Guillaumin belonged to the first group of revolutionary French painters and he exhibited with them in 1863 at the Salon des Refusés as one of the Naturalistes. He rarely resembled other artists and was quickly recognized as an innovator and leader in his day. Contrary to widespread opinion, he contributed an elaborate amount of original ideas to the new movement.
Parisian-born, Guillaumin was the son of a tailor whose shop on the Rue de Rivoli specialized in hunting costumes for the haute monde. He was sent outside of Paris for his education, to the town of Moulin, where he developed his a love for the landscape and the mountainous regions on the borders of the Massif Central. It was here he began his study of art. His first teacher was an old artist from the region of the Bourbonnais, named Tudot. From the time of his youth Guillaumin devoted all of his spare time to painting. So dedicated was this young artist, that he dug ditches in the middle of the night so he could attend studio classes and paint by day.
In 1891, Guillaumin had the luck to win in France what is called the two Gros Lots. These were lotteries, from which he received 100,000 gold francs. This source of income liberated him from the anxiety of having to sell his paintings through galleries. Instead he traveled frequently, mainly to the South of France in the Creuse, at Crozant, but also to Brittany, where he painted many of his works.
This “ill-omened” good fortune of lottery winnings did not help Guillaumin very much from an art historical aspect. After the artist’s death, much of his work was found amongst his friends. The galleries in France never had enough works in their hands to properly promote Guillaumin, which would have been necessary to make him better known within the world of art. He was one of the most important painters of the Impressionist Group of that time, but perhaps one of the least well known. Today, however, his art is widely appreciated for its superb quality, and he in recognized as one of the prominent artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
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