1800 - 1890
Eugène Lami studied under Gros, Horace Vernet, and at the École des Beaux-Arts. He exhibited at the Salon from 1824 until 1878. He was awarded a second-class medal in 1875, became a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1837 and was made an officer in 1862. His early work was as a lithographer. He is considered to have possessed the acuity of Raffet, with less force of expression but more elegance.
He was the accredited chronicler of the July Monarchy par excellence. He illustrated Queen Victoria’s visit to Eu in 1843. He executed decorations, also at Eu, in Renaissance style, and undertook the project to decorate the duke of Nemours’ apartment at the Tuileries in the style of Napoleon III. In the revolution of 1848 he decided to go into exile in England, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy and achieved great success in British high society. On his return to France in 1852 he once more embarked on a brilliant career, becoming the official decorator to Baron James de Rothschild at Ferrières, where he revived the Venetian Rococo style, creating a pastiche of Tiepolo for the Venetian Carnival in the smoking room at the château.
His first lithograph dates from 1817, entitled Harlequin and Scapin Discussing their Family Name, in colour and signed E. He continued to produce small works, which he signed Eugène. The collection of French Army Uniforms from 1791 to 1814 (100 pieces in colour, in collaboration with Horace Vernet, 1822) and the famous collection of French Uniforms from 1814 to 1824 (50 coloured lithographs, 1825) are most noteworthy among his prints, together with the series entitled Carriages (12 coloured works, signed Eugène L.), Journeys to London, by Eugène Lami and Henri Monnier (19 of which were coloured by Lami, 1829-1830), Six Districts of Paris (six coloured works), Memoirs of the Camp at Lunéville (six coloured works, 1829), Mary Stuart’s Quadrille, 2 March 1829, The Duchess of Berry’s Ball, an album of 22 costumes and four prints of entrances and exits, and the collection of Weapons of the French Cavalry (10 pages, 1831). His lithographic work comprises 344 pieces in all.
He was also considered to be a remarkable illustrator and most worthy of note in this field are Winter and Summer ( ‘Hiver et l’Été) in Paris, by Jules Janin, and The Works of Alfred de Musset. In addition to this work, which was sufficient to guarantee his fame as an artist, Lami was also considered to be an excellent painter of battles and his paintings at Versailles are said to be among the best in the museum of history. However, his greatest talent is considered to be his skill as a watercolour artist. He was one of the founders of the Société des Aquarellistes Français (Society of French Watercolourists) and took part in the group’s exhibitions throughout his long career. He knew exactly how to portray French characteristics and his albums of lithographs are a valuable documentation of Parisian society at the time of the Restoration (of the Bourbons) and the reign of Louis-Philippe. Baudelaire described him as a ‘poet of dandyism’, almost English in his love of the aristocratic elements of society.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Alès: Passing Through the Gorges of the Argonne
Béziers: Two Women Looking at a Young Man Sleeping
Chantilly: Chantilly in the 18th Century; same subject; Duchess of Aumale; Princess of Joinville; Louis-Philippe’s Funeral at Claremont; Duke of Orléans on Horseback
Lille: Battle of Hondschoote (landscape by F. Dupré)
London (Wallace Collection): A Supper with the Regent (1854, water and bodycolour/paper); four other watercolours
Nice: Sunlight in a Forest
Paris (Louvre): Duchess of Orléans Entering the Tuileries
Paris (MAM): Dinner at Versailles; Church Interior
Rheims: Stable Scene
Strasbourg: Lady in her Boudoir
Versailles: Dutch Garrison Laying Down their Weapons before the French on the Slopes in front of the Citadel in Antwerp; Battle of Claye; Battle of Puerto de Miravete; Battle for the Gorges of the Argonne; Battle of Hondschoote; Battle of Wattignies; Capture of Maastricht; Battle of the Alma; Attack on Fieschi; Arrival of Queen Victoria at the Château d’Eu; Siege of Antwerp