Alfred Boisseau (1823-1901)

Alfred Boisseau, Louisiana Indians Walking Along A Bayou, 1847, Oil on Canvas, 24 X 40 Inches, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, Gift of William E. Groves

Louisiana Indians Walking along a Bayou, has been called the “grandest of all paintings of the Southern Indians.” Alfred Boisseau exhibited it and two others at the 1848 Paris Salon. He was born in February 1823, studied under Paul Delaroche (1797-1856), was admitted to the School of Fine Arts in 1838. Judges selected his work for exhibition at the prestigious Salon when he was only 19. In the mid-1840s he traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, where his brother was secretary to the French consul. Alfred returned to France around 1848 about the time his father, a respected lithographer, died. After he exhibited in the 1848 Salon, he sailed to New York, probably with his bride Adele. Of his portraits, a New York City critic wrote, “Boisseau is unequalled. He clearly merits a position at the peak of his profession.”

Alfred Boisseau, Self-Portrait, 1842

Alfred Boisseau, Self-Portrait, 1842, Oil on Canvas, 55 x 45 cm, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

In 1850, Alfred and Adele lived in eastern Ohio with their infant daughter. Eventually the family moