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Louis Paul Dessar, N.A.

Louis Paul Dessar, N.A.
Sheep and Russet Woods, oil on canvas, 24"x30", 29"x34" with original period frame, s.l.l. "Dessar"
One of the most notable practitioners of the Tonalist style in America, Louis Paul Dessar was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on January 22, 1867 but moved with his family to New York City at age six. He attended the College of the City of New York from 1881 until 1883, when he enrolled in classes at the National Academy of Design. In 1886 he traveled to Paris, where he entered the Acad√©mie Julien, training as a portrait painter under William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. In 1891, he returned to the United States and married fellow art student Elizabeth Coombs. The pair soon again traveled back to France and purchased a house in √Čtaples, near Fontainebleau, in 1892. It is here, in all probability, that Dessar fell fully under the spell of the Barbizon painters and developed his signature style of low-light, bucolic scenes of shepherds and peasants. His style in later years was so reminiscent of the Barbizon style that he was often dubbed the "American Millet."

One of Dessar's closest artist friends was Tonalist Henry Ward Ranger. When Ranger moved to the community of Old Lyme, Connecticut, he persuaded Dessar to move there with him in 1900. Dessar loved the area and purchased a 600-acre farm nearby, where he maintained the livestock which appears so frequently in his work and where he continued to live even after the Tonalist colony at Old Lyme disbanded. Dessar's artistic fortunes fell in the 1920's as Modernism replaced Tonalism in America, though he maintained a New York studio throughout the period, and he was forced to eventually sell his beloved farm near Old Lyme.

Dessar was a member of the Salmagundi Club, the Society of American Artists, and the National Academy of Design. His work can be found in the permanent collections of The Florence Griswold House (Old Lyme), the National Academy of Design Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, among others.


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