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Elisabeth Sonrel

French Painter
Tours 1874 – Sceaux 1953

Les Saintes Bergeres - See painting information
Les Saintes Bergères
Collectors' Club

Elizabeth Sonrel was the daughter of the painter from Tours, Stephane Sonrel, from whom she received her early artistic guidance. To further her artistic studies she moved on to Paris where she became the pupil of the famous artist Jules Lefebvre at his Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The Tours museum owns her diploma work, Pax  et Labor, which was executed in 1892 at the age of 18 and shows how tremendously precocious she was.

She showed at the Salon des Artistes français in Paris from 1893 to 1941, especially large watercolors of idealized women that have both a certain Pre-Raphaelite intensity (since a journey in Italy, to Florence and Rome where she discovered the Renaissance painters, she deeply admired Botticelli) and an affinity to French symbolist painting. She was inspired by Arthurian romance, biblical subjects, archaic legends and medieval love. Some of her mystical works include Ames errantes (Salon of 1894) and Les Esprits de l’abime (Salon of 1899) and Jeune femme a la tapisserie which has an inspiration close to the famous symbolist Maxence. She did not however adhere to the symbolist movement that, besides, totally ignored her.

Art Nouveau - Postcard
Art Nouveau, 1900

Her painting Le Sommeil de la Vierge (1895) was well known in its time through reproductions and appeared in the Exposition Universelle in 1900. Some of her paintings (La Musique, private collection, London) evokes the evanescent creatures of the Art nouveau from which she sometimes adopted the adornments and the jewelry.

The Music
La Musique
Private collection, London

After 1900, she painted mainly portraits and picturesque Breton landscapes, and occasionally flowers. Her last exhibit at the Salon was in 1941 when she was 67 years old. She is also recorded as having exhibited at Liverpool. Although Elizabeth Sonrel was known during her lifetime, particularly through the number of paintings reproduced, it is only in the last 20 years or so that her work has again received the attention it deserves. Her painting Cortège de Flore is represented in the French provincial Musée des Beaux-Arts at Mulhouse and evokes the pale tones and style of Botticelli. She died at Sceaux in 1953.

Gérald Schurr et Pierre Cabanne, “ Dictionnaire des Petits Maîtres de la peinture, 1820-1920”. Editions de l’Amateur. Volume II, page 422-423.
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Mulhouse, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours, France

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