Edouard Cortes: from the Belle Époque to the Swinging Sixties

"Cafe de la Paix" 13" x 18" Oil on Canvas

Designed by the great Charles Garnier, “Cafe de la Paix” sits in the shadow of the architect’s Paris Opera. The Cafe is the most famous brasserie in Paris and is a national historic monument.

Edouard Cortes


The Story of Paris at Twilight

by Jeffrey Morseburg

Although many legendary artists have painted Les Grand Boulevards of Paris, Edouard Cortes remains the best-known chronicler of 20th Century life in la Ville-lumières  or “the City of Light.”  The modest French artist, who lived inthe Paris suburb of Lagny-sur-Marne, painted Parisian subjects for almost seventy years, beginning in 1901, when he was still in his teenage years, until his death in 1969 at the age of eighty-seven.  During that time Cortes set out to depict all of the well-traversed Boulevards of Paris and the most memorable sights of the Gallic metropolis, from the most humble to the most sublime.  The artist painted the majestic Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe and the grand Rue Royale, lined with its arcades and grand buildings, but also the hurly-burly old market Les Halles as well as the more humble avenues with their flower stalls and booksellers.

"St. Denis"

In his colorful compositions we can see wealthy ladies walking across the intersections in their fashionable clothes, but we are just as likely to see a baker hurrying a load of baguettes or an aging pensioner slowing walking toward us. Cortes gave us Paris in all four seasons, with the great cathedral of Notre Dame shimmering in the summer sun, the quais along the winding Seine awash with spring rain, the Place de la Bastille lined with drifts of winter snows and le Madeleine with the pedestrians rushing to get indoors and escape the brisk autumn winds. The paintings of Edouard Cortes are immediately recognizable because of his painterly technique – which combined elements of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Pointillism with solid draughtsmanship – and hiswonderful use of light.  He loved twilight, and from across a room we can pick out one of the French artist’s works because of the warm orange glow of the light coming from the gay cafes, crowded theaters or moving trams, and this light seems to  always be reflected on the shimmering streets.

"le Théâtre," 18" x 21 1/2", Oil on Canvas

In addition to his Parisian works, Cortes painted the countryside of France. The valiant fishermen of Normandy and Brittany and their families are well represented in his artistic oeuvre as well as landscapes of the French coast and the Marne Valley, where he lived.  It is remarkable for an artist’s work to remain popular for so long, but interest in the works of Edouard Cortes has continued unabated for more than a century and today, his collectors are just as likely to be found in Tokyo or Dubai as they are in Toronto, New York, Dallas or San Francisco, cities where his works have long been collected.  Copyright, 2011, Jeffrey Morseburg, not to be reproduced unless with the specific written permission of the author.  

Jeffrey Morseburg is a appraiser, curator, archivist, writer and dealer in European and American art.

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Filed under 20th Century French Art, Architecture of Paris, Fin-de-Siecle Paris, French Painters, La Belle Epoque, Paris Street Scenes, Parisian Painters, School of Paris