Chahine: Intimate Portrait of Simone

Edgar CHAHINE (1874-1947)
Entrant dans Son Lit (à l’Italienne)

Tempera on board, 1944 (?).
Reference: Benoît Noël page 97 (illustrated).
Signed, dated and annotated “Ste Marguerite” in the lower right.
Board: 15 ¾ x 19 ½ inches.

We add a print of the same subject matter:
drypoint and aquatint on laid paper, 1928.
Reference: Blaizot pg. 79.
Fourth state of six, before the plate was cut down.
The plate used in the final state as
an illustration for Novembre by Flaubert.
Signed in pencil.  Rare as such.
Plate: 8 ⅝ x 6 ¼ inches.


While it is difficult to put an exact number of extant painted compositions by the artist, it is clear that most of the painting from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s have disappeared. Photos and catalogue entries make their existence clear, but none seem to show up on the market or can be found in museums. Chahine picked up painting again in the late 1920’s and painted up to a few months before his death. From this latter period, only about 40 to 60 fully composed works remain, nearly all painted in tempera on board or paper.

Judging from the output of prints after World War I, Chahine continued to enjoy working in copper, as he had so avidly in the pre-war years.  The output did however diminish, and focued more one smaller subject matters, often used for book illustrations.  As late as 1937 his drypoints show vivacity and his lines remain sharp.  The few prints he made for Flaubert’s Par les Champs et par les Grèves circa 1939 reveal the artist’s visual limitation in his later years. According to his son Pierre, Edgar’s sight was diminishing, which explains his renewed interest in painting in the late 1930’s.

Many of the artist’s tempera paintings were created after the mid-1930’s. They vary in theme, often revisiting earlier intaglio compositions.  In the artist’s painted oeuvre there are about five accomplished nudes. Ours stands out for its quality. The artist used a very successful subject, which he had etching in 1928 to illustrate Novembre, another book by Flaubert.

Our painting is annotated “Ste Marguerite”. This note was added by Chahine when he sold the work to Marguerite Becker-Baillat, on her name day (probably the November 16). It is likely that the work was painted a few years prior, but no source has confirmed this. One indication, however, is the fact that the signature and the annotation are seemingly not concurrent. Nothing further is known about Marguerite Becker-Baillat.

The model for this painting is actually Chahine’s wife Simone (née Augusta-Julia Gaumet, 1899-1986), who had served as a model for all of the nudes of the late 1920’s.  Edgar met her late in life; they were married in 1921.

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