Taking The De Longpré View

“Pansies in a Pewter Vase” ~ Paul de Longpré

Tough and resilient, pansies bring a welcome touch of color to winter on the Texas coast. Beloved of landscapers and gardeners alike, the flowers tolerate cold, snow, and ice; even after days of freezing temperatures they recover quickly, and will bloom until the rising heat of summer wilts them away.

Some pansies, of course, never fade. Many years ago, I found a Paul de Longpré watercolor, “Pansies In A Pewter Vase,” at an estate sale. Entranced by the combination of pretty flowers and a beautifully constructed wooden frame, I brought the piece home, and hung it near my desk. Eventually, the artful signature led me to wonder: Who was this de Longpré fellow?

A self-taught artist born in 1855 in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon, France, de Longpré favored floral painting from the beginning:

When I was a little child having my first experience at school, I would make drawings of flowers that my fellow students would buy with their pocket money in place of toffee. Complimentary, was it not?
It never excelled any other tribute I have since received: that group of kids bidding their precious spending money against each other for my sketches of objects.

After his father’s death forced twelve-year-old Paul to leave school in order to help support his family, he joined two older brothers in Paris, where the trio spent their days painting decorative flowers on Victorian hand fans. Establishing a reputation for exquisite decoration after only six years, the youngest de Longpré found his work being sold throughout France, and his finances secured.

Married to a nineteen-year-old seamstress named Josephine in 1874, de Longpré continued painting florals, albeit on canvas. His work became increasingly well accepted, leading him to take the unprecedented step described by Louis N. Richards in a 1904 issue of the magazine Overland Monthly:

In 1895 de Longpré decided to give an exhibition of his paintings. An exhibition of flower paintings exclusively was a thing unheard of, and his friends endeavored to convince him that such an undertaking could never be successful: that his plans, if ever carried out, meant inevitable ruin.
The exhibition was given, nevertheless, and its success was greater than the artist himself had ever dreamed of. The galleries were crowded every day and his pictures brought enormous prices. The critics were unanimous in their praise of the artist’s work and the name of Paul de Longpré was on the lips of everyone interested in art.

Despite the success of his exhibition, the subsequent failure of his bank, the Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris, swept away fifteen years of savings. With only a few hundred dollars at hand, the de Longpré family set off in 1890 for New York, ready for a new start.

During his first years in New York, de Longpré successfully utilized his artistic skills in a multitude of new ways: decorating celluloid mirrors and photo albums, sheet music, shaving mirrors, and perfume bottles. Some of America’s most beautiful seed packets resulted from his talent.

As he worked to rebuild his savings, his floral paintings — primarily watercolors –continued to gain in popularity, and soon were hanging in galleries and drawing rooms throughout the city.

Still, having tired both of the weather and of the need to continually purchase plants to serve as models, de Longpré decided in 1898 to take his family, his ambitions, and his newfound wealth to Los Angeles.

When a curious reporter asked de Longpré to explain his move away from the vibrant cultural scene in New York, his answer was simple enough:

Sated with the culture of the Old World, and with the restless ambition of New York, this famous painter of flowers has come to seek new inspiration in the brilliant, sun-warmed blossoms of California.
That there is nothing here to stimulate the intellectual life of an artist, M. De Longpre frankly admits, but intellectual stimulus is not what he is seeking. He has had that all his life. What he wants now is sunshine and flowers, and he declares that these will content him as long as he can wield the brush. He intends to spend the rest of his days in Southern California.

After De Longpré and his family settled into a large mansion at the corner of West Adams Boulevard and Figueroa Street, he paid his rent in paintings and often was seen “pedaling his bicycle through the quiet suburbs of Los Angeles with palette, paints, and easel strapped to his back, searching for flowers.”

Introduced to the founder of still-rural Hollywood, Daeida Wilcox Beveridge, at an exhibit of his work in Los Angeles, he found Beveridge anxious to promote her new real estate venture. Like any developer eager to attract good people, she recognized the opportunity offered by de Longpré, who could add a bit of culture to the neighborhood.

She offered de Longpré the site of her former Hollywood home for his estate, and the painter accepted, with thanks. The three acre site on Cahuenga Boulevard just north of Prospect Avenue (today’s Hollywood Boulevard) later was enlarged by Beveridge’s gift of an adjoining lot, which allowed de Longpré to expand his gardens.

Today’s Hollywood, with an overlay showing the location of the original de Longpré home

In time, de Longpré’s Moorish style mansion, studio, and gardens became an enormous tourist attraction, in part because the home was added as a stop on the interurban railway route known, because of its shape, as the “Balloon Route.”

The Balloon Route Trolley trip, the featured route of the Los Angeles Pacific, opened in September 1901. The line ran from downtown Los Angeles through Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Redondo Beach, and back to Los Angeles via Culver City.
The line stopped at beach resorts and included free entrance to some en-route attractions, including Sunset Boulevard, the studio of painter Paul de Longpré, bean fields of Morocco in Beverly Hills, Sawtelle Veterans Home and Old Soldiers’ Home in Sawtelle, Long Wharf, Camera Obscura at Santa Monica, Playa del Rey Pavilion for a fish dinner, Redondo’s Moonstone Beach, Venice, and Palms – Culver City.
Tourists arriving at the de Longpré estate via the Balloon Route’s parlor cars

In time, the de Longpré estate became the route’s most popular attraction, visited by as many as 8,000 people every month. Tourists could walk from the rail cars directly into the garden, where they could enjoy thousands of rose bushes and other plantings, tour the mansion, purchase refreshments, and select an original watercolor as a souvenir. Postcards celebrating the beauty of the de Longpré gardens spread its fame across the country.

