Louis Welden Hawkins French, 1849-1910
Born in Stuttgart to English and Austrian parents, Hawkins spent much of his childhood in Middlesex, Southeast England. After joining the Royal Navy, and spending six years at sea, in 1870 Hawkins left for Paris with the intention of becoming an artist at the age of twenty-one. Here, he studied under William Bouguereau and Jules Lefebvre, at the Académie Julian, going on to study under Gustave Boulanger at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. After his education here, Hawkins became interested in Symbolist painting, a movement derived from French Romanticism in reaction to the Impressionists. Predominantly, Hawkins was known for his female portraits.
His first Salon painting in 1881, Les Orphelins, won him a third place medal and was bought by the French government in 1887 for the Luxembourg museum. The painting was set in Grez-sur-Loing, where Hawkins spent the 1880s with other artists, such as
Frank O’Meara and Jules Bastien-Lepage. Here, he cultivated an admiration for Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, as seen in works such as La Procession des âmes. He exhibited two important paintings – By the Wayside and Keston Common – at the Royal Society of British Artists in 1880 and 1881.
Hawkins stopped exhibiting with the Salon affiliated with Societé des Artistes Français in 1891, thereafter exhibiting with the Salon of the Societé Nationale des Beaux Arts, the Salon de la Rose + Croix and La Libre Esthétique in Brussels. Hawkins became a French citizen in 1895 and married an Italian, Raffaela Zeppa.
In Paris, Hawkins spent time at Stéphane Mallarmé’s ‘Les Mardis’ gatherings, interacting with notable fin-de-siècle cultural figures. Hawkins was also friendly with artists such as James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Auguste Rodin, whose portrait he painted. From 1900 he also produced decorative art in the Art Nouveau style.
Hawkins’ spent his final years in Brittany, painting landscapes. In May 1910, a year after his death, the artist was honoured at the Salon Nationale.
Louis Welden Hawkins’ work is included in numerous global collections, such as Musée d’Orsay, Paris and National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.