A Canvas by Ernest Bordes Donated to the Musée Jeanne-d’Albret in Orthez

Ernest Bordes (1852-1914)
Paul Reclus, 1892
Oil on canvas - 83 x 63 cm
Orthez, Musée Jeanne-d’Albret
Photo : Musée Jeanne-d’Albret

7/11/13 - Acquisition - Orthez, Musée Jeanne-d’Albret - A portrait of Paul Reclus by Ernest Bordes was recently donated by the great-granddaughter of the surgeon, Odile Pagezy-Buisson, to the Musée Jeanne-d’Albret in Orthez.
The model is staring at the viewer in a position which is both self-confident but relaxed : seated, right hand in his pocket, left elbow on the chair arm, chin on his hand, a finger on his cheek. The artist achieves a dynamic composition with scarce means : the movement of the body is placed slightly at an angle and underscored by the white of the vest, while the face and hand are enhanced by the neutral brown background and the dark suit. The painting could use a cleaning as the varnish appears to have yellowed.
A native of Pau, Ernest Bordes trained at the Académie de Paris and studied under Fernand Cormon, but also Léon Bonnat whose influenced can be felt in this portrait which recalls the ones Bonnat did of Robert Fleury and Léon Cogniet. Bordes uses a similar formula in his portrait of Doctor Jean Lespy. The artist’s career was thus mainly specialized in portraiture - the collection at the Musée de Pau holds a certain number of his works -, but he also painted genre scenes ; he started out at the Salon with The Concierge Is a Tailor in 1879, illustrated The Laborer and his Children in 1896 and many other subjects. He left a few known history paintings, such as Attila Consulting the Haruspices before the Battle of Châlons (1888), a canvas which also resides at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Pau.
Paul Reclus (1847-1914) was in fact the painter’s brother-in-law. A native of Orthez, he was the son of a Protestant minister who founded the Eglise Libre ; five of the children became well-known : Elie, Elisée, Onésime, Armand and Paul. He was a brilliant surgeon, invented the cream "pommade Reclus" and pioneered the use of local anasthesia for which he introduced the use of cocaine. He worked at the La Pitié hospital in Paris, was a member of the Académie de Médecine in 1895 and became a professor at the School of Medecine in the French capital. Lastly, he was mayor of Orion as well as Conseiller général of Salies-de-Béarn.
His portrait has found an appropriate home at the Musée Jeanne-d’Albret which is devoted to the history of Protestantism in the Béarn region and already holds the portraits of Paul Reclus’ parents.

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Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, jeudi 7 novembre 2013

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