Gods and Foolish Grandeur: Three paintings of Maurice Deriaz, by Gustave Courtois

Three paintings of Maurice Deriaz, by Gustave Courtois

“Portrait de l’athlète Maurice Deriaz”, 1907.

Maurice Deriaz and his older brother, Emile, were the most famous of seven athletic brothers. They were born in Baulmes, Switzerland – Maurice in 1885 – but lived in France from an early age. Maurice was five foot six and weighed about two hundred pounds. His neck was nineteen inches around, his chest forty-eight, and his waist thirty-five. His thighs measured twenty-six inches, calves sixteen-and-a-half, forearms fourteen, and his biceps seventeen. He was celebrated for his weight-lifting feats, his impressive gymnastic abilities, and as a champion Greco-Roman wrestler. Called Le lion suisse or Roi de la beauté plastique, speaking fluent English, German, and Russian, he performed all over Europe. As his career wound down, he acquired a factory which produced reeds for oboes, clarinets, saxophones.  He would often return to visit his home town and he eventually returned to live in Baulmes, where he died in the summer of 1974.

Hercule au pied d’Omphale, 1912.
Persée délivrant Andromède, 1913.

I don’t know if Deriaz commissioned them or how, otherwise, he came into possession of the three paintings by Courtois.  But he donated all three to the municipality of Baulmes, where they are hung along the staircase of the Hôtel de Ville.

Deriaz modeling for Courtois in the latter’s studio.
“Bouderie” Gustave Courtois dans son atelier, by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, 1880.  Courtois looks very jolly, but not so the unknown woman;
the title, “Bouderie”, translates as sulkiness, so perhaps that’s part of the story here.

Gustave-Claude-Étienne Courtois (May 18, 1852, Pusey – November 25, 1923, Paris), French painter, whose work is in the academic style. He showed an early interest in art, and at the age of seventeen, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. There, Courtois formed a close friendship with a fellow student, the naturalist painter Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (January 7, 1852, Paris – July 3, 1929, Quincey), that lasted a lifetime; beginning in the 1880s they shared a fashionable studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine, and Dagnan-Bouveret married Courtois’ cousin. Both artists would eventually be awarded the Légion d’honneur, as chevalier and officier, respectively.

(Detail of the above painting.)
Dagnan-Bouveret and Courtois, with a model, in their studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine.
Courtois and Dagnan-Bouveret, 1888.


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