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30 November 2020

A heartfelt welcome to this new edition of the Labreuche Guide that so many of you have been waiting for. Unavailable for several months, the site has been completely redesigned. Users of the earlier version (launched in July 2014) will encounter many important changes, while new visitors will be able to familiarize themselves with the content and navigation tools by watching the demonstration videos available here.
The onsite lists of marks, businesses and artists are expected to expand and multiply over the months and years to come. It will take time for the corpus to attain its full potential and for every request to be satisfactorily answered. During this period of daily content enrichment, your subscription will allow us to continue our work with greater effectiveness and peace of mind.

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17 May 2021

For several days now our site has been experiencing a technical problem: the payment interface is defective and no longer allows subscriptions. We apologize for this malfunction and are currently doing our best to repair it.

New findings concerning one of van Gogh’s suppliers in Paris: Hofer frères

23 December 2020
Vincent van Gogh, Vue des toits de Paris (rue Lepic), mars-avril 1887, huile sur toile, 45,9 x 38,1 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation), s0057V1962, F341, JH1242.
Hofer frères, publicité parue dans Salon de 1888. Catalogue illustré. Peinture & Sculpture, Paris, Librairie d’art Ludovic Baschet, 1888, p. 365.
Hofer frères, publicité parue dans l’Amateur photographe, 5e année, nouvelle série, supplément au numéro du 15 avril 1889.

Over recent decades, studies on van Gogh—on his technique and palette, on the supports of his paintings, on his creative processes, together with the drawing-up of a meticulous biographical chronology and editions of his correspondence—have culminated in an impressive corpus of knowledge. To the point that one wonders whether currently any other artist has been so thoroughly studied and documented. As far as the technical and material aspects of the work are concerned, the remarkable studies of Ella Hendriks, Muriel Geldof and Louis van Tilborgh have proved particularly valuable. These researchers have established a list of the painter’s suppliers in Paris based on marks and labels on supports, together with other sources. They include Dubus, Fermine, Hardy-Alan, Hennequin, Latouche, Hofer frères, Rey et Perrod, Pignel-Dupont, Tanguy, Tasset et Lhote.

Out of these ten stores seven were local for Vincent van Gogh (click here) during the short period from February 1886 to February 1888 when he lived at Theo’s on rue de Laval (now rue Victor-Massé), and then on rue Lepic.

Though the proximity of sources of supply should not be considered as the sole factor affecting the choice of supports and other materials, we can see that it was a decisive criterion in the case of our artist during his stay in Paris.

Apparently, Hofer frères, along with Dubus and Hardy-Alan, is one of three “intruders” among the group of Vincent’s “corner shops.” According to new evidence, however, things may not be quite so simple. 

Hofer frères (click here) were the last representative of Belot-Vallé-Bellavoine, a firm dating back to around 1768. Having squatted for more than a century against the apse of the church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, in 1871 the concern crossed the Seine to the rue des Grands-Augustins near the Pont-Neuf. The firm was typical of a number of traditional manufacturers near the Louvre, suppliers by appointment to the members of the Academy and students at the École des Beaux-Arts, and boasting a rather well-to-do clientele. The Impressionist years, however, saw the appearance of new businesses that tracked the shift in the center of gravity of certain artist colonies northwards to quarters such as the Nouvelle Athènes, Batignolles, Saint-Georges and Montmartre.

Hofer frères obviously attempted to adapt to these new consumption patterns and new market geography. Diversifying into the manufacture and sale of photographic equipment, and importing products from England, at the beginning of 1887 the company registered three trademarks for gelatino-bromide plates. It also moved its premises closer to the sphere of activity of this new artistic clientele. Thus it was that it opened a branch at 83, rue Blanche (place Blanche), opposite the end of rue Lepic, where Theo and Vincent van Gogh had moved at the beginning of June 1886, at number 54. This information can be gleaned from advertisements published between 1888 and 1890, as well as from its sole appearance in the Annuaire-Almanach du commerce, de l’industrie (...) (Didot-Bottin) of 1889.

One difficulty remains unresolved: no trace of the opening of the branch on place Blanche before the spring of 1888 has been unearthed, though Hofer frères marks appear on the backs of works dating from 1887 (F266a, F378, F380) and even 1886 (F273), and van Gogh left Paris in February 1888. It is possible that the supports he used came from rue des Grands-Augustins or that canvases made by Hofer frères were sold through various colormen in Paris. It is also possible that the opening of the store on the place Blanche predates 1888—to 1887 or 1886. 

We hope to discover documentary evidence of this as soon as the Paris City Archives, currently closed due to the pandemic, become accessible once more. 

We will be sure to keep you updated.

Lefranc Bourgeois: 300 years

30 November 2020
Eugène-Charles-Paul Vavasseur (1863-1949), projet de panneau publicitaire et de couverture de catalogue représentant une femme à la palette, vers 1900-1905, fusain et détrempe sur papier, morceaux de papier rapportés et collés pour le lettrage

2020, which unfortunately for all of us has been the year of the pandemic, is also that of a commemoration which finds its natural place in this Guide.
For 2020 also marks the three-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the famous Paris firm of Lefranc Bourgeois, whose earliest traces date back to 1720. To celebrate the event, a long-term exploration of the company’s archives was undertaken, an operation in which editorial staff at the Labreuche Guide have been closely involved. The year-long communication campaign culminated this summer in a special number of the magazine Pratique des Arts dedicated entirely to the company’s first 300 years. The issue features timelines, reproductions of the most interesting documents from the archives and views from artists, managers at the firm, and consultants and experts. Excerpts can be consulted here.

Learn about the history of the firm of Lefranc Bourgeois in the Guide, whose pages will continue to be enriched with references and images.

Archives Lefranc Bourgeois

30 November 2020
Lefranc - 1937 - publicité, Salon

Advertisement in a catalogue for the 1937 Salon exhibition.

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