The King of Flowers (aka Joujou's Father)
#OTD On this day in 1855 Paul de Longpré (Books By This Author) was born.
Known as the "King of Flowers", de Longpré painted exceptional portrayals of roses (his first love), and wildflowers (his second love). If you look at his work, you'll find somewhere in his composition his signature accent – a bumblebee. After exhibitions of his work on the East Coast, reviewers praised,
"No one but a poet could paint as he does." "De Longpré has the rare gift of reading down to the heart of his loved flowers."
De Longpré was raised in northern Paris. His father left the family early one - a hurt that de Longpré hid from reporters; telling them that his father was dead. De Longpré's family was artistic and he helped his mother financially by painting silk fans with his brother. (The fans were quite fashionable at the time). After marrying the delightful Josephine Estievenard, de Longpré was mentored by Francois Rivoire. Like Rivoire, de Longpré’s mastery of watercolors are said to rival the richness of oil painting.
When de Longpré lost his savings in a Paris bank crash, he immigrated with his wife and their children to the United States - ultimately calling Hollywood their home in 1900. At the time, Hollywood was a brand new development just west of Los Angeles.
De Longpré built a lavish Mission Revival style villa and it quickly became the most famous estate on the boulevard. He bought an additional three blocks of property from socialite Daeida Wilcox Beveridge in exchange for three of his flora watercolors. On the property, de Longpré planted over 4000 rosebushes the muses for his work – and he turned the main level of his magnificent home into an art gallery. The place became a sensation; a hub for elites, as well as a tourist destination, with over 8,000 visitors a month. De Longpré’s guests were greeted by a very courteous Japanese butler who would hand them a list of the paintings titles and prices. Pauls daily habit was to get up in the morning and pick flowers with his youngest daughter, Pauline, by his side. After creating more than 2,000 paintings, de Longpré died in 1911. Josephine and the girls sold the house and sadly agreed to a final exhibition of de Longpré's work, which included his masterpiece the Cherokee Rose. It was a Josephine's lifelong regret to part with these paintings. Thirteen years later, the architectural wonder of the de Longpré's villa and the lavish gardens were all destroyed to make room for commercial buildings and parking lots.
The story of de Longpré is quite enchanting. There are two images in particular about de Longpré that stuck with me. The first is such a quintessentially French image. De Longpré is riding his bicycle, peddling out to the garden with an easel on his back, a hat on his head, on his way to paint the flowers he loved so much.
The second image is a photo of de Longpré in the garden with his little daughter Pauline. In an article in the Overland Monthly, we get a little glimpse into their relationship.
"De Longpré’s youngest daughter, is a bright little miss about eight years old. If you ask for her name, she will say it is Pauline; but the only name she has ever called at home is “Joujou”; the French word for toy or plaything. She is idolized by her famous father, and when he walks in the garden she is always by his side."