Some of those who exhibited at the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874 don’t appear to have been part of the Impressionist movement at all, but showed their art more through friendship with core Impressionists, notably Edgar Degas. Among those was Stanislas Victor Édouard Lépine (1835–1892), who appears to have been a follower of Corot, and thereby closer to the Barbizon School than to Impressionism.
Born the son of a cabinet maker in Caen, on the Normandy (northern) coast of France, he became friends with Adolphe-Félix Cals and Théodore Ribot when a young man; he was also strongly influenced by Jongkind. He first met Camille Corot in 1859, when he succeeded in having paintings accepted by the Salon, and became Corot’s pupil.
For much of his career he painted views of the River Seine, including a number by moonlight, which was recognised as his speciality. Although he took part in the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874, he wasn’t generally considered to paint in Impressionist style, being more pre-Impressionist. Count Doria was his main patron, and Durand-Ruel one of his dealers, but his paintings didn’t bring him a comfortable living. He finally achieved wider recognition when he was awarded a First Prize medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1889, just three years before his death.
The Port of Caen (c 1859) shows the detail of the centre part of a triptych painted in careful realist style, and was probably one of his paintings accepted for the Salon.
He painted several views of Pont de la Tournelle, Paris over the years. This version of 1862 is fairly traditional in composition, showing the morning light on the buildings along the west bank.
This version of his Pont de la Tournelle, Paris (1862-4) is slightly later and less conventional in its composition.
Lépine’s The Quay, Pont-Marie, Paris (1868) is another finely-painted but clearly non-Impressionist view of the Seine in Paris. Compare that with Guillaumin’s Pont Marie, Quai Sully (1878) just a decade later, below.
Lépine also painted some views around other parts of Paris, including this rather dark assembly of Nuns and Schoolgirls in the Tuileries Gardens, Paris (1871-3), which looks decidedly Barbizon in style.
Brie-sur-Marne (1873) probably comes closest to Impressionism of the paintings of his that I have found.
According to its catalogue, Lépine showed three paintings at the First Impressionist Exhibition, each of which had already been sold:
- Saint-Denis Canal,
- La Rue Cortot,
- Banks of the Seine.
I have been unable to find any images of his paintings that might correspond to them.
Lépine became well known for his spectacular moonlit scenes, such as Caen, le long de l’Orne, cours Caffarelli, effet de lune (c 1876), although even they didn’t sell as well as he had hoped.
A Courtyard on the Rue de la Fontinelle (1874-8) was more of a departure from his other work, showing the quiet intimacy attained by many of the small courtyards in Paris.
The Pont Neuf, Paris (1875-9) is his take on one of the best-known bridges in central Paris, near the Louvre.
He also painted some of the less well-known bridges, including The Pont de l’Estacade, Paris (c 1880-4). This Passerelle was constructed in 1818 to try to protect boats from ice damage, and was demolished in 1932.
Lépine died in relative poverty and obscurity in 1892, in Paris. During the late twentieth century there was a resurgence of interest in his art, with the publication of a short biography and, in 1993, of a catalogue raisonné of his paintings.