A Book of British Etching: From Francis Barlow to Francis Seymour Haden

By Walter Shaw Sparrow | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
ALPHONSE LEGROS

I

IN 1861, the fourth year of his struggle as a painter-etcher, Legros called one day upon his printer in Paris, eager to see and to criticize some new proofs; but, if men propose, women dispose. Legros was received by the printer's wife, a lady with a good heart, and a busy sharp tongue, who had a womanly liking for any profitable routine. The successes won by men of commonplace talent pleased her greatly; and as she had no control over her own moods, naturally she was eager to control what other persons undertook. Her domestic mind, pained by Legros' originality, was quite sure of his failing to make a name; so Madame attempted to put him on his guard against his alleged faux pas in etching. After telling him bluntly, in a thunderclap of candour, that his methods and subjects were displeasing, she added: "Yes, Monsieur, and I am not certain that anyone in Paris likes your etchings--except Millet, Jean François Millet.""Does Millet like them?" cried the young Legros, astonished and delighted. "Then, Madame, I am more than satisfied, believe me." And the lady looked at him reproachfully. Why did he decline to earn money for his purse?

When this little scene occurred Legros was twenty-four years old. In the same year, with the help of Cadart, the publisher, he set on foot the Société de l'Eau Forte, whose members included Bracquemond, Fantin-Latour, Jacquemart, Bonvin, Manet, and Seymour Haden. It was also in 1861 that twenty-four of his etched sketches ( Esquisses à l'eau forte) were published together by Cadart, proving that Millet was not the only man who had faith in his daring ability.

Legros had found just a few good friends among critics and connoisseurs. It would have been an odd thing if he had failed to win some hearty encouragement, for genius was shown in some of his early plates.

-57-

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