Architecture display

Charles Lameire (1832-1910), a familiar stranger

The Musée d'Orsay owns the majority of the painter Charles Lameire's studio collection. The majority of this collection was donated by the artist's grandson Gilles Lameire in 1987 through the Société des Amis du Musée d’Orsay. This exceptional set was completed by a donation by the universal legatees of Gilles Lameire in 2005 and by the purchase of 75 drawings in 2009. Today almost entirely forgotten, this artist enjoyed a career marked with honour. While the question of grand decoration obsessed his contemporaries, Lameire revived the centuries-old tradition of mural painting by choosing to focus almost exclusively on monumental decoration. A prolific artist, he worked in the capital's most emblematic sites, from the Pantheon to the Sorbonne. His work was protean. A painter-decorator, Lameire designed both huge wall paintings that rivalled the religious painting and history painting of his day and simple decorative elements which he carefully integrated into the buildings. At a time when the concept of industrial arts called into question the boundaries between the arts, he composed stained glass windows, mosaics, tapestries and illustrations, designed objets d’art, sculpted compositions and architectures. This display presents some of the hundreds of preparatory drawings for his work: sketches, models, and pounce patterns (full-sized) embody the professional reality of his work.

The first projects

Room 17

Lameire began his career in the studio of the painter-decorator Alexandre Denuelle. A student of the architect Félix Duban, Denuelle was one of the driving forces behind the rediscovery of medieval mural paintings and worked alongside Viollet-le-Duc to revive polychrome architecture. After spending twenty years assisting his master, Lameire received his first commissions in the early 1870s: the decoration of the mansion house of the entrepreneur Jules Hunebelle (1872) and that of the Saint-François-Xavier Church (1873). These are emblematic of the era: whereas this first church project reflects the importance of religious decoration, which grew under the Second Empire with the proliferation of places of worship, that of the Hunebelle mansion illustrates the contribution of ornaments to the splendour of the new homes of a rising middle class. They also reveal the variety of the painter-decorator's stylistic expressions: in the Hunebelle mansion, Lameire favoured mythological inspiration in line with the neo-Renaissance style of the building, but in Saint-François-Xavier he experimented with the expressive power of the Byzantine style as well as the elegance of Baroque ten years later.

Lameire and the decorative arts: from painting to architecture

Room 19

In order to outdo his master Denuelle, Lameire designed a model church project in 1866 entitled "Catholicon", a total work of art that combined all of the arts, architecture, painting, sculpture and decorative arts. After this ambitious attempt that made him famous, Lameire's career pursued these objectives more modestly and was based on close collaboration with the leading architects of his day, Gabriel Davioud, Paul Abadie, Juste Lisch, Edouard Corroyer, Emile Vaudremer and Charles Garnier. He worked alongside them to harmoniously complete the decoration of historical monuments that had been left unfinished, such as the Basilica of Saint-Martin d'Ainay (Lyon), the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Menus (Boulogne-Billancourt) and Saint Front Cathedral in Périgueux, and contributed to ensuring the aesthetic unity of their more modern works, like Trocadero and the Comptoir d'Escompte. Called on by the administration to reflect on the development of industrial arts, Lameire took an interest in the application of drawing arts to decorative arts, stained glass, tapestries, mosaics and ceramics. Building on the examination begun in his Catholicon project on the expressive power of spatial arts, Lameire also designed objets d'art, sculpture and architectures.

Militant Catholic art

Room 20

Like Hippolyte Flandrin, Paul Janmot and Maurice Denis, Lameire was inspired throughout his career by profound religious convictions and militant Catholicism. His personal background coincided with the major artistic projects of the Ordre Moral government, which was anxious to preserve a social fabric built around the Church after the fall of the Second Empire. With the advent of the anti-clerical Republic, Lameire continued to dedicate himself to the most emblematic religious projects of his era, in order to reinforce a Catholicism that was undergoing profound changes. Since Catholicon, his artistic pursuits on the exaltation of religious convictions aimed to both educate and move. Always respectful of the surrounding architecture, Lameire's art explores the didactic qualities of history painting (the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the Saint Louis Chapel at the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy) In the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Paris, he favoured the simplicity of the allegorical language of Byzantine art. In general, the requirements of decorative practice led him to simplify the forms and colours (burial chapel of Madame de Bonald).

Major prestigious projects

Room 21

At the peak of his career, Lameire was invited to participate in the major decorative projects of the militant Third Republic, which returned to monumental art in order to disseminate the Republican ideology. The major commission for the decoration of the Assyrian rooms at the Musée du Louvre (1883), responsible for promoting awareness of this mythical civilisation, the first material remains of which were brought to light in the 1840s, was followed by projects of the utmost importance for the Republican regime, such as the decoration of the Hôtel de Ville (1884) and the Sorbonne (1890). At the same time, Lameire continued his work on major religious projects which were then dependent on private initiatives: at La Madeleine, the vicar Le Rebours rallied his parishioners to financially support the completion of the decoration of the choir. While this highly debated project provided an opportunity for the artist to demonstrate his synthetic language's ability to respect the architecture and decoration of an existing building, the Louvre project provided an opportunity for him to adopt the decorative simplicity of the archaic Assyrian art and to invent a fantasy decoration that was nonetheless strictly based on his archaeological knowledge.

Charles Lameire… a brief timeline

October 1832
Birth of Charles Joseph Lameire in Paris (7th arrondissement), 5th child of Joseph Lameire, cellar boy in the Maison du Roi (King's Household), and Madeleine Rouyer.

