Léon Deshairs, born February 14, 1874 in Chalon-sur-Saône, was a French art historian and writer and somewhat unknown painter-draughtsman.
His father was a haberdashery merchant when he was born, and later a travelling salesman. Leaving the Saône-et-Loire region, his family settled in Lyon. In 1894, at the age of 20, he was studying at the Sainte-Barbe college in Paris, in preparatory class for graduate school alongside Charles Péguy and Henri Roy.
He entered graduate school, obtaining a diploma in Literature at the Sorbonne in 1899 and a graduate degree in Art History, with a thesis on French landscape painting at the end of the 18th century. He also studied under André Michel at the École du Louvre. When his schedule allowed it, he took drawing and painting classes in Jean-Paul Laurens’ workshop at the Académie Julian.
In 1899 and 1900, he was professor in Bucharest. After having travelled to Italy, he taught in Paris until 1904, and in 1905 obtained a diploma from the École du Louvre. From 1920 until the early 1930s, he was editor-in-chief of Art & Décoration magazine. In May 1929, he wrote for “Le dessin” magazine in his role as a professor of Drawing at the School of Decorative Arts.
From 1931 to 1935 he taught the history of modern decorative arts at the École du Louvre. In January 1931, while he was already a professor of art history there, he was appointed deputy director of the School of Decorative Arts, of which he became director upon the death of the previous director, Maurice Boukay, in November 1931. He held that position until his retirement in 1941. At the Liberation of France in 1944, he was recalled for eighteen months to restart the school. He was still honorary director on the school in its jubilee year, 1952.
In addition to his work as curator of the Library of Decorative Arts in Paris and director of the National School of Decorative Arts, Léon Deshairs wrote numerous books on art and interior decoration.
Deshairs died on May 20, 1967 in Créteil, just south-east of Paris. He is buried in the "Rabelais" cemetery of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, the town where he resided at the end of his life.
Portrait of a young man looking out the window. The figure depicted is Louis Deshairs, the artist's brother, and is shown in profile, looking out the window and leaning on a balustrade. Work created as a young artist, when he was still a student at the Académie Julian. Signed and dated 1898. Oil on canvas in very good condition, with traces of old restorations (see reverse). A handwritten note appears (in French) on the stretcher: “Louis Deshairs 15 years (in 1898) by Léon Deshairs”.
Sources: Bibliothèque nationale de France; Archives de France.
Artist: Léon Deshairs (1874-1967).
Signed and dated on bottom right.
Medium: Oil on canvas.
Condition: Very good condition. Signs or past restoration.
Dimensions: 50 x 61 cm. / 19 ¾ x 24 in.
Frame: 60 x 71 cm. / 23 ½ x 28 in. Gilt wood, very good condition.