The more traditionally romantic flowers that brought de Longpré his fame were on view in the garden — particularly the roses — but flowers native to his new state were included as well.

“California Poppies in an Indian Basket ” ~ Watercolor, Los Angeles, 1910
“White Poppies” ~  Watercolor, Los Angeles, 1905
(The models for this painting were gathered by Madame Modjeska’s niece in the canyons at the actress’s home near El Toro, and brought to the artist to paint)

Tours of the house and gardens, along with prints of his floral paintings, supported the family until the artist’s death in 1911. Only 56, he had suffered over the years from tuberculosis, and succumbed at last to a serious ear infection.

After his death, Josephine and daughter Pauline moved back to France. Eventually, the mansion was sold; in 1925, both the house and gardens were demolished to make room for new bungalows. Today, parking lots, a CVS pharmacy, and what appears to be a club occupy the land.

Some critics contend that de Longpré’s paintings — especially his romantic still-lifes of roses and pansies — fell permanently out of fashion after his death and are of negligible import today. Others point to his inclusion in collections at the Currier Gallery of Art in New Hampshire, the Irvine Museum in California, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as increasing sales of his watercolors and chromolithographs, as evidence of renewed popularity.

Demand for reprints of his so-called “yard-longs” is particularly strong today. Named for their long, narrow form (usually thirty-six inches long and seven, eight, or nine inches wide), these lithographs were popular at the turn of the century, between about 1890 and 1920.  Calendars often were printed on their backs, along with advertising copy for department stores and companies such as Diamond Crystal Salt, Pabst beer, and the same Mandeville & King Seeds for which de Longpré had previously worked.

Initially, yard-longs were known as “yard pictures,” since they often depicted a yard filled with ducks, dogs, kittens, or puppies.

“Yard of Puppies” ~ C.L. Van Vredenburgh

In time, children were portrayed, often by such well-known artists as Maud Humphrey Bogart; the mother of actor Humphrey Bogart, she often used her son as a model.

“Miss Muffet’s Tea Party” ~ Maude Humphrey Bogart

In time, florals found greater favor, and de Longpré profited from adaptations of his flower paintings to this new format.

“American Beauty” ~ Paul de Longpré
“Pansy Waltz” ~ Paul de Longpré

Today, little remains of Paul de Longpré’s legacy in Hollywood itself, save for De Longpré Avenue. Paralleling Sunset Boulevard, south of Hollywood Boulevard where the house and gardens stood and north of Santa Monica Boulevard with its vibrant new communities, De Longpré Avenue lacks the compelling resonance of those nearly-mythic names.

Still, the fact that the avenue exists at all seems a fitting conclusion to de Longpré’s story.

In 1903, opposition developed when de Longpré’s friends, including the Beveridge family, attempted to rename Prospect Boulevard in his honor. Despite the fact that de Longpré had become an American citizen, some felt naming the street in honor of a Frenchman was inappropriate.

After some thought, de Longpré wrote an open letter to the Los Angeles Times:

I am not aware that it is a crime to be a Frenchman and I take pride in flying the American flag from my house alongside the tricolor of France. The two peoples have fought side by side for liberty.
However, if the change in the name of a single street in this growing suburban town is thought by my fellow-citizens to be so serious a matter, I will not stand in the way; and if they decide to drop the matter I will acquiesce with good grace.

Eventually, Prospect Avenue became Hollywood Boulevard, but in 1913, thanks to former California Senator and de Longpré friend Cornelius Cole, De Longpré Avenue received its name.

Today, lined with million dollar homes and apartments with exorbitant rents, it’s neither a neighborhood Paul de Longpré would recognize nor one in which I would live. Still, it makes me happy to know that he has his street — and I have his painting.

Comments always are welcome.

100 thoughts on “Taking The De Longpré View

  1. What an interesting and unusual story. Really sorry that garden and fun-looking house aren’t around anymore, they look wonderful. And I loved the quotation re moving to California “intellectual stimulus is not what he is seeking. He has had that all his life. What he wants now is sunshine and flowers…” It made me laugh, sounds like a lot of people I know, looking for a “date” movie for a Friday night, and not wanting anything “too heavy” or thoughtful. Well, I like these charming old paintings, and cleverly concealed with flower petals, I believe maybe you’ve slipped a bit of intellectual stimulation past us. :)

    1. It is an interesting story. Apart from de Longpré, I was intrigued by what I learned about early Los Angeles, not to mention Hollywood before it became Hollywood — let alone Tinseltown.

      That quotation made me smile, too. I’m certain of two things: that it was slightly tongue-in-cheek, and that his life in southern California put the lie to it. I suspect he was more than a little intellectually stimulated by his companions and his activities outside painting — he designed and oversaw the construction of the house and gardens, after all, and was a bit of a musical composer, as well as being an integral part of the cultural scene. And he didn’t completely leave New York. Every year, he shipped canvases back east for exhibitions and sales; it was the best of both worlds.

