Loir was born December 22, 1845 in Goritz, Austria and died February 9, 1916 in Paris. His first formal art education began in 1853 at the Beaux-Art Academy. When he had completed his studies in 1865, Loir submitted his inaugural work entitled Paysage a Villiers-sur Seine to the Salon de Paris for which he received the highest acclaim. Loir then apprenticed himself to study mural painting under Jean Amable Amedee Pastelot (1810-1870), who was his primary teacher. Although Loir became a very popular ceiling and mural painter and was even commissioned to paint the murals and ceilings at the Chateaux du Diable in 1866, he also learned and developed from Pastelot an interest in capturing figural qualities. He fused this talent along with a natural ability to portray landscapes to produce the ordinary activity of Parisians on the street and boulevards of Paris during the last years of the 19th Century.
Many of Loir’s works, which include oils, watercolors, and lithographs, were acquired by the city of Paris and by several French museums. During the Salon des Sciences at the Hotel de Ville, Loir exhibited Les Preparatifs de la Fête Foraine. The painting was positively received, and Loir finally received the recognition he was due. Such overwhelming acclaim on account of this artistic submission persuaded the Municipal Council of Paris to purchase Le Marche a la Ferraille. The city of Paris would go on to acquire both La Rue de la Pitie and La Vue du Val de Grace. The Empress of Russia also purportedly purchased the watercolor entitled The Celebration of the Throne.
In 1870 Loir entered the military. He was charged with the duty of recording the battles of Bouret. However, Loir concentrated exclusively on painting views of Paris. In these works Loir caught and expressed the many faces of Paris at all hours of the day. Although some criticized Loir for being overly methodical, he was undeniably gifted with the keen abilities of acute observation and adept craftsmanship. On account of his work during the campaign of 1870 Loir was elected to be the official painter of the Boulevards of Paris. This lucrative appointment promoted both his career and reputation. In 1879 Loir was awarded the Bronze medal from the Exposant Fidèle des Artistes Français and was elected into the Legion of Honor in 1898.
Loir was the finest Belle-Epoque street scene painter of the late 19th century. Few can compare to his ability to render with precision the streets and architecture of the city of Paris and intersperse figures into them with ease. Several of Loir's paintings depicted the streets within Paris itself as with La Seine à Asnières which depicts a municipality located in the northwestern suburbs of Paris along the Seine River, a scant five miles from the center of the city. A fresh face of Paris was emerging during the Belle Epoquer, with refurbished roads, boulevards, and parks. Au courant haute couture fashions appeared as well as fresh produce. Parisian society was experiencing a new age of consumption. Great strides in science, medicine, and engineering were advanced as electricity, the automobile, and vaccines became commonplace. Against this backdrop of prosperity Loir showcased his talent in chronicling the Paris that belonged to the Parisians of his time and era. He stands as one of the finest interpreters of technically correct views around Paris. He portrayed the dichotomy of life in this bustling city on the brink of a new century filled with promise.
In La Seine à Asnières the viewer is brought right along the banks of the Seine and directly onto the street where the restaurants and shops beckon all passing by. The low horizon allows Loir to devote a large part of his canvas to the portrayal of grey sky which suited his love for soft atmospheric effects. His keen powers of observation, coupled with his exacting craftsmanship, have rendered an accurate snapshot of this urban landscape at the turn of the century with his careful attention to the detail of the buildings, people, dress, horse drawn carraige, and even the time of day. He has depicted the restaurant with its patrons and the tall building next to it along with the numerous passers-by in multiple and precise touches of color. Loir was truly inspired by the people along with the sheer spectacle of Parisian streets and all aspects of Parisian life. There is a natural and common feel to the scene. It is this facile manner of conveying the scene before him that makes Loir a masterful artist.
Private Collection, France
Sotheby's Paris, June 27, 2015, lot 138