BONHOMME Léon
French painter born in Paris in 1870, died at SaintDenis in 1924. During the bombardment of Paris in 1870 and the Commune, Bonhomme's mother reared her infant in a cellar, while Prussian shells rained on the city. The boy who was to become the outstanding depicter of prostitute life was brought up in a working class atmosphere. He lacked Lautrec's delicacy in portraying brothel scenes, but his painting has a pathos that no other painter of the underworld has succeeded in bringing out, for he knew how to create beings addicted to debauchery, and his female animals inspire both terror and pity. His women's faces gleam like black diamonds, streaked with blood that clots in the veins. He uses remarkable blues and reds to produce these faces. He is a painter of the night and its denizens, whose sombre poetry is reminiscent of Baudelaire. Under Gustave Moreau he was a fellow-pupil of Matisse and Georges Rouault (to whom he has often been inaccurately compared). The formidable blue, black and red souvenirs that Bonhomme brings back with him from the underworld are entirely original. He died without having known the success that his work, with its exceptional violence of tone and expression, so fully deserved.
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