Alfred Latour

1888

Alfred Latour is born in Paris, the son of Armand, compositor-typographer at the French National Printworks, and Elisabeth Paillac).

Shows an early aptitude for art. Follows courses at the Rue d’Aligre and studies briefly at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. But for the most part is self-taught, practising from life and in galleries.

1908

Enrols at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs. His teachers include Gaston Quénioux and Joseph Vital-Lacaze. Particularly impressed by his talent, the latter encourages him to pursue a career in engraving and painting.

1909 -1911

Military service at Grandville. Produces numerous watercolours, drawings and oils of the Normandy countryside.

1913

Establishes his first Parisian studio on the Ile St. Louis. Produces Indian-ink views of Paris and its surroundings. Meets Emile Bernard.

1914

Mobilization to the front. Hospitalized in Rouen after being seriously wounded on 2 August. Fit again for service, volunteers as a driver provisioning the lines. Produces numerous sketchbooks of works in Indian ink, charcoal and gouache. Remains in contact with Madeleine Cosnard, the young nurse who treated him Rouen. Demobilised 12 April 1919.

1917

Marries Madeleine Cosnard.

1918

Birth of Jacques Latour, first child of Alfred Latour and Madeleine Cosnard.

1919

Produces more wood engravings. Works with leather for one-off book covers.

Commissioned by Charles Peignot (founder of the magazine Arts et Métiers Graphiques and at that time director of the Deberny & Peignot Foundry) to illustrate a number of works that will rapidly become standard references (typography, lineography, logos, print etching and culs-de-lampe).

Settles in the Paris neighbourhood of Montparnasse. Gains the lasting attention of notable connoisseurs such as Otto Kahn and Jules Bache in the USA and Louis Koopman in Holland, as well as that of important institutions: the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the New York Public Library and The French National Library.

1925

Awarded the Grand Prix at the Salon des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

1927

Prize winner at the Autumn Salon in Paris.

1929

Birth of Jean, second son of Alfred Latour and Madeleine Cosnard.

Commissioned by Charles Bianchini, co-founder of Bianchini & Férier, famous manufacturer of silk fabrics in Lyon. Produces numerous designs for various types of textile (fashion, furnishing, etc.) and, like Raoul Dufy, establishes himself as one of the company’s leading artists.

Joins the Meurisse International Agency of Photojournalism in Paris. Produces numerous photographic reports. (Throughout his life, he would rely on photography as a means of memorialisation.) Continues his work in the fields of bookbinding and illustration, collaborating with a number of publishing houses.

1930

Prize winner at the Autumn Salon in Paris. (He would continue receive such distinctions throughout his career, most notably in 1954, when he was awarded the gold medal at the 10th Milan Triennial — an international exhibition of decorative and modern industrial arts and of architecture.)

1932

Resolves to break with Parisian life and purchases a farmhouse at Eygalières.

Travels (Italy, Spain, Morocco). Gradually ceases wood engraving to devote himself to watercolour.

1934

Begins a long advertising collaboration with Etienne Nicolas, founder of the company Vins Nicolas.

1935 – 1936

Joins the Union des Artistes Modernes, (UAM), as a “graphic artist” alongside the likes of Mallet-Stevens, Le Corbusier, René Herbst, Cassandre, Sonia Delaunay, Fernand Léger.

1937

Paris International Exhibition — International show of arts and applied techniques in the context of contemporary life — is exhibited in the Book Trades, UAM and Publicity pavilions. Awarded a number of prizes.

1940 – 1945

Active in the resistance during the occupation. Forced to flee for a while to Lyon. Covers the activities of his son Jacques, a captain in British Intelligence in France, who is responsible for the organisation of supply drops into the maquis. (Jacques Latour was captured and deported to Dachau. On his return, he was appointed the first director of the Réattu Museum in Arles).

Returns to oil painting, after more than twenty years spent pursuing a wide variety of other artistic disciplines.

1945

At the end of the war, settles definitively at Eygalières, in a new farmhouse in which he sets up two workshops, one for the professional activities that will ensure his material wellbeing and the other for painting.

Designs the “Fontenay Fabrics”, whose motifs are inspired by historical elements from Fontenay Abbey, for his friend Pierre Aynard, the owner of the Abbey and producer in Lyon of printed fabrics for haute-couture clothing.

Etienne Nicolas commissions him to work with the Drager company to produce the annual edition of the Catalogue Nicolas de luxe (typography and layout) and to design large-format mural posters. (This relationship will continue to the end of his life.) On his rare trips to Paris, he meets with his friends from the UAM.

1945-1964

Delights in peace and solitude. Sends a few canvases to joint exhibitions in France (Galeries Carmine, Durand-Ruel, Garibaldi), Italy and Sweden. Continually solicited by figures from the world of culture, who trek to Eygalières to persuade him to join in various projects. But the critical acclaim that meets his work and the encouragements of his friends do nothing to shake his determination to steer clear of the crowd. 1956, death of Jacques Latour.

1964

4 March, dies in his studio of a stroke.