An illustration from La maison du retour écœurant.

During the latter decades of the nineteenth century the Bracquemonds were an artistic force to be reckoned with. Félix (born Henri Auguste Joseph, 1833–1914) was the outstanding engraver and ceramicist of his age, friend of Millet, Corot, Degas, Rodin and Fantin-Latour among many others. His wife Marie (born Quivoron, 1840–1916) was a pioneering painter, reckoned as one of the three ‘grandes dames’ of Impressionism alongside Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Their son Pierre (1870–1926) was also a talented painter.

Yet there was also a rather overlooked nephew, Émile-Louis, who if his relatives had not been so well known might have been more recognised and rewarded. As it is, he is known primarily as the sculptor of a series of bronze panthers made during the 1930s, and his undoubted graphic skills are hardly known.

One of Émile Bracquemond’s bronze panthers, c.1930

Apart from this powerful set of woodcuts to illustrate Baudelaire’s famous poem from Les fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), Émile also skilfully illustrated a 1929 edition of Pierre Mac Orlan’s La maison du retour écœurant (Home of the Loathsome Return). He spent all his life in or near Paris, and was a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National Society of Fine Arts).

Example illustration