The Musée du Luxembourg explores the colorful sisterhood between Leon and Claude Monet


Leon Monet (1836-1917) is the older brother of Claude Monet (1840-1926). It remained unnoticed until the research from which the exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris came out. However, he deserves attention for two reasons, his profession and his collection. By profession, Leon is in colors, like Claude, but otherwise.

After a youth of whom we know almost nothing, he was a merchant in Rouen, and then, from 1869, salesman for the Basel company Geigy et Cie, which specialized in chemical dyes. In 1872, together with industrialists from the Rouen region, he founded the Rouen Industrial Company (SIR), which aims to develop production and marketing in the field of textiles, an old local tradition. He was in turn an archivist, report writer, or member of the SIR’s chemistry committee, and proposed the establishment of a museum of industrial art. In 1892 Geigy et Cie set up a factory in Maromme, a suburb of Rouen, to circumvent the tariffs between France and Switzerland, and Lyon ran it until the end of his life.

In a market dominated by German chemists, he introduced his own innovations, developed in a laboratory eponymously named “colorful kitchen”. André Gide (1869-1951), nephew of another Rouen industrialist, having visited the Marome factory, mentions it in 1926 in If the grains do not die : A little pavilion, always closed, where the colors are made a secret, emanating a strange smell (…). » A teaching room is dedicated to these activities, from color sample collections to Japanese prints.

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A sure eye

Interestingly, Monet’s brother was a master of artificial colors. A hypothesis immediately comes to mind: would he have allowed his brother access to the synthetic dyes produced by alchemists who shine brighter than natural, mineral or vegetable dyes? It is impossible to say, if only because it is very difficult to know whether this color was produced by Geigy et Cie or by another company in this sector.

Léon strongly supports his brother’s artistic beginnings and, by extension, those of his friends Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley.

What is easier to say, on the contrary, is that Léon strongly supported the artistic beginnings of his brother and, by extension, of his friends Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. He bought canvases from them in the second half of the 1860s, long before the word “Impressionism” was printed, and persuaded some of his friends to do the same.

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