Pupil of Delacroix, Évariste de Bernardi de Valernes (1817-1896) is the very example of an accomplished artist, of high moral value, unjustly forgotten despite constant work, an asserted sensitivity and works of "delicious romanticism ", according to Edgar Degas who was his great friend.
Coming from a noble family of Dauphiné, Évariste de Valernes was born in Avignon and spent his childhood in the small castle of Monieux, a few kilometers east of Carpentras. In 1839, he went to Paris and worked in Delacroix's studio, which he often claimed. Admitted for the first time to the Salon in 1857, he often came to copy at the Louvre. It was there that he became friends with painters like Henri Fantin-Latour or Edgar Degas, whose attachment would last his whole life.
Edgar Degas will make two beautiful paintings of Évariste de Valernes, kept at the Musée d'Orsay. A double portrait where he represents himself with his friend in front of the glass roof of his studio with the rooftops of Paris in the background.
Another portrait was given by Degas to Valernes, and the latter will particularly like it. He will keep it with a paper on which he had noted: "My portrait, study after me, made by my famous and intimate friend Edgar Degas, in Paris, at his studio, rue de Laval, in 1868, at the time where I was hitting the mark and I was close to being famous."
Évariste de Valernes works a lot, but his efforts do not pay off. Broken by the death of his consumptive wife, he moved to Carpentras around 1870. He never met with the hoped-for success, despite producing superb works, commissioned portraits or decorative canvases for municipal ceremonies.
The financial situation of Valernes being more and more precarious, the town hall of Carpentras created for him the post of professor of drawing. A man of great kindness, he will be much loved by his students. At the end of his life, the latter would take it in turns to come and do his housework and then club together to pay him a maid. Degas intervenes so that he is paid a pension and despite his sight at half mast, he will travel to Carpentras to attend the funeral of his friend, in 1896.
As Pierre Cabanne pointed out in 1963, about Évariste de Valernes: "A soul that is looking for itself is not so common: an honest artist, a man all in one piece, without concession or artifice, a tender and delicate poet from this province that Paris has long regarded with contempt and where now people come to seek lessons in probity."
In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...