William Malherbe (1884 – 1951)
He was a French Post impressionist painter born in 1884 in the medieval town of Senlis just north of Paris and was well known both in the U.S. and in Europe for his beautiful and colorful still lives, outdoor scenes, and nudes.
His experiences in WWI marked him deeply; Time Magazine found him after four years in the war, almost pathologically shy. This war experience was shared by his brother Henry, a writer and music critic, and in 1925 William illustrated Henry s Goncourt Prize-winning war memoir La Flamme au Poing with copper engravings. These striking images were engraved by the specialist engraver Achille Ouvré (French, 1872-1951) from Malherbe’s drawings.
Malherbe’s artistic success came the 1930s when he exhibited at Salon d’Automne and after he was taken up in by the gallery Durand-Ruel, the famous Parisian gallery whose fortune had been made by its backing of the Impressionists.
In 1939, at the age of 55, William Malherbe emigrated to New York City and exhibited at the Corcoran in Washington D.C. He later moved to a farm in Thetford, Vermont until 1948. He was married to Freda Lipman, whose sister Fannie was the wife of Charles W. Hughes who lived in this town located on the Connecticut River. In the late 1940s and early 1950s the Malherbes rented a brick house across from present Thetford Academy, and did a good deal of painting. His wife appears as a figure in some of the paintings, and he hired other local women as well to pose for him. He also visited the noted art colony in Gloucester, Massachusetts during the summers painting the busy harbor life.
His exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery were highly successful, and his colorful post-Impressionist Vermont and Gloucester scenes, full of light and paint-flecked pleasure, are still highly sought-after. Some even consider William Malherbe an American artist, but his work is essentially rooted in the French post-Impressionist tradition of Bonnard and late Renoir.
As a painter, William Malherbe preferred to paint on wood rather than canvas, and refused to varnish any of his work until at least ten years had passed, believing that oil paint took that long to completely dry. ( See: Jean Cassou, William Malherbe, 1948. )
He returned to France in 1948 and died there in 1951. Works by William Malherbe are in the collection of the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris among other collections.