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Jean Gabriel Domergue

Biography of Artist

Jean-Gabriel Domergue was born in Bordeaux, France on March 4th, 1889.

Jean-Gabriel Domergue (1889-1962) was an extremely talented French artist who first exhibited works at the Salon Des Artistes Français at the tender age of seventeen, in 1906.

In 1913, he was awarded the Second Prize of Rome and went on to win the gold medal award in the 1920 show. He then began showing outside the exhibition.

Initially he was known for his landscapes, which he painted with great ease, but his career took a dramatic turn in the 1920’s when he began painting portraits of Parisian ladies who evoked the style and bearing of the ‘Pin Up’ girl, a new type of woman: thin, airy, elegant, with a swanlike neck and wide seductive eyes which gaze upon the world with longing (albeit in a very florid and whimsical style).

Indeed, Domergue (who went on to paint some 3,000 portraits in his career) himself claimed to have “invented the pin-up”; it should come as no surprise then, to learn that he painted many nudes using fashionable actresses of the day or young dancers as his muses.

Even though Domergue painted numerous nudes using fashionable actresses or young dancers as his models, he was nevertheless, highly prized in the aristocratic and high society circles painting individuals such as Liane de Pougy or Nadine, the future Baroness of Rothschild.

Even though 1920 remains the turning point in Domergue's career towards feminine portrayals, his style developed all throughout his artistic career.

His quasi-definitive form appeared at the beginning of the 1930's.

From this time on Domergue was at the peak of his career; his paintings were no longer dated even though often titled on the back (oil canvasses or hardboards) and sometimes numbered.

Domergue’s elegance and skill with the paintbrush was not the only expression of his creative talents – he was also extremely influential in the world of fashion – designing dresses, millinery and accessories for the renowned Couturier’s Paul Poiret and Henry Marque.

Domergue was also one the main organizers for famous Parisian gala events such as ‘ The Venetian Ball’  in 1922 and other events using the Second Empire as its theme in Paris and also Cannes, Monte-Carlo, Juan-les-Pins, Biarritz and of course, Deauville.

Under his leadership, extraordinary exhibitions were organized. Most notably were his tributes to Léonard de Vinci, Seurat, Prud'Hon, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Berthe Morisot and Francisco Goya. Furthermore, it was during his organization for the exhibit in honour of his own master, Giovanni Boldini that he passed away in 1962.

Jean-Gabriel Domergue passed away in 1962; amongst his many accomplishments, perhaps he will be remembered best for his radical new portrayal of the women in his paintings as objects of glamour, seduction, frivolity, joy and desire. Domergue had a talent for highlighting the fickle and dazzling side of a beautiful woman that one likes to imagine.

His elegant mastery of the paintbrush places him in the tradition of artists such as Fragonnard and Watteau who in the 18th century helped establish the canons of beauty of their epoch.

His classical training combined with an aura of fantasy make Domergue's portraits unlike any others.

Domergue changed the way women were portrayed, breaking the traditional melancholic and vapourish poses.

The female figure became airy, sparkling and effervescent like Champagne bubbles laying the ground in his own way for the feminine revolution which began in the next decades. No one can remain unaffected when gazing upon such gaiety and sensitivity portrayed by the subtle style of his stroke.  

Domergue was made Knight of the Legion of Honour and Fellow of the Academy of Fine Arts.