Émile Munier (1840 – 1895) was a French academic artist and student of William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Émile Munier was born in Paris and lived with his family at 66 rue des Fossés, St. Marcel. His father, Pierre François Munier, was an artist upholsterer at the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins and his mother, Marie Louise Carpentier, was a polisher in a cashmere cloth mill.
Émile and his two brothers, François and Florimond, were gifted artists and each spent some time at the Gobelins. During Emile’s training he developed a close relationship with his professor Abel Lucas and his family. He eventually married Abel’s daughter Henriette.
During the 1860s, Munier received three medals at the Beaux-Arts and in 1869 he exhibited at the Paris Salon. He became a great supporter of the Academic ideals and a follower of Bouguereau, whose subject matter would be an important inspiration to the young Munier.
In 1867, Henriette gave birth to a son, Emile Henri. Six weeks after the birth, having contracted severe rheumatism, Henriette died prematurely. In 1871, Munier abandoned his career as an upholsterer and devoted his time solely to painting; he also began teaching classes to adults three nights a week.
Sargine Augrand, a student of Abel Lucas and a close friend of Émile and Henriette (before she died), caught Émile’s eye; they married in 1872 and lived in a small apartment and studio. Munier frequented the studio of Bouguereau, and they became friends.
In 1885 he painted, and exhibited at the Paris Salon, Trois Amis (Three Friends). This painting, representing a chubby girl playing on her bed with a kitten and a dog, was an extremely successful work, being reproduced in many forms and used for publicity posters by Pears Soap.
With this work, Emile asserted himself as one of ‘the’ painters of young children and their pets; it was eventually acquired by an American collector.
Among his many American patrons were Chapman H. Hyams and his wife, who were important collectors of contemporary French paintings during the nineteenth century and favored artists like Henner, Bouguereau, Gérôme, Vinel and Schreyer.
Munier painted their portrait in 1889, and it, along with much of their collection, is now in the New Orleans Museum of Art.
During the 1890s Munier continued to paint peasant, mythological and religious subjects. In 1893 he exhibited L’esprit de la chute d’eau, at the Paris Salon, a nude nymph which is not unlike Naissance de Vénus by Bouguereau.
In 1895 Munier painted La jeune fille et le panier de chatons, but on 29 June, a few weeks after his 55th birthday, he died.
Research on Munier’s life and work is being conducted by Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
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