Private collection, France
Luigi Aloys-Francois-Joseph Loir was born on 22 January 1845 in Gorritz, Austria. Luigi’s parents were of French origins, but his family lived in Austria as employees of the French royal family, the Bourbons – his father was a valet while his mother was a governess. The earliest years of Luigi’s life, then, were spent in the Gorritz castle, but shortly after his birth, the Loir family relocated to the Duchy of Parma, around 1847. In 1860, Luigi’s family, including his sister, returned to France. Luigi remained in Parma and began studying painting at the Academy of Arts. Three years later, his father fell sick and he moved to Paris to be with his ailing father and the rest of his family. It was his first experience in the city that would inspire his scenes for the rest of his career.
Loir soon came into contact with the artist Jean-Aimable Amédée Pastelot who became his primary teacher. Pastelot, himself an artist concentrating on characters from the Comédie delle’art, flowers and genre paintings in watercolour and gouache, he also worked with the many caricature journals that proliferated during this period. It was in Pastelot’s studio that Loir began experimenting with different art forms ranging from decoration, theatrical costumes, and illustrations for many novels.
Loir must have taken from Pastelot an interest in capturing figural qualities, but Loir invested this type of training instead into his own synthesis of figures and landscape to produce the natural replication of the activity along the Parisian streets. This interest in the Parisian street scene was influenced, however, by another transformation that had entirely reshaped the Parisian landscape and how Parisians spent their leisure time. The street itself became the center of activity – from the bohemian center of Montmartre to the upper class promenades of the leisure class; it was on the streets of Paris that one found the heart of activity. Loir took to the streets in search of his inspiration, studying it and its inhabitants.
His interest in the urban cityscape is perhaps more complex than a simple depiction of Paris and its inhabitants. Loir’s sincere reflections on the changing effects of both the different times of day and the weather show the aesthetic reflection put into his paintings. Loir’s often impressionistically-executed works exhibit qualities of a dedicated study of the changing light effects on the environment, from the early afternoon to dusk, allowing him to focus his audience’s attention on a source of light punctuating the otherwise cool colors of the canvas. His use of the most recognizable icons of the city nevertheless created a sense of nostalgia for these urban monuments.
Loir was an active Salon artist, debuting in 1865 with À Villers. From this point on, he began regularly exposing scenes not only based on the Parisian cityscape, but other locales as well, including Puteaux, Bercy, Auteuil, and others. Indeed, at the time of his first Salon entry, Loir was not living immediately in Paris, but instead on the outskirts in Neuilly-sur-Seine. He received many awards for his entries (3rd class medal – 1879; 2nd class medal – 1886; Gold medal – 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris) and his works were purchased by prestigious individuals and museums alike, among countless others purchased either by the French states or other museums spanning the continents. His awards were equally numerous, becoming part of the Office d’Académie in 1889 and a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in 1898. He was also a member of the Société de Peintres-Lithographes, of the Société des Aquarellistes, and a member of the Jury of the Société des Artists Français and of the Société des Arts Décoratifs since 1899.
Paintings by Luigi Loir can now be found at the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux (Aux Lilas), Rouen (La Crue de la Seine de Paris), (Mesnilmontant), and the Musée Crozatier in Le-Puy-en-Valey (La Seine en Décembre 1879).