      1. Likely a poke at the attitude of intellectual(Big City) snobs Back East who felt(feel) they’re the sole source of Intelligence and Culture? (Certainly not the only source of this misconception; )
        But doubly funny considering his origins… Likely not the first time he’d encountered such l’Attitude; )

        1. If I’m reading M. de Longpré correctly, that same l’Attitude is alive and well and living right here in the Fall Out Zone (metaphorical and otherwise) just a little east of The Big Smoke on this side of the border; )

    1. His postcards aren’t exactly common around here, but they aren’t impossible to find, either. I suspect you’ll come across some in your travels. The images here give an idea of the variety of flowers he painted. He wasn’t only about roses and pansies.

    1. You’re welcome. It was fun to write, although I kept wandering down byways and had to edit out a good bit that wasn’t directly related to his life. The Balloon Route’s a good example. Who wouldn’t want to take a ride on something like that — especially with so many good stops along the way? As it turns out, the Camera Obscura in Santa Monica still is there.

  2. Thank you so much for introducing me to de Longpré, both his paintings and the story of his career in Hollywood. He sounds like a man who knew how to enjoy his life. As for intellectual stimulus, it can be found anywhere… all one needs is the desire. Whereas blue skies and warm weather are harder to find.

    1. Honestly, I think de Longpré had the best of both worlds: that of the mind, and that of the body — particularly the earthiness of his sunshine and flowers. With Daeida Wilcox Beveridge as his mentor, he moved quickly and easily into the cultural scene, but also enjoyed being surround by the ordinary people who came to tour his gardens. Having chosen the path of varnishing rather than a life in academia, I have a sense of how satisfying his decision must have been.

      One of my favorite stories about him involves his opened house. Although a calling card or other invitation was necessary to tour the home, it probably was inevitable that a thief would show up, and one did. In 1905, some items were stolen from the home. Asked about it, de Longpré said, “Yes, I think I know who one of the souvenir cranks of last Sunday was. It was a woman, and being a Frenchman, of course I would not have a woman arrested.”

  3. Linda, I’m delighted you took the time to research this artist for us. I don’t recall ever studying his work in school, though something about that seed packet sure looks familiar. His posies are so realistic that one can almost smell them!

    Gulfport, too, is fond of pansies and uses them often to encircle tall live oak trees and magnolias. I love the colors of white, purple, and yellow pansies that many people plant, though I can recall as clearly as if it were yesterday that I was looking at just such a grouping when I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and broke two ribs (clear back in 2014!!)

    1. Your response is the same as responses I read about in articles about de Longpré. Visitors to his home, filled as it was with his paintings, often responded by saying it was as though they could inhale the very fragrance of the flowers.

      Who knew that flower-gazing could be dangerous? I don’t remember your broken ribs; maybe we hadn’t met yet, or maybe you didn’t write about it. At least it didn’t dim your affection for flowers!

  4. Fascinating. More things I didn’t know about the metropolis. Looks like the site of the De Longpre house at Adams and Figueroa must be either a gas station or a Popeye’s restaurant now, unless it’s the massive building that houses a AAA office. Not a neighborhood I know. I’ve crossed De Longpre Ave. a kazillion times — that IS a neighborhood I’m familiar with — but never knew what it signified. As so often happens, one regrets not being able to see that estate, but the city keeps plowing itself under. Thanks!

    1. In a way, you’re responsible for this post. When I first looked up de Longpré, years ago, I was satisfied with the basic bio: Paris, to New York, to LA, painting flowers all the way. But after I started reading your blog, and started learning more about Los Angeles, I began wondering how de Longpré fit into the larger picture. Now, I know.

      It was an interesting project. Hollywood, especially, has so successfully unmoored itself from time and place that I’d never considered it might have a history: particularly a history that included a painter on a bicycle, heading out to its open fields to find flowers. I enjoyed learning about it, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I had wondered if you might not know De Longpre Avenue.

      1. Gosh, that’s an extremely gratifying thing to read. Every town has layers and layers of history we walk over, under or through. With LA’s insanely rapid growth, vast swaths were fields or separate towns within the scope of either living memory or the existence of photography, and it’s not difficult to excavate. My city of 40,000 was almost nothing but empty range just before I was born! Thanks very much. You’ve re-inspired me to keep digging. Oh, you’re an excellent writer, too, which makes all the difference.

      2. I’m a historian in my town and I just loved the way you put my challenge into words: “Hollywood, especially, has so successfully unmoored itself from time and place that I’d never considered it might have a history.” For the visitors to our museum, this is so very appropriate. Maybe I’ll make up a sign for them to contemplate while they browse the exhibits. I’ll just substitute the name of our town for Hollywood. Your words apply all across this country. Thank you!

        1. There are days when I think our entire country has become unmoored from time and place; there’s no question that more than a few communities (states, organizations, individuals) suffer from the same malady. That phrase would fit well in a museum — if you decide to use it, I’d certainly be honored. Thanks for stopping by, and for enlarging the context.

  5. What a wonderful essay! You’ve given me a new appreciation for Paul de Longpré. As a person who has spent my entire adult life combing antique shops I’ve seen his advertising and calendar work over and over again. I even still have a few postcards of his pansies. What a shame his home and gardens got torn down!