Self-taught training as evidenced by his sketchbooks and an authorisation granted on 17 July 1852 to study the herbivores at the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes (the zoo at the botanical gardens in Paris).

Project for Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the presumed start of Lameire's work in Alexandre Denuelle's studio.

Marriage in Paris to Pauline Charron.

Birth of his daughter Clotilde in Paris (7th).

Birth of his son Irénée in Paris (7th).

Project for the Catholicon exhibited at the Salon.

Appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the French Legion of Honour).

Decoration of the apartment building of the entrepreneur Jules Hunebelle (Paris 7th)

Appointed a member of the Commission de perfectionnement de la manufacture de Sèvres (Commission for the development of the manufacture of Sèvres porcelain).

Decoration of the Moulins Cathedral.

Project for the Saint-Front Cathedral in Périgueux exhibited at the Salon.

Painted and sculpted decoration of the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Menus in Boulogne-Billancourt.

Painted decoration of the Church of Saint Anne d'Auray (architect Edouard Deperthes*).

1873-1875, then 1883-1884
Painted decoration of the Saint-François-Xavier Church (Paris 7th, architect Joseph Uchard).

Press announcement of the retirement of Denuelle, who left his clientèle to Lameire.

Project for the Sacré-Cœur competition with Gabriel Davioud (2nd place).

Painted decoration of the chapel of the Sacré-Coeur des Dames-Auxiliatrices Convent (Paris 7th, architect Just Lisch, decoration destroyed).

Decoration of his own mansion house on Avenue Duquesne (Paris 7th, architect Emile Vaudremer, mansion and decoration lost).

Project for the painted decoration of the chapel of the Dames des Oiseaux Convent (Issy-les-Moulineaux, architect Just Lisch).

Plans for the Saint-Loup-de-Naud Church and Tours Cathedral exhibited at the Salon.
Marouflage decoration of the Church of Saint-Lambert-de-Vaugirard (Paris 15th).<br /Painted decoration of the Church of Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles (Paris 1st).

Painted decoration of the Palais du Trocadéro (Paris 16th, architect Gabriel Davioud, decoration lost).

Decoration for the Monumental Bookcase in the Room of the Immaculate Conception at the Vatican (furniture designed by Emile Reiber, constructed by the French firm Christofle).
Illustrations for The Imitation of Christ.
Cartoon for the decoration of a new manufacturing building and museum for Sèvres porcelain.
Installation of Hercules Vase in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre.

Death of Denuelle.
Appointed a member of the Commission des Monuments Historiques (Commission for Historic Monuments).
Painted decoration of the Saint-Denis chapel at the Church of Saint-Merri (Paris 4th).

Cartoon for the mosaic decoration of the Casino in Aix-les-Bains (architect Abel Boudier).

Decoration of the mansion house of the architect Edouard Corroyer (Paris 8th, architect Edouard Corroyer, decoration lost).

Decoration and cartoon for the stained glass windows of the Church of Saint-Sulpice (Paris 6th).

Cartoons for the mosaics of the Comptoir d'Escompte (Paris 9th, architect Edouard Corroyer).

Painted decoration of the Assyrian rooms at the Musée du Louvre (Paris 1st, decoration lost).

Painted decoration of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris (4th, architects Théodore Ballu and Edouard Deperthes).
Painted decoration of the Palais de Justice (Law Courts) in Rouen.
Death of his daughter Clotilde.

Project for a monument of Joan of Arc and the liberators of France (Paris 1st).

Cartoons for the mosaic at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde (Marseilles, architects Henri Espérandieu and Henri Révoil).

Donation of a ciborium produced with Louis-Armand Calliat to Pope Leo XIII (housed at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica).

Decoration of the Terminus Hotel at Saint-Lazare train station (Paris 9th, architect Juste Lisch, decoration lost).
Decoration for the Argentinian pavilion at the Universal Exhibition (architect Roger Ballu, building and decoration lost).

Painted decoration of the Salle des Comités at the Sorbonne (Paris 5th, architect Paul Nénot).

Death of his wife Pauline.

Cartoon for the mosaics at the Madeleine Church (Paris 8th).

Painted decoration of the Greek Orthodox Chapel on rue Bizart (Paris 16th, architect Emile Vaudremer).

Painted decoration of the Saint Louis Chapel at the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto (Italy).

Commission of the cartoons for the mosaics in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, completed by the painter Georges Décöte in 1918 (Lyon, architects Pierre Bossan and Sainte-Marie Perrin).

Appointed a member of the Commission de perfectionnement de la manufacture des Gobelins (Commission for the development of the manufacture of Gobelins tapestries) and the Commission supérieure des Arts décoratifs (High Commission of Decorative Arts).

Painted decoration of the dome of the transept and the pendentines of the Basilica of Saint-Martin d'Ainay.(Lyon).

Circa 1905
Marouflage decoration for the high chapel of Château de la Rochepot (architect Charles Suisse).

Painted decoration of the burial chapel of Mme de Bonald at the Church of Notre-Dame-du-Désert (Les Baux-de-Breteuil).

Publishing of The decorative paintings, drawings and sketches of Charles Lameire in Paris by the bookseller-publisher Armand Guérinet, specialised in architecture and decorative arts.

Death at Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon.

*The architects' names are only mentioned for contemporary buildings.

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