Painter, draughtsman, pastellist. Figure compositions, nudes, portraits, genre scenes, landscapes, seascapes, still-lifes. Murals.
After studying classics, Henry Marius Camille Bouvet joined the École des Beaux-Arts in Lyons in 1878 where he studied under Michel Dumas and Jean-Baptiste Poncet, then at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris around 1891 under Alfred Roll and Eugène Carrière.
At the age of 35, Bouvet began to produce his most accomplished works: St-Germain in April (1894); In Autumn (1896); Twilight at Belle-Ile-en-Mer (1899); Suburban Twilights (1904); Tea-time and Grey Songs (1906); Sermon (1908); and Normandy Sea (1910). Even in Bouvet's most early work, one notices Bouvet's sensitivity to the changes of light on different things with the passing of the seasons or the hours, as for example in a painting of around 1911, Dock in the Port of Marseilles, Sunlight Effects. Many of the titles of his paintings underline this sensitivity, such as Twilight. It is as if he was determined to adhere to the academic style but with the sensibility of an Impressionist. Indeed, those of his works that are academic in approach are very accomplished, as witnessed by various charcoal drawings, pencil drawings, stump work, pastels and gouaches, often executed on superimposed tracings as preparatory work for his paintings.
Another characteristic of Bouvet's work is his strong attachment to the Mediterranean. He did of course work in areas other than the south of France; at his Paris studio for example, in Belle-Ile where he lived before World War I, and also in Isère. But during the 1920s the Mediterranean coast of France became the Côte d'Azur and the Riviera. At the end of the Train Bleu was Eden Roc and the Promenade des Anglais. There Bouvet had the privilege of meeting Élisabeth de Caraman-Chimay, Countess Greffulhe, otherwise known as Proust's Princess de Guermantes. He may even have painted her portrait. He certainly drew her Russian wolfhounds from life and included one of them in a composition showing society life on the Côte d'Azur: In Harbour, Agay (1924-1926) shows some society ladies getting into a military launch that is to take them to a party on board a vessel moored in the harbour. Other examples of his curious interest for this life of luxury include his seductive painting of The Marchioness Unveiled, of uknown date, which demonstrates his predilection and talent for depicting nudes. A more ambitious composition, Procession of the Panathenaea (1939), would be constrained within the conventions of academicism were it not for a certain boldness in the ascending composition of young women who only come into view as they climb towards the top of the hill, the painter's viewpoint, and hence the spectator's too. In this particular case, and in others such as Three Nudes Bathing (1938), the frontal nature of the composition and the clear painting are reminiscent of Maurice Denis. Reverie, of unknown date and which shows a woman sitting under some pine trees looking out onto a bay glimmering in the reflections of the sun as it sets behind the other shore, is suggestive of the Symbolists and the Nabis. And some of his nimbly executed gouaches are suggestive of Bonnard.
Bouvet was a painter of many talents who managed to adapt to the different styles and periods of his time. He preferred to remain anchored in established, traditional values and showed considerable technical ability, as well as a sense of the poetic that set him apart. He was comparable in certain ways with James Tissot who worked in the 1870s.
Bouvet began exhibiting as early as 1882 at the Lyons Salon with the drawing Portrait of a Young Girl. He went on to exhibit regularly in Paris from 1892 at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, of which he became a member in 1897 and a member of the jury in 1901 and 1905. He also exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français, becoming a member of the jury in 1909 after being awarded a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. He also took part in group exhibitions in Marseilles (1928), New York (1929) and Tokyo (1934). In 1901 he was awarded a commission following a competition for a series of paintings, including the ceiling of the reception room in the town hall of Asnières. He also showed his work in solo exhibitions, including: in Nantes (1896); in Dresden (1898); a retrospective at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris (1907); in Monaco (1909); in Buenos Aires (1913); and at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris (1923).
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Paris (Mus. du Petit Palais): Evening (1900); Path of Gold