Séon, Alexandre

Chazelles-sur-Lyon 1855 - Paris 1917
Biography & List of works




Medium: Oil on canvas, unlined

Size: 129 x 89 cm

Signed: Lower right: Alex. Seon


Private collection, Belgium; Private collection, France


Catalogue of theSalon des Artistes Français, Paris, 1886, catalogue no. 2180, p. 249 (ills); Germain, Alphonse. L’Art et la Vie, no. 2, 20, February 1892, Un peintre idéaliste – idéiste Alexandre Séon (Symbolisme des teintes), pp. 107-112; Lemoine, Serge et al. De Puvis de Chavannes à Matisse et Picasso I Vers l’art modern. Flammarion, Paris, 2002, p. 33 (ills); Lacambre, Geneviève et al. Il Simbolismo Da Moreau a Gauguin a Klimt. Ferrara Arte Editore, Ferrara, 2007, pp. 280-281 (ills); Alcouffe


Salon des Artistes Français, Paris, 1886; De Puvis de Chavannes à Matisse et Picasso I Vers l’art modern, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2002; Il Simbolismo Da Moreau a Gauguin a Klimt, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, and Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, 2007

This painting, of which a photograph was included in the illustrated catalogue of the Salon des Artistes Français in 1886 (no. 2180, p.249), was exhibited along with two mural panels created by the artist for the municipality of Courbevoie, “Jour de Fête” and “Le travail”. The theme of the eight panels was moral virtues, illustrated by compositions displaying a large number of figures that owed a great deal to the artist’s master, Puvis de Chavannes.

Our painting displays a monumental figure standing in a nocturnal landscape, her eyes cast on a star shining in the sky above, in a serene, moving and poetic attitude. She wears a long robe which could be from any period, allowing viewers to place the scene in a time of their choosing. The influence of Séon’s master, Puvis de Chavannes, is immediately apparent: the young woman leaning on a tree on the edge of a dark forest is similar in treatment to the figure displayed in “Le bois sacré cher aux arts et aux muses”, a large decorative panel that Puvis de Chavannes created for the great staircase of the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon. This had been presented at the Salon des Artistes Français of 1884, where it enjoyed great success. Séon’s style gradually moved away from the simplification of figures and landscape that characterised the work of Puvis, however, moving closer to the symbolists,  particularly after co-founding the Rose-Croix movement in 1892.

The artist began his training in the Academy of Fine Arts, Lyon, but in 1877 moved to Paris joining the studio of Henri Lehmann, where he encountered Georges Seurat, Alphonse Osbert, and Edmond Aman-Jean. It was his meeting with Puvis de Chavannes that was to change the course of his career, however, and from the ate 1870s to the early 1890s he paid homage to Puvis in a series of works. He wrote two notable books on art theory and the frontispieces for the works of Joseph Peladon of whom he painted a famous portrait.  

In an article published in “L’art et la vie”, Alphonse Germain retraces the career of Séon, and states about this painting “Séon’s own self appears through L’étoile” (Germain 1892, p.110). There was a substantial monographic exhibition of his work in the museums of Quimper and Valence in 2015-16.