    1. I remember you mentioning your love of browsing antique shops, so I’m not surprised you’ve found de Longpré’s work here and there. I love that you have some of his pansies, too. I need to get out the vintage postcards I have and see if any of his work’s included among those. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your Michigan seed companies had his florals on their posters and seed packets, too.

      I suppose it was inevitable that the house and gardens gave way to modernity. Some of the Craftsman style bungalows that were built as early replacements probably were quite nice, but eventually urbanization took over, and Hollywood became Hollywood. So it goes.

      Another tidbit I remember from my reading: in his early days in Hollywood, a reporter was busy asking questions when de Longpré, although gracious, took his leave. “I must go,” he said. “I must plant, so that I may paint.” At least we have his paintings.

  6. Well I’ve always loved pansies so immediately I was taken by your painting. The story that followed had me wishing I could sit and have a yarn with this bloke. Thanks for a great story.

    1. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I’ve grown rather fond of him myself, and suspect he was a bit of a raconteur. Apparently he enjoyed showing people around his garden — imagine what knowledge he must have had about his plants, in addition to his ability to paint them. I know this — if I ever come across a print of those white poppies, it’s coming home with me, too.

  7. A great story. It shows that persistence and endurance pays off. Glad, that apart from his art, at least a street named after him has resisted the changing times.
    How his Hollywood house estate became a subdivision for future ugliness is regrettable but not unusual.

    1. He was persistent, for sure. Health problems plagued him even during the New York years; that was another reason for the move to warmer and sunnier California. Still, he had a chance to fulfill his dream before his too-early death, and seems to have been as beloved personally as his work was popular.

      The initial change after the sale and destruction of the house and gardens wasn’t actually so awful. The iconic Los Angeles bungalows of the early 1900s were wonderful. You can see some of them here.

      What’s interesting about the bungalow style is that it reflected the values of the Arts and Crafts movement, and “the Arts and Crafts movement stood in opposition to the increasing industrialization of the time, emphasizing the artistry of the individual craftsman and the subtle beauty of nature.” All things considered, I think de Longpré would have approved.

  8. What a fascinating story and I do like his paintings. Such a shame the house and gardens were demolished. I’m sure they would have been a great tourist attraction even today.

    I remember when I wanted to study Botanical Art about 20 years ago, but my eyesight was already starting to prove a problem in my own watercolour pieces, so the fine detailed work for Botanical art was left untried. I certainly enjoyed many exhibitions of Botanical Art held at the nearby Herbarium in the Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne.

    1. I’m not so sure his house and garden could compete with the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which runs along Hollywood Boulevard right past the home’s former location. For grins, I just checked the Hollywood Walk of Fame site to see if M. de Longpré had a star, but between Olivia De Havilland and the Dead End Kids — no Paul de Longpré. Of course, he wasn’t in film, so that explains that. Still…

      On the other hand, there is a De Longpré park on De Longpré Avenue, and it has the only memorial in Hollywood dedicated to Rudolph Valentino. That’s something.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Sheryl. His work was used for so many seed catalogues, advertising brochures, calendars, and such all around the country that I suspect you may come across some. In a way, all of that commercial work has been a blessing, because it’s kept his art — if not his name — in front of people.

  9. Now that you mention him (and BOY, do you “mention” him; ) I have admired the painting on his seed packets all of my life… Thank you for this (as always, information SATURATED) blog post/ biography. And to actually have one of his pieces hanging on your wall? How lovely!!

    1. The vintage/antique seed packets and posters are so beautiful. Out of curiosity, I went over to Etsy to see if there were de Longpré items listed, and there are dozens. Most seem to be prints, both vintage and modern, but I was surprised to see one of his yard-longs with birds. I suppose everyone likes to vary their routine a little from time to time — even the best.

      I wondered if he ever had done butterflies and bees, and a quick search showed plenty of them. It makes sense. He couldn’t have developed and maintained those gardens without understanding and appreciating the pollinators!

    1. Appropriate, indeed. Whether influenced by his name, or not, he certainly began enjoying the meadows at an early age. It’s interesting that the brothers he worked with had similar interests and skills. Raoul de Longpré remained in France, but some of his work can be found in collections here in the U.S.

    1. Thanks, Terry. I knew so little about Los Angeles and Hollywood history when I began digging around that revelations popped up everywhere. I wish I could go back and take the Balloon Route tour — there are some fabulous photos here.

      I had to chuckle when I read in that article that, when midwesterners came to the Cahuenga Valley to check things out, one of the first places they were taken was de Longpré’s home and gardens. I’m sure some enterprising developers promised, “This, too, can be yours.”

  10. Postcards, flowers, art, and artists… This is great post, as always. Flowers should be another gift for us on this earth… It was so beautiful to read all this story dear Linda, Thank you, have a nice day, Love, nia

    1. Flowers are a gift, whether planted, or painted, or photographed. Even nature seems to like them — she produces so many! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Nia. A little beauty every day is a good thing, and flowers can provide that.

