Musée d'Orsay: Louis Welden Hawkins Portrait of a Young Man

Louis Welden Hawkins
Portrait of a Young Man

Portrait of a Young Man
Louis Welden Hawkins (1849-1910)
Portrait of a Young Man
Oil on canvas
H. 57; W. 44,5 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Christian Jean, Hervé Lewandowski

Portrait de jeune homme [Portrait of a Young Man]

There is an inscription on the back of this painting confirming that Hawkins presented it at a Paris Salon. However, it is not possible to identify it with any of the works exhibited by the artist at the Salon des Artistes français, in which he participated from 1881, or any at the Universal Exhibitions at the end of the century. Therefore, it would seem that this striking Portrait of a Young Man was refused by the jury when submitted. Such a decision could be explained by the fascinating strangeness expressed in this motionless face, a feeling emphasised by the monochrome treatment and full frontal view.

At the 1883 Salon, Hawkins presented The Fisherman's Mother and Evening; seascape. These two works prove that he used to go to the coast, at least during the summer of 1882, and maybe before then. The clothes the young man wears are similar to those seen in a painting by Francis Tattegrain: Landing of Bait Fishers in the Bay of Authie (1894). These two clues might enable us to identify the hat with earflaps and the roll neck smock as typical of fishermen's clothing in Picardy. But Hawkins does not yield to the temptation of the picturesque that a subject like this might engender. On the contrary, by completely isolating his model, and by simplifying the composition, he produces a disconcerting and enigmatic portrait.

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