Lessore, Emile Aubert – French Artist

Pair of Wedgwood Emile Lessore Decorated Queen's Ware Vases, England, c. 1861, each oval shape with Medusa mask head handles, enamel decorated aquatic scenes with mermaids and mermen

p4A ItemID F7995548
Emile Lessore Decorated Creamware Plaque, England, c. 1860, rectangular, with polychrome enamel decorated bucolic landscape with nude nymph resting upon a hammock while three putti frolic in the trees above

p4A ItemID F7995348
Emile Lessore Decorated Creamware Plaque, England, c. 1865, rectangular, with polychrome enamel-decorated bucolic landscape with seated figures of five young girls and a boy

p4A ItemID F7995347
Emile Lessore Decorated Creamware Plaque, England, c. 1865, rectangular form with polychrome enamel-decorated landscape by a stream with depiction of mother, children, their dog, and several sheep

p4A ItemID F7995193

Emile Aubert Lessore (French, 1805 1876)

Born in Paris, France, the son of a notary and with no family history of painters or decorators, Emile Aubert Lessore studied art under Louis Hesent, a not notable painter, until he joined the Atelier of Jean August Dominique Ingres, where he painted in both watercolor and oils.

Lessore’s work was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1831. In 1835, a collection of 50 or so plates painted during a tour of Northern Africa was published, soon followed by a book, Album Venitien, with 12 lithographs. Lessore continued to paint as an easel painter but his success seems to have been somewhat limited because he sought work as a ceramic painter. He began painting on ceramic at the relatively modest French factory of Laurins, where, according to Marc Solon of pate-sur-pate fame, Lessore “soon brought the composition of glazes and metallic colours to the point at which they were most bright and intense and his brush was uncommonly skillful in bringing out charming effects from their harmonious combinations.”

Lessore moved to the Sevres porcelain factory in 1852 and almost immediately had a successful showing of his work at the Paris Exhibition of 1853. His “painterly’” style of decoration at Sevres, where the other decorators employed a finely detailed and meticulous format for decoration of ceramics, generated stylistic disputes to a degree that caused him to quit Sevres and seek his ceramic painting fortune in England. Years later he wrote “Five years ago, after a cruel bereavement (his wife Josephine had died. Rather than detail his discomfort at Sevres, he used grief at his wife’s death as a reason for moving to England), I resolved to leave my country and to look elsewhere for a situation which would by forced labor bring diversion to my recent grief”. I had been independent all my life, but to finish with the past, I became a piece-painter on earthenware, paid so much the square inch to paint figures and landscapes I mean, or by the yard – it is curious but it’s the custom”.

Much to his surprise,
Lessore spent six months looking for work, and finally found employment at Mintons. This lasted only a short while as his painterly style and independent work habits clashed with the more orderly regime in the Mintons factory. In 1860, he went to work for Wedgwood and found his niche. After a short while he was able to negotiate a contract which allowed him to work outside the factory, living part of the year in London and part of the year in France. He was sent blank shapes and returned them decorated, in the beginning for a fixed wage and eventually on a piecework basis. He decorated every conceivable shape from teacups to vases to compotes to plaques. His decorated ceramic work is much sought after by collectors of Minton and Wedgwood. On rare occasions, a watercolor or oil painting will come on the market.

For more information on Emile Lessore see:
Wedgwood, Volume II, by Robin Reilly, Stockton Press, New York, 1989;
The Ninth Wedgwood International Seminar, Emile Lessore, by Harry M Buten, 1964 (publisher not indicated);
Monographs in Wedgwood Studies, Emile Lessore 1805-1876: His Life and Work, by David Buten, The Buten Museum of Wedgwood, Merion, Pennsylvania, 1979;
Proceedings of the Wedgwood Society, An Unusual Vase Decorated by Emile Lessore, by Allison Kelly, The Wedgwood Society, London, 1970;
Wedgwood Ceramics 1846-1959, by Maureen Batkin and Richard Dennis, London, 1982.

Reference note by p4A Contributing Editor Paul H. Lauer.

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