Maclet has an extensive international following. Originally a farmer, the artist arrived in Paris in 1912. For 50 years, he painted the city and the Montmartre area was his favourite subject.
Èlisèe Maclet (1881–1962) French impressionist painter.
He was the son of a gardener who lived in Lyons-en Santerre in Picardy. He was born there in 1881. Since his family was poor, he began to work at an early age, as an assistant to his father.
Picardy is renowned for its roses and Maclet used to say that he was born among cabbages and roses. By the mysterious alchemy of genius, the gardener’s son wielded a painter’s brush almost as soon as he swung a pick and hoe.
His father was not only a gardener, but also the sexton in the village church, so the boy inevitably became a choirboy. That brought him to the attention of the local cure, Father Delval. Father Delval was both the parish priest and painter and often on fine Sundays, when Vespers were over, he and young Maclet set out to sketch and paint along the roads or the banks of ponds.
The artist Puvis de Chavannes found the same scenes a source of inspiration and on an April Sunday in 1892, he saw some the work of this twelve-year-old boy was doing beside his clerical mentor. The great artist was so impressed that he sought out the elder Maclet and asked that he allow the boy to study with him. “My son is a gardener, and he will remain a gardener,” was the father’s reply.
In spite of paternal opposition, Elysee Maclet gave up gardening for art. Going to Paris, settling in Montmart.
He earned his living by varnishing iron bedsteads at first; a few months later he got a job decorating the floats for the gala nights at the Moulin Rouge. He also washed dishes in one restaurant; opened oysters in another; served as chef on a ship sailing from Marseilles for Indochina; and when he finally returned to Paris, he painted dolls in crinolines and exhibited them at the Salon de Hurnoristes. But in spite of all these occupations, he found time to paint.
When Maclet arrived in Montmartre, much of the country charm of the area still existed and he put it on canvas. Maclet painted the “Lapin Agile” and the “Moulin de la Galette” and the ‘Maison de Mimi Pinson” several years before Utrillo painted them. He painted most often in winter and in this period, skillfully suggesting the snow by leaving bare white spaces in his canvas or paper. In a short time Maclet won a circle of sincere admirers.
The art dealer Dosbourg bought his work, which gave him a fairy reliable source of income and enabled him to devote more time than ever to his painting. From Montmartre he launched out into the suburbs of Paris, painting them with the same indulgent tenderness with which he treated the scenes of Montmartre.
When war broke out in 1914, Maclet served as a medical attendant in a temporary hospital run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. That allowed him to spend his periods of leave back in Montmartre, where he stayed at the Lapin Agile.
Maclet slept in the cabaret hall and paid for his food by washing dishes and polishing the copper pots. On one of these leaves, he painted two small pictures of Sacre-Coeur and the Moulin de la Galette which he sold to a Mr. Deibler, who combined his profession of official executioner with a love of the fine arts. Mr. Deibler was not his only patron and admirer.
Francis Carco, the mayor of Montmartre: the innkeeper known as “Le pere gay,” the famous writer Colette; the American art dealer Hugo Perlsall, all regarded him as the equal of the other great painters of the period.
He died in 1962 leaving a great heritage of work.
Auction house sales both in France and internationally have recorded that the sales trend for Maclet has sharply risen in the last 9 years.
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