  11. What an amazing write up! Such an informative and delightful read! I learnt about an artist unknown to me. After reading your write up I was looking for Paul de Longpré’ s paintings on the internet. Thanks Linda! You’re privileged to have that beautiful piece hanging on your wall.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed de Longpré’s story enough to look for more images of his work. It crossed my mind that he wouldn’t lack for subjects in your world. Can’t you just imagine what he would do with your spectacularly blooming trees and flowers? He obviously loved his gardens, but I suspect he could be charmed by yours, too.

      His pansies are one of my treasures — one of those items that goes with me during hurricane evacuations.

    1. Even a Woolworth’s purchase is special today, since the store itself has become only a memory. I’ve seen plenty of floral yard-longs, and a few with children — even some that are meant to be hung vertically — but I’ve never seen one with fruit. That’s a nice variation, and it’s especially nice that it came from your grandparents.

      My pansies hold a few memories of their own, since they came from a friend’s estate sale. When I see them, I remember her, as you surely remember your grandparents when you see your yard-long.

  12. What an interesting read, Linda.

    For one, I love those floral paintings. The still lifes, as well as the seed packets, yard longs, etc. I’m a nut for vintage.

    Second, I know little to nothing about the details of the early history of Los Angeles. I agree that it is sad that the house and gardens are no longer there. Just like Charleston, so many interesting, historic buildings are demolished in the name of progress, modernization and ‘moving towards the future.’

    I have two framed floral prints, rather vintage looking, with a water stain or two. I ought to pull them out and see if there’s a name on them.

    1. It would be interesting to see the names (if any) on your prints. Like you, I love florals, but mine are mostly on antique china. Once I gave up buying and selling china on eBay (about the time postage rates started discouraging buyers, and also about the time I decided to start that first blog on WU) I still kept some of my favorites: chamber sets, syrup jugs, chocolate pots, and plates. I have a Knowles syrup jug with hand-painted pansies, and a partial Laughlin chamber set with pansy decals. The syrup lives near the de Longpré; they’re great friends.

      I’ve never had much interest in visiting southern California; I missed so much during my years in the Bay area and the northern part of the state that I always think of returning there. Now? I’m of a divided mind. After all, I take I-10 to Kerrville all the time. If I went just a little farther, I’d be at the Santa Monica pier, and could visit the Camera Obscura!

    1. His entire family seems to have been artistically gifted. Many of his brother Raoul’s floral paintings also are in collections and museums here. And both boys apparently began painting with the encouragement of their father, who also painted. Clearly, there was some talent there, as well as the kind of dedication to their art that made Paul famous and wealthy, as well as giving him such pleasure.

      I think he’s a fascinating person, too. I’m glad to have introduced you to him, and I’m glad you enjoyed the introduction.

    1. As you so well know, Janet, we’re surrounded by stories — particularly in the items in our homes. I have friends who decorate by visiting stores like Ikea and Restoration Hardware. There’s not a thing wrong with that, and I’m glad they’ve created spaces in which they can be comfortable. But in my hodge-podge, almost everything has a memory and, hence, a story. I re-tell them to myself from time to time.

    1. The one thing I’ll say about the loss of the house and gardens is that the “transitional phase” has been described as “bungalows.” If they were the Arts and Crafts style bungalows that were so popular in Los Angeles at that time — and there’s no reason to doubt that they were — it was a nice transition. The loss of the bungalows to what stands there now? Well, that probably was inevitable, but it’s not so charming.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story of this truly dedicated gardener who, by the way, included plenty of pollinators in his paintings.

  13. I’ve always felt that walls that did not have things hung on them that delight the eye were wasted space. (There is very little wasted wall space in my house!) When you find an image that speaks to you, hanging it on a wall enables you to enter into a dialogue with it. Is your de Longpré an original, or a print?

    1. I agree with you about walls, although too many eye-delighting objects can be a little overwhelming. A nice balance of space and appealing objects? Perfect.

      The woman from whose estate the pansies came — a friend, and an accomplished artist herself — told me that it’s a watercolor rather than a print. It certainly looks like it to me, particularly the paper, but it’s under glass, and the frame has a solid wooden backing that I’m not willing to take apart, so I’m not able to say for certain. One thing that makes me think it might be a print is that there’s no date, but I never thought to ask her about that at the time.

      Obviously, if she was right in saying it’s an original, it’s far more valuable, but that doesn’t make any difference to me, since I’d never sell it.

  14. This was a very interesting post, I was ignorant of the artist’s story. What a shame that his home and garden was demolished. He did have a real gift for painting flowers, and quite a dramatic, perhaps inspiring, life.

    1. There’s something utterly charming in the fact that he ended up growing the flowers that he painted. He seems to have been unpretentious as well, and actually enjoyed opening up his gardens to the public.

      One little detail that didn’t get into my post is that there were five small, gazebo-like structures on the grounds, designed as spaces where visitors could purchase refreshments or prints of his work. On top of everything else, he was a savvy businessman.

  15. When I saw that first image, I kept thinking who did that and where have I seen the artist’s work before? – the seed packets – and calendars and framed on the wall of really old relatives in E. Texas. (Where I sniffed as a teen to my self the overly sentimental art )- wish I had grabbed some of those! Funny how tastes change.His art is so delicate and real.
    Enjoyed all the history – now I’ll have to check Grandmother’s postcards to see if one of those are there…she loved flowers.
    One of your best posts to brighten another grey foggy morning. Thanks

    1. So much home decoration was grounded in the necessities of life in our grandparents’ time. Embroidered tea towels, crocheted edging on sheets, framed pages from seed catalogs, decorated chamber sets. Differences in the form of manufactured items were slight: a chamber pot is a chamber pot, after all. But the decoration? That could make a difference in sales.

