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.

1842-1850
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).

1853
Project for Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the presumed start of Lameire's work in Alexandre Denuelle's studio.

1863
Marriage in Paris to Pauline Charron.

1863
Birth of his daughter Clotilde in Paris (7th).

1864
Birth of his son Irénée in Paris (7th).

1866
Project for the Catholicon exhibited at the Salon.

1867
Appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the French Legion of Honour).

1872
Decoration of the apartment building of the entrepreneur Jules Hunebelle (Paris 7th)

1872
Appointed a member of the Commission de perfectionnement de la manufacture de Sèvres (Commission for the development of the manufacture of Sèvres porcelain).

1872
Decoration of the Moulins Cathedral.

1872
Project for the Saint-Front Cathedral in Périgueux exhibited at the Salon.

1872-1879
Painted and sculpted decoration of the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Menus in Boulogne-Billancourt.

1873
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).

1874
Press announcement of the retirement of Denuelle, who left his clientèle to Lameire.

1874
Project for the Sacré-Cœur competition with Gabriel Davioud (2nd place).

1874
Painted decoration of the chapel of the Sacré-Coeur des Dames-Auxiliatrices Convent (Paris 7th, architect Just Lisch, decoration destroyed).

1875
Decoration of his own mansion house on Avenue Duquesne (Paris 7th, architect Emile Vaudremer, mansion and decoration lost).

1876
Project for the painted decoration of the chapel of the Dames des Oiseaux Convent (Issy-les-Moulineaux, architect Just Lisch).

1876
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).

1877-1878
Painted decoration of the Palais du Trocadéro (Paris 16th, architect Gabriel Davioud, decoration lost).

1878
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.

1879
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).

1882
Cartoon for the mosaic decoration of the Casino in Aix-les-Bains (architect Abel Boudier).

1880-1882
Decoration of the mansion house of the architect Edouard Corroyer (Paris 8th, architect Edouard Corroyer, decoration lost).

1881-1884
Decoration and cartoon for the stained glass windows of the Church of Saint-Sulpice (Paris 6th).

1882-1883
Cartoons for the mosaics of the Comptoir d'Escompte (Paris 9th, architect Edouard Corroyer).

1883
Painted decoration of the Assyrian rooms at the Musée du Louvre (Paris 1st, decoration lost).

1884
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.

1885-1890
Project for a monument of Joan of Arc and the liberators of France (Paris 1st).

1886-1892
Cartoons for the mosaic at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde (Marseilles, architects Henri Espérandieu and Henri Révoil).

1888
Donation of a ciborium produced with Louis-Armand Calliat to Pope Leo XIII (housed at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica).

1889
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).

1890
Painted decoration of the Salle des Comités at the Sorbonne (Paris 5th, architect Paul Nénot).

1892
Death of his wife Pauline.

1889-1893
Cartoon for the mosaics at the Madeleine Church (Paris 8th).

1894-1895
Painted decoration of the Greek Orthodox Chapel on rue Bizart (Paris 16th, architect Emile Vaudremer).

1895-1897
Painted decoration of the Saint Louis Chapel at the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto (Italy).

1897
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).

1898
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).

1899
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).

1906
Painted decoration of the burial chapel of Mme de Bonald at the Church of Notre-Dame-du-Désert (Les Baux-de-Breteuil).

1909
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.

1910
Death at Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon.

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

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Tip a friend Print
Facebook
Google+DailymotionYouTubeTwitter