed him to prosper but not adhere to any group too closely. He was a very accomplished print-maker and by 1889, was exhibiting in three-generational groups of independent  print-makers at Durand Ruel in Paris.

 Henri  Guérard  Consulting a Collection of Prints, Norbert Goeneutte, 1876

Henri Guérard Consulting a Collection of Prints, Norbert Goeneutte, 1876

  Auvers-sur-Oise vue depuis Chaponval  , etching, Norbert Goeneutte

Auvers-sur-Oise vue depuis Chaponval , etching, Norbert Goeneutte

 The Pont de l'Europe at Night,  1887, oil on canvas, Norbert Goeneutte, Private collection

The Pont de l'Europe at Night,  1887, oil on canvas, Norbert Goeneutte, Private collection

 Mother and Child with cherries, oil on canvas, Norbert Goeneutte, Private collection

Mother and Child with cherries, oil on canvas, Norbert Goeneutte, Private collection

Goeneutte's health was deteriorating by 1890 and in 1891, Dr. Gachet, friend to many artists including Vincent van Gogh, diagnosed him as having a heart condition.  He advised Goeneutte to move out of Paris, and the family, mother, sister and brother, were soon settled in "Villa Musette" near Dr. Gachet at Auvers-sur-Oise, near Charles Daubigny's artists' colony which had been in that area since 1861.  At this time, Goeneutte painted Dr. Gachet's portrait.

 Le Docteur Paul Gachet, 1891,  Norbert Gœneutte, (Image courtesy of the  Musee d'Orsay)

Le Docteur Paul Gachet, 1891,  Norbert Gœneutte, (Image courtesy of the  Musee d'Orsay)

 Old Road to Auvers, 1892, Norbert Goeneutte, Private collection

Old Road to Auvers, 1892, Norbert Goeneutte, Private collection

Goeneutte died in Auvers in 1894 from lung disease, possibly tuberculosis.   His art career never reached the heights of some of his contemporaries and  friends, but nonetheless, in making his choices of pathway in life, he comes across as having succeeded happily in life. Not such a bad result for any artist!