Marcel Proust

The Société des amis de Marcel Proust et des amis de Combray is organising a subscription campaign this year to finance the acquisition of a painting by René Xavier PRINET (1861-1946), entitled La Plage, Cabourg, dated 1908.

This painting dates from 1908, the year Proust began writing A la recherche du temps perdu. Only a few hundred metres separated the Grand Hôtel de Cabourg, where he stayed during his many visits to the seaside town, from the Double Six, the seaside villa in which the artist lived. Although there is no formal proof that the two men met, it is clear that the atmosphere portrayed by Prinet corresponds exactly to that described by Proust, for example:

I knew my friends were on the dyke, but I couldn't see them as they walked past the uneven ridges of the sea, at the far end of which, perched among its bluish peaks like an Italian village, the little town of Rivebelle could sometimes be made out in a flash of light, its details carefully detailed by the sun.

À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs


contreparties Different packages of rewards are reserved for subscribers depending on the amount of their donations. s the Société des Amis de Marcel Proust is recognised as a charitable organisation, any donations it receives are deductible up to 60% from corporation tax (and 66% from income tax)..

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If you already have an account on the association's online shop, , please note that this account is not valid on this subscription site. You have the option, but not the obligation, to create another account on this site specifically created for the purposes of the subscription.

Born into a family of notables from the Franche-Comté region, René-Xavier Prinet joined the studio of painter Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1880. During his five years as an apprentice to a master at the height of his fame, he studied at the Académie Julian, where he made friends with several painters of his generation: Lucien Simon, André Dauchez, René Ménard, Charles Cottet and George Desvallières. Prinet made a name for himself when he first exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français between 1885 and 1889, but from 1890 he turned to the more liberal Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-arts, founded that same year by Puvis de Chavannes.

After obtaining his first government commission in 1891 to decorate the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur, he took part in several major group exhibitions with Paul Durand-Ruel. At the 1893 Salon, he was associated by critics with his friends from the Académie Julian, grouped together under the term ‘Bande Noire’ or ‘Nubians’, in reference to the darker tones and contrasting effects of matter in their works, which were influenced by Courbet and Manet. Although their paintings quickly brightened up after contact with the Impressionists, they generally retained an intimate character of their own.

détail tableau Prinet 1
La Plage by René Xavier Prinet, détail

A gold medallist at the 1900 Universal Exhibition and a knight of the Légion d'honneur, Prinet enjoyed a solid reputation at the turn of the century. Along with several of his artist friends, he helped found the Société Nouvelle de Peintres et de Sculpteurs, chaired by Gabriel Mourey and later Auguste Rodin, whose exhibitions, held every year between 1900 and 1914 at the Galerie Georges Petit, were a great success. In 1904, he took his turn as a teacher, setting up the Académie de la Grande Chaumière workshops with Lucien Simon and Antoine Bourdelle. A regular exhibitor at international events, notably the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh from 1911, he was appointed secretary of the Société Nationale des Beaux-arts in 1913. After the Great War, he took part in the creation of the Salon des Tuileries in 1923, and ran a studio at the École des Beaux-Arts between 1926 and 1931. He won another medal at the 1937 International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques, and was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1943.

détail tableau Prinet 2
La Plage by René Xavier Prinet, détail

Depicting the beach at Cabourg in 1908, the large oil on canvas we are interested in here is one of Prinet's most sought-after works, both because of its Norman subject and its more luminist technique. In 1894, shortly after marrying Jeanne Jacquemin, the painter made his first stay at the villa ‘Double-Six’, owned by his parents-in-law and situated on the seafront of the seaside resort. Immediately attracted by the singular, picturesque elegance of the coastal town, he decided to set up a studio there to draw on for new subjects, particularly during the summer. At the turn of the century, Cabourg enjoyed a sudden surge in fashion, to the point of appearing as a rival to Trouville and Deauville. It gradually became one of the most popular holiday resorts for Parisians, to the point of being a direct inspiration for the ‘Balbec’ described by Marcel Proust in la Recherche. Like the novelist, Prinet's paintings bear witness to the social and family life of the seaside, and acutely capture the atmosphere of the Belle-Époque, in a suggestive style that owes much to the Impressionism of Eugène Boudin.

détail tableau Prinet 3
La Plage by René Xavier Prinet, détail

It was during his walks on the beach at Cabourg that the artist sketched bathers, children, fishermen and horsemen. Based on his drawings and photographs, he created large