      Here’s an etymological tidbit you’ll enjoy. ‘Pansy’ is derived from the Middle French pensée — literally, ‘thought,’ or ‘remembrance.’ The OED says it’s from the feminine past participle of penser ‘to think.” It gave me a smile to realize that thinking about pansies resulted in this post.

  16. I was just commenting at another blog how my Grandma Scott made her own Valentines cards for us using cutouts from all sorts of paper collections, paper doilies, ric rac and ribbon, red felt and other fabrics. I will have to go through my box of keepsakes, but I am fairly certain she used cutouts of de Longpré’s work in some of her handmade cards.

    It’s fairly blustery and cold outside today, but now I’m very curious to trek out to our storage building to look through that old box and see if I’m right!

    1. As popular as his work was, I’d not be surprised if you find some in your valentine collection. I’m wondering now if some of his work might not have been used in the really fancy, store-bought valentines, too. If it wasn’t, it should have been.

      You’ve brought back a lot of memories of making our valentine-making. It was a big deal when I was in school. For two or three weeks before the big day we’d use those same materials to craft our expressions of friendship and affection. There always was a Valentine Day party, with cookies and other treats, and everyone had a box of cards to take home. It was understood that we would make one for everyone in our class, whether we liked them or not. It just was what we did. Besides, that gave us a chance to mess around with doilies, glitter, and glue a bit more — who wouldn’t like that?

  17. Your research has produced a fascinating history of de Longpré. The question is: do you own an original, or is it a print? From what I have read this man’s work should sell for more than a handful of dollars.

    1. As it happens, the pansies are from the estate of a woman who was a friend, and quite an accomplished floral artist herself. She worked primarily in oils, but I’ve always trusted her word that these flowers are watercolor. They framed rather unusually, under glass and in a heavy wooden frame that I’m not inclined to take apart, so whether an expert could tell just from looking at them, I’m not sure.

      Honestly, I don’t care which it is. The fact that it isn’t dated suggests it might be a print, but that only means I’d never have to struggle with a decision to sell it, or not. The personal memories of how I came by it are as delightful as the pansies.

  18. What a great artist you have introduced me to. I also love the other ‘yard’ paintings. Well, maybe if he would have lived closer to our age at least his house and gardens could have been treasured as historical monuments. Apparently, at that time there wasn’t enough awareness about the historical preservation of architecture and monuments. That house was beautiful.

    1. After de Longpré’s death, the first buyer was (as I recall) a French art dealer or critic. I suspect the gardens were the first to go, since few would have the motivation or means to keep them as de Longpré did. After a few years, the house came down and was replaced by bungalows, which I assume were the Arts and Crafts-style homes that were popular at the time.

      It is a shame that the house wasn’t preserved, since it was designed by de Longpré himself. In fact, he had the molds for some of the arches and other architectural details destroyed after its construction, so that no one would duplicate them. Clearly, he took pride in his creations apart from his flowers.

  19. What a life history, Linda. After all of that I expected him to be in his 90s when he passed away instead of his 50s. Are your pansies a print or an original? My mother loved pansies and always grew them around our house.
    An aside, General Motors bought up the railways in Los Angeles as well as other communities in the late 40s and early 50s to force people away from traveling by rail so GM could sell more of its busses and automobiles. It was an incredible blow to transit. –Curt

    1. He apparently had health problems throughout adulthood, and since I’ve seen tuberculosis mentioned a few times, I suspect that was the underlying condition that ended his life. There’s no question that health played a role in his move to California, along with his desire for year-round flowers.

      It amuses me that I’ve never thought about the print-or-original question. I’ve assumed that it’s an original, because the woman from whose estate it came was both a friend and an artist herself, and she was the one who told me they’re done in watercolor. Although she worked primarily in oils, she was a well-known art teacher, and her work hung in places like the Texas state capitol, so I assume she knew what she was talking about.

      On the other hand, by the time her estate sale came along, she was around 90 years of age, so maybe her memory wasn’t so good. One thing that makes me think it might be a print is the fact that it isn’t dated. But honestly? I don’t care. In fact, as I mentioned above to Lenscaper, if it is a print, that will at least save me any conflict over whether to sell it or not!

      1. Sounds like it is an original, but what matter… You enjoy it!
        Early in my life I worked for the TB and Health Association before it became the American Lung Association. While my emphasis was on air-quality and anti-tobacco efforts, I did on occasion visit a TB sanitarium in the California foothills we helped oversee. –Curt

  20. There is no one better than you for taking a remarkable journey upon the smallest provocation–here that mysterious signature on an estate sale find. I laughed out loud at De Longpre’s comment on moving from New York City to LA: “intellectual stimulus is not what he is seeking. He has had that all his life. What he wants now is sunshine and flowers.” And wouldn’t you love to have one of those painted hand fans?

