Jean - Luc Baroni Ltd



Luc Olivier Merson

Nantes 1846-1920 Paris



Portait of the Artist’s Sister, Marie-Thérèse Merson

Oil on canvas, bears an inscription on the back of the canvas: Ce tableau n’a pas été signé. Il est de Luc Olivier Merson Académicien Prix de Rome frère de ma marraine Mari Thérèse Merson demeurant à Ker Oméga Préfailles. Mme René Juret née Nicole Gangloff1.
27 x 21.5 cm  (10 ½ x 8 ¼ in.)

Provenance: Marie-Thérèse Merson (1863-1945), Préfailles; Nicole Juret née Gangloff (1908-2010), La Bernerie en Retz; thence by descent.

Born into a bourgeois family in Nantes (Brittany), Luc-Olivier Merson went to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts under Lecoq de Boisbaudran and Chassevent, both highly Academic painters. He was also influenced by the theories on art of his father, the art critic, Charles-Olivier Merson (1822-1902), who was a virulent defender of the classical tradition in religious painting. Merson began exhibiting at the Salon in 1867 and won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1869 with his painting Soldat du Marathon.

While at the Villa Medici in Rome, he was especially fascinated with Raphael’s art as well as the fresco painting of the Quattrocento. His first successful works were both mystical and poetic, in light, fresh colours over very accomplished and meticulous  drawing, such as Le Loup de Gubbio (Salon of 1878, Musée de Lille), le Repos en Egypte (Salon of 1879, Musée de Nice), as well as Saint François prêche aux poissons (Salon of 1881, Musée de Nantes).

Luc Olivier Merson also painted large decorative commissions in Paris, for example for the Palais de Justice in 1877, the Rector’s office at the Sorbonne, the main staircase at the Opera Comique and finally in 1889, the Grand staircase and the cupolas of the antichambers of the newly rebuilt Paris Hôtel de Ville. In 1906, Merson designed a suite of tapestries on the theme of the Contes de Perrault. He also illustrated all the best known writers of the time such as Victor Hugo, Flaubert, Mérimée and Alfred de Musset. And finally, he designed banknotes for the Banque de France as well as postage stamps.

In the 1890s, Merson forsook the Italian landscapes he loved so much for those of his native Brittany where he would stay several weeks every year in his family house at Cruaudais. In 1888, he visited Cancale and Préfailles where his mother and sister lived as well as Pornic. In 1891 he stayed in Belle-Ile and travelled along the whole coastline. In 1896, he rented Fransic Manor between Morlaix and Carantec where he spent his time sketching and painting.

Marie-Thérèse Merson (1863-1945) was his only and much younger sister (born in 1863) who spent her life looking after her mother, Joséphine Félicité Merson, née Talbot, (1824-1913) and remained in their house Ker Omega in Préfailles.


1. This painting was not signed. It is by Luc Olivier Merson, Academician, Prix de Rome, brother of my godmother, Marie Thérèse Merson living at Ker Omega, Préfailles, the inscription signed Mme. René Juret, née Nicole Gangloff.


According to her son, Nicole Gangloff (1908-2010) was brought up by her godmother Marie-Thérèse Merson who gave her favourite godchild this portrait of herself

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