Artist biography

British etcher, painter, sculptor and teacher of French birth. In 1855 he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. During this period Legros had a taste for early Netherlandish art and for French Romanticism, which was later superseded by his admiration for Claude, Poussin and Michelangelo. However, his devotion to Holbein proved constant.

Legros began etching in 1855; he preferred this medium and produced over 600 plates. Many of his early works are deliberately rough in execution.

Legros emerged as a leader of the younger generation of realists, notwithstanding his conspicuous dependence on Courbet. However, this critical success brought no financial security, and in 1863 Legros visited London where he found admirers and patrons. Legros resolved to remain in London.

In 1876 Edward John Poynter recommended Legros to succeed him as Professor of Fine Art at the Slade School. Legros occupied this position until 1893 and introduced etching and modelling to the syllabus. He was a founder-member of the Society of Painter-Etchers in 1881 and of the Society of Medallists in 1885; the revival of the cast art medal was due almost entirely to his example.

With its classically inspired economy of form and design, Legros's interpretation of his realist subject-matter exerted a decisive influence in England on the representation of peasant life in the 1880s. He had a taste for the macabre. In the etchings Death of the Vagabond and Death and the Wood-cutter, these themes coalesce in a stark blend of realism and fantasy which is simultaneously elevated and humane.

Bibliography
L. Bénédite: 'Alphonse Legros', The Studio, xxix (1903), pp. 3'22
G. Soulier: L'Oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Alphonse Legros (Paris, 1904)
A catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, Etchings and Lithographs by Professor Alphonse Legros (1837'1911) from the Collection of Frank E. Bliss (exh. cat., London, Grosvenor Gal., 1922)
A Catalogue of the Etchings, Drypoints and Lithographs by Professor Alphonse Legros (1837'1911) in the Collection of Frank E. Bliss (exh. cat., London, Grosvenor Gal., 1922)
A Catalogue of the Etchings, Drypoints and Lithographs by Professor Alphonse Legros (1837–1911) in the Collection of Frank E. Bliss (London, 1923)
M. C. Salaman: Alphonse Legros, Modern Masters of Etching, ix (London, 1926)
G. P. Weisberg: ‘Alphonse Legros and the Theme of Death and the Woodcutter', Bull. Cleveland Mus. A., lxi (1974), pp. 128–35
A. Seltzer: Alphonse Legros: The Development of an Archaic Visual Vocabulary in Nineteenth Century Art (diss., Binghamton, SUNY, 1980)
T. J. Wilcox: Alphonse Legros (1837–1911): Aspects of his Life and Work (diss., U. London, 1981)
P. Attwood: ‘The Medals of Alphonse Legros', Medal, ii (1983), pp. 7–23 [with list of sculptures]
Alphonse Legros, 1837–1911 (exh. cat. by T. Wilcox, Dijon, Mus. B.-A., 1987)

TIMOTHY WILCOX

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