    1. When I was very young, those hand fans still could be seen in use from time to time. I had two of them; an imitation ivory one, and a black one with peonies painted on it. I have no idea what happened to those, but to have one of de Longpé’s? Oh, yes. I suppose the fans weren’t signed: or perhaps they were. Signed or unsigned, they would have been a perfect accessory for a languid afternoon.

      It seems to me the whole country could identify with de Longpré at this point. Sunshine and flowers would be completely delightful for anyone trapped in cold and lingering snow, or warmth and lingering clouds and fog.

  21. How nice to know that your find of the painting fed a curiousity that led you to find the artist behind it. The other day in class we were discussing how a piece of art attains a kind of independence from the artist, but I’m not quite sure that is wholly true. While we can certainly appreciate anonymous art, a certain something is added when we know a bit about the artist behind it. Thanks for giving us that something in the above!

    1. It’s true that once a painting or a piece of writing is released into the wild, there’s no controlling people’s reaction to it, or interpretations of it. Sometimes that’s good; sometimes it isn’t. But it is fascinating to read responses to my posts, for example, as different people respond to different aspects of them, or find meanings that were hidden even from me. It’s a common phenomenon. Think of the Bible, or any other sacred text, and the commentaries upon them that fill the shelves.

      On the other hand, the ‘fake news’ that’s abroad in the land today is a perfect example of writing that’s completely disassociated from the writer. Even with a signature, the ‘sofa-sized paintings’ that fill Holiday Inn ‘art shows’ lack vibrancy, and a sense of personal vision. I’ve never been happy with the common advice to “write what you know.” Writing what I don’t know provides an opportunity for learning, and writing what I believe — or what I love — allows for the kind of resonance that engages interest.

  22. Oddly enough, this post made me think of another artist. Why, I don’t know, unless it’s just the fact that he lived along about the same time span as De Longpré. If you’ve ever seen Antiques Roadshow, you’ll have heard of him: George Ohr, the Mad Potter of Biloxi.

    My mind works in weird ways.

    1. I’ve seen Antiques Roadshow only a few times; Mom adored the program, and i sometimes watched with her.

      But Ohr, I do know. I found him in a rather odd way. I was doing some research on Georgia O’Keeffe, and the Ohr-O’Keefe museum showed up in search results because of someone’s misspelling. I took at look at the article, saw that Frank Gehry was building the museum, and got intrigued. Reading about Ohr was a trip. I still remember and love this sign from his place: “Get a Biloxi Souvenir Before the Potter Dies, or Gets a Reputation.” What’s not to love about that?

  23. Pansies never quite work for me as I seem to plant them before the weather gets cool or too late. They seem to thrive on the boulevards of Houston. Perhaps I should just have a print like yours that never dies! I enjoy learning of obscure artists and writers. I am glad he got his street!

    1. I’m not enough of a gardener to know, but I wonder if you’re not just enough farther south for them not to be entirely happy: or, at least, a little touchier than they are here. There certainly are advantages to floral paintings. After all, they don’t need to be fertilized, transplanted, or watered. Of course, de Longpré enjoyed the best of both worlds: the planting and the painting. And though he’s become obscure, he was one of the lucky ones — he got to enjoy being appreciated while he was alive.

  24. Looks to me that you found a real treasure at that garage sale! His work is beautifully done. In many ways he seems to have followed in Monet’s footsteps but alas, has fallen by the wayside of fashion’s highway. Thank you for highlighting him in this post. I’ll be watching out at garage sales now :)

    1. It is a treasure, and what makes it even more special is that it came not from a garage sale, but from the estate sale of a friend. She’s gone now, but I wish she were still alive to read this piece, and know that some of her treasures still live and give pleasure. She was quite an artist herself, and painted beautiful florals, almost solely in oils. I have a beautiful large canvas of yellow roses she did with a palette knife; it’s quite something.

      It’s true that he fell by the wayside. On the other hand, reproductions of his work are selling well, and the prices for even his prints and yardlongs are increasing. The good news is that he was able to enjoy success while he was alive; not everyone has that opportunity!

      1. That is a lovely story of how you came by your piece. So much better than the garage sale I was imagining. I’m pleased that he is, perhaps, coming back into vogue a little bit and of course I’m incredibly envious of his success during his lifetime. Oh, to make enough money to buy my own house and garden!

  25. This post illustrates how worthwhile – and fun- it can be to go down that Internet rabbit hole after a morsel of information that evolves into a real feast. I like your pansies – did you get an original watercolor? A print? And the white poppies, I think they’re the really large ones that grow taller than 5 feet? I love those. What a life he packed into 56 years.

    1. The woman from whom I obtained the piece — a friend and an artist herself — said it’s a watercolor. Unfortunately, she’s no longer with us, and because of the way the piece is framed (hand-built, and quite intricate) I’m not willing to pull it apart for someone to examine it. The paper looks like watercolor paper, but the fact that it isn’t dated suggests a print. So, I really don’t know — but in the end, I don’t care.

      I’m sure the white poppies must be matilija poppies. They’re a California native, and would have prospered in that area, especially when it was so undeveloped. I’m fond of our white prickly poppies, and if I ever found a de Longpré print of white poppies, it would be mine!

