A determination to master the mysteries of his art, an astonishing power of draughtsmanship. taste of a rare order, a flexible and delicate fancy, a genuine love of all that is exquisite and subtle, without any trace of affectation, a fine sense of order and harmony of line and colour — these are the qualities by which the work of this versatile genius is distinguished. — Frances Keyzer.


Keyzer's article in the 1906 Studio makes several valuable observations about the roots of the artist's style. First, “Levy-Dhurmer has undoubtedly studied the methods of Leonardo, whose influence is especially noticeable in his early manner, and has sought the same forms of expression as the great Florentine” “Nevertheless,” despite the great influence of the Florentine Renaissance, which engendered his love of the imaginative and the ideal, “ modern art has had an unmistakable influence on the smile of the Circes and Naiades of his fantastic symbolisms, and the meaning is decidedly more degenerate.” The second great influence comes from a perhaps unexpected area of the arts, since

for many years M. Levy-Dhurmer devoted his energies and talent to the management of M. Clement Massier's Artistic Pottery Manufactory on the Golfe Juan, and his labours in this direction have been of great service to him as a painter. It was, indeed, during his tenure of this office that much of his best and most imaginative work was done.

When on thinks about it, Leonardo's sfumato and the glazes of nineteenth-century seem very likely sources of the artist's style, a style that stands in interesting relation to late-nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelitism and its origins. According to Keyzer

His paintings and pastels are generally one-figure studies; but the significance of each picture is conveyed as much by the background and surroundings as by the figure itself. The surroundings play a special and important part in this artist's work, for they are almost invariably imaginative, or efforts of memory. In other and less able hands such a proceeding might affect the earnestness of the work, but that clearness of vision which is one of M. Levy- Dhurmer's salient characteristics enables him to reconstitute and reproduce a landscape that has impressed him. In fact, the painter not only sees again the rocks and the trees, the hills and the valleys he has admired, but the same sensations that moved him at the time are revived in him with scarcely any diminution of strength.

Take as a point of comparison the exquisite hard-edge pastel portraits of Frederick Sandys, a late-Pre-Raphaelite survival, and set them next to Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Fair Ladies — single portraits at the opposite ends of Pre-Raphaelitism, the first set in bright clear light, the second in inner worlds of mood and emotion. Levy-Dhurmer's soft-edge, often dreamy works move farther into a subjective inner world of memory, reverie, and desire. — George P. Landow


Decorative arts


Bade, Patrick. Femme Fatale: Images of Evil and Fascinating Women. N. Y.: Mayflower Books, 1979.

Keyzer, Frances. “Modern French Pastelists: L. Lévy-Dhurmer.” The Studio (37) (1906):

Article in The Studio (37) (February 1897):

Aesthetes & Decadents paintings by artist

Last modified 27 June 2013