Marcel-Béronneau was a favourite student of Gustave Moreau; like his master, Marcel-Béronneau painted ornate scenes and hypnotic figures from mythology and exoticised history subjects. He exhibited from 1895 forward both at the Salon and the later Salons des Indépendents, garnering medals in 1900, 1913 and 1926.
Pierre-Amédée Marcel-Béronneau was born in Bordeaux in July 1869, the son of a locksmith. Aged twenty he enrolled at the École Municipale des Beaux-Arts. He soon left Bordeaux for Paris, having won a scholarship worth 1000 francs in 1890 from his hometown. In Paris Marcel-Béronneau enrolled in the École des Arts Décoratifs under Eugène Thirion. The young artist was such a success at art school that they recommended the city of Bordeaux continue to fund his education; two years later they increased his stipend to 1500 francs. Paul Berthelot, in an article in the journal de la Gironde in 1892 commented enthusiastically that Marcel-Béronneau’s ‘exposition est remarquable. Il réussit très bien le travail d’étude comme ce grand panneau, l’Education morale (…). Mais la personnalité de M. Béronneau se dégage plus fortement, à mon sens, dans ces petites pages décoratives où l’invention pittoresque combinée avec la stylisation de la fleur, sans japonisme, a produit de petites merveilles’
After moving to 12 rue de l’Abbaye in Paris, Marcel-Béronneau was accepted on November 23, 1892 in the workshop of Gustave Moreau at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, where met Georges Rouault. The two artists would be become close friends and share a studio for years on Boulevard Montparnasse. In 1893, Marcel-Béronneau won his second premier grand prix des Arts décoratifs award, ‘pour encourager la poursuite de ses études et de la subvention qui les rend possibles.’ Gustave Moreau wrote the young painter’s letter of recommendation to the Mayor of Bordeaux stating ‘M. Béronneau, my student, is an excellent worker, extremely talented and worthy in all respects of the greatest interest shown him.’
Marcel-Béronneau first exhibited at the Salon des Artistes français de 1895 with Muse. It is a start of an artistic career that will in part mirror Moreaus’s. Both artists treated the same symbolist themes repeatedly, but asserted in those canvases their own personality and character. Both translated very conventional, long-standing themes into a Symbolist language that remained intelegible enough to continue to appeal to the traditional French artistic hierarchy.
Dans l’atelier 17 au musée de Clermont-Ferrand en 1897,La femme au chat noir 18 au Palais Bourbon en 1898, Heure dernière26 au musée des beaux-arts de Bordeaux en 1899, Douloureuse station 27 au musée de Valence en 1900, Dans l’attente 31 au musée de Bagnères-de-Bigorre en 1903 ou Les œufs sur le plat au musée de Chaumont en 1904. Named Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1914 on the occasion of his exhibition in Ghent, Marcel-Béronneau had also received medals in 1900 and 1913. The artist held exhibitions of his work abroad in Stuttgart in 1901, London and St. Louis in 1904, Montreal in 1909, Ghent in 1913, and again in 1915, and in 1917 in San Francisco, Barcelona and Buenos Aires.
Landscapes, painted intermittently by Marcel-Béronneau throughout his career, were not always particularly Symbolist works – many stand simply as paintings recognisably of the natural world, without concern for literary reference or allegorical construction. If Marcel-Béronneau’s palette in them is never a mere reflection of nature, neither are his tonalities entirely at odds with it. Marcel-Béronneau visited Corsica, his subject here around 1920 and from the striking paintings of its sea and crags the artist clearly found the landscape of the island absorbing. He held an exhibition in Paris of these views entitled La Corse en hiver (Corsica in winter) in the early 1920s, some of which also appeared at the salons des indépendants. He returned to Corsica in 1928 and worked for the town of Ajaccio, this work is possibly connected with that visit or his earlier trips to the island.