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Ernest Rouart (1874-1942)
Ernest Rouart, the third son of the engineer, painter and influential art collector Henri Rouart (1833-1912), is thought to be the only pupil of Edgar Degas (Degas' close lifelong friendship with the Rouart family began with Henri at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand secondary school in Paris). Influenced by Degas, La soirée à l'Opera set in the Palais Garnier, commemorates the double marriage of two friends and provides a fascinating link between several key figures in the history of 19th and 20th century art. In 1900 Ernest Rouart married Julie Manet (1876-1966), the niece of Edouard Manet (1832-1883) and only daughter of Eugène Manet (1834-1892) and Berthe Morisot (1841-1895). In that same year Ernest's close friend the French writer and poet Paul Valry (1871-1945) married Julie Manet's cousin, Jeannie Gobillard (1877-1970) who was in turn the close friend of the French poet and critic Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898). Ernest Rouart portrays himself leaning on his cane, in the centre of the composition mid-conversation with his recently widowed elder sister Hélène Rouart (1863-1929) whose husband Eugène Marin (1859-1899) had died the previous year. Hélène gestures with her fan towards the arrival of Paul Valry and Jeannie Gobillard whose stare cuts back across the canvas to her cousin, Julie Manet, standing to the side of Hélène. Standing next to her sister-in-law, Julie's gaze is directed out from the canvas to engage the viewer as if standing for an official portrait and in doing so echoes the pose of Degas' niece, Giovanna Bellelli, in Degas' La Famille Bellelli, circa 1858-67 (Musée D'Orsay, Paris), and the barmaid in Edouard Manet's Un bar aux Folies-Bergère, 1882 (Courtauld Institute of Art, London). An open door to the auditorium draws us towards the artist's younger brother Louis Rouart (1875-1964) and his wife Christine Lerolle (1880-1941) as they take their seats for the start of the evening's performance. Christine Lerolle, the mother of the artist Augustin Rouart (1907-1997) and the eldest daughter of the painter and collector Henry Lerolle (1848-1929), can be recognised from the portraits of her by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) for whom she posed on numerous occassions. One of the most notable portraits of Christine by Renoir is that posed with her sister Yvonne, Yvonne et Christine Lerolle au piano, 1897 (Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris). Flanking the opposite side of the doorway to Paul Valry are thought to be the next generation of this artistic collective, the son and daughters of Hèléne Rouart; Henri, Hélène and Geneviève Marin. Soirée à l'Opéra is not only a celebration of two weddings, but an intimate insight into a fascinating circle of family friends at the centre of Parisian fin-de-siècle cultural life.
Ernest Rouart (1874-1942)

Soirée a l'Opéra

Ernest Rouart (1874-1942)
Soirée a l'Opéra
signed 'Ernest Rouart' (lower centre)
oil on canvas
45¼ x 73in. (115 x 185.5cm.)
Painted circa 1900
Sale Room Notice
Please note that the authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Yves Rouart.

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The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Yves Rouart.

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