Emile Ancelet

French, 1863-1951 Biography

Emile Ancelet was born in Charleville, in the Ardennes, on May 24th, 1865 to Louis and Jeanne Jurion. His father was also a painter.

Ancelet began painting in Charleville, where, in 1879, he studied under Cabanel. In 1885, he went to the École des beaux-arts of Lille, where he was a student of Alphonse Colas and Pharaoh de Winter. In 1890, Ancelet, along with a group of other painters, founded La Société des Artistes Lillois.

In 1892, one of his works was placed in the Salon of French artists in Paris. That same year, a viewing of works by Seurat sparked a revelation in him. His work, which had always followed the classic line, evolved toward Pointillism and Divisionism. Ancelet used pure or almost pure color, his mixtures being done by eye, rather than on the palette. He often remarked that his technique came from observing microscopic butterfly wings.

In 1890, he married Eugénie Dehaye in Lille. The couple settled on Market Street, where their two eldest daughters were born: Lucie in 1891 and Yvonne in 1893. The family then settled in Santes, rue des Moulins, where André was born in 1895. The couple acquired a large villa, built in 1852 by Michel Buisine, on Main Street. The couple had three more children after that time: Eglantine in 1898, Michel in 1900, and Alice in 1905.

In this villa, which opened onto a vast garden, Emile Ancelet established his studio. Its garden trees and flowers were often a source of inspiration.

In 1901, the family rented the villa out and settled temporarily on the church square, alongside a cafe in Belle Vue, where Eugénie held a grocery store.

Ancelet liked to commune with nature. His paintings do not reproduce what he saw, but what he felt in the spectacle of nature and vibration of life. He often painted at his holiday home in the woods. He also painted still lifes, portraits, including his wife and children, and scenes of daily life.

As a naturalist and taxidermist, his house was inhabited by a multitude of birds and stuffed animals representing the fauna of the northern France, but his passion was primarily butterflies. His collection had more than 20,000 Lepidoptera.

Ancelet was nicknamed "the master of Santes", and was an atypical local figure. Shortly after arriving in Santes, he appeared in municipal elections in 1904 against the incumbent mayor Charles Bernard, whose family had served as mayor since 1848. He was not elected, however.

In 1912, his 12-year-old son Michel died in a train crash, and in 1915 his son André, died on the battlefield near Verdun.

During the first war, Santes was occupied by the Germans. Due to the introduction of new identity cards, Ancelet began realizing the identity photographs on behalf of the town hall.

In February 1918, he obtained permission from the German authorities to leave Santes and joined his wife and four daughters in the Ardennes. He returned after the war to Santes with his wife and three of his daughters and resumed his artistic activities until his death in 1951.

He created more than 3000 paintings, watercolors and pastels. His paintings were exhibited in his lifetime in French museums and abroad. They were sold primarily for amateurs, but he kept the best for his home and his daughters. After his death, the Museum of Fine Arts in Lille organized a retrospective of some of his works, honoring the painter.

La Société des Artistes Lillois

Salon des Artistes Français, Paris, 1892