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Monsieur Victor

Impressionism has perhaps never had a more loyal and ardent propagandist than Victor Chocquet (1821-1891). Senior editor at the Customs Department, from a well-to-do family that made a fortune in the spinning mills of the North, he devoted most of his resources to acquiring paintings, earthenware and porcelain. He already had an impressive number of works by Delacroix and Courbet when he went on March 24, 1875 to the sale of Impressionist paintings at the Hôtel Drouot. It's love at first sight !

Paul Cézanne. Victor Chocquet. 1878. Columbus Museum of Art. Ohio
Paul Cézanne. Victor Chocquet (Détail). 1878. Columbus Museum of Art. Ohio

The next day, Victor Chocquet went to Renoir and asked him to paint a portrait of his wife Augustine Marie-Caroline.

Auguste Renoir. Madame Choquet. 1875. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
Auguste Renoir. Madame Choquet. 1875. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

It was the beginning of an unfailing friendship that would bind the collector customs employee and the impressionist painters. in particular Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne, whose paintings Victor discovered at Père Tanguy's shop.

He will be present at the exhibitions of 1876 and 1877 to which he lends several paintings (6 Renoir, a Pissarro and a Monet at that of 1876). He literally camps in front of the works of his friends, and tries to defend them against the deluge of insults and jeers poured out by certain visitors.

Victor Chocquet owned dozens of paintings by his impressionist friends: one Sisley, one Pissarro, three Morisot, ten Renoir, ten Monet and thirty-one Cézanne! The latter was particularly close to him. He wrote to him in 1886: "I would have liked to have this intellectual balance which characterizes you and allows you to surely reach the proposed goal... chance has not endowed me with such a balance and it is the only regret that I have things of the earth"

After some financial difficulties which did not prevent him from continuing to acquire the works he so appreciated, Victor made a fine inheritance on the death of his mother-in-law in 1882. The Chocquets welcomed their friends in their Normandy property, in Hattenville , or in their Parisian apartment on rue de Rivoli, overlooking the Tuileries.

Victor Chocquet's collection was dispersed on the death of his wife in 1899. A large part of these paintings can be found today in American museums.

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...

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