  26. The painting is lovely, and it is surely even more special when viewed in person. Lucky you, and we’re the lucky ones to benefit from your research. Thanks for a much-appreciated post, though I am again tardy in sending a smoke signal!

  27. I forgot to mention the images of the ‘original’ house and then the google ones… what a shame that such a lovely/poetic slice of earth was destroyed so that the newer versions could be built… i wonder if on a haunting full-moon night, if one might catch a glimpse of the original house and gardens?!!!

    1. You’re not the only one who’s tardy! I’ve been sitting on a wonderful little insight about one way your place in Ecuador and Corpus Christi, Texas are linked — I’ll get over there tonight or tomorrow and tell you what I think I’ve discovered. Since it’s a Spanish-English word connection, I may be dead wrong. But I don’t think I am.

      One interesting thing about the before and after images of the house and gardens is that there was an intermediate step. The house first was sold to an art critic, and the gardens disappeared. But once the house was gone, too, the area wasn’t industrialized. Instead, it was turned into an area of bungalows: no doubt the Arts and Crafts style that was so popular at that time. In fact, the neighborhood still has some of those marvelous Craftsmen homes here and there — including some on de Longpré Avenue. He got his street, after all!

  28. I’m sorry to say it has taken me this long to get to your delightful post. When I first saw your overlay showing the de Longpré property, my first thought was how expensive that plot would be now, yet how beautiful the gardens in our climate. Some of the postcard images of the house and gardens remind me of the LA Arboretum’s Queen Anne cottage. Of course, not in the style of the house, but that the house is nestled amongst the gardens. They used to be a very pretty rose garden near the cottage.

    1. It was the roses at the de Longpré home that brought you to mind, of course. There’s no questionthat, were he to come back, M. de Longpré would enjoy a stroll among your flowers.

      It’s interesting that de Longpré’s gardens had a few small cottages scattered among the flowers, too. I think some were more like gazebos, but some were actual structures, where people could pause for refreshments and rest. I’m sure those cottages and their landscaping would fit right in at the Arboretum.

      1. My current décor (if you can call it that; I’m no decorator) doesn’t lend itself to the charms of de Longpré’s spray of roses, but I still enjoyed my stroll through internet finds of his paintings. There’s a lovely gentleness he conveys beyond botanical accuracy.

        1. He clearly loved his flowers, and I don’t doubt that the love communicated itself through his work. My favorite quotation from him comes from his conversation with a reporter in his early days in California. He excused himself, saying, “I must now plant, so that I may paint.”

  29. Well, Linda, I’m finally beginning to catch up on your posts. I have this and another — but this one was certainly worth the wait. (You knew I’d like it, didn’t you?) Those paintings are magnificent and I’m so glad you have the one you do. I loved hearing the history of Paul DeLongpre and his beautiful home. It also reminds me of the life of an artist — what is popular and what is profitable may vary but when you go with your heart and find your niche, you can fly.

    The colors are exquisite. I’ve been painting these past few days and boy, I know how hard it is to get something to even look passable, much less so elegant and real. They bounce right off the page. I’d love to find one of the yard paintings. I daresay now people know their value. Pity!

  30. Not to mention the success of his brother is puzzling. Although the brother Raoul has been heavily marketed in this country during and since Raoul’s death, ironically also in 1911 like his brother Paul, his palette was generally brighter, using gouache more often and never having bees buzzing around the flowers. Raoul, has his flowers usually lying on a stone wall or in as an untied bunch floating in the air, surrounded always by a brown background. Many auction record sites often confuse the records of the two brothers which makes collecting their art more difficult. There is no known evidence that Raoul ever even visited the United States, let alone lived here yet his paintings pop up for auction more frequently. I have bought three of Raoul’s, all from reputable auction houses. They generally run from about $500 to $3000, much lower than Paul’s. There have been so many of late one has to question if China or other countries are involved in forgeries. For a man who never lived in the USA like his brother Paul, several hundred of his paintings been up for auction, particularly the last 5 years. Check Live Auctioneers and see what I mean. The little or mid-sized auction houses have no experts, or often don’t have any care, to authenticate great artists’ work, both Paul and Raoul were great artists, such realism by these French born artists yet who painted in the age of impressionism. Check out poppies and daisies by Raoul. I bought that at Bonhams in CA, a magnificent piece in an oval frame, heavily decorated with terra cotta pieces on the wire.. There have been theories that Paul painted under the pseudonym or Raoul as well under his own name and also some people have cited that they might have worked on the same painting and even when together painted the exact same still life, slightly differently.. So the mystery and greatness of the De Longpre brothers will remain forever. The signatures are also a mystery as they are very different in script and Raoul signed his 4 different ways, M de Longpre flls(son as their father was also an artist, Raoul De Longpre flls, R.M DeLongpre fils, Raoul M DeLongpre fils. Just why would he sign his name 4 different ways has puzzled me..

    1. Thanks so much for adding your knowledge and perspective to the thread. There are several details in your comment I wasn’t aware of, and they’re quite interesting. I hadn’t paid much attention to Raoul until writing this post, and even so I don’t know nearly as much about him as Paul. I must say that I find both artists’ paintings delightful. Like the best botanical drawings, they offer a different way to see our beautiful flowers. I certainly enjoy having his (their?) pansies on my wall, just as I’ve enjoyed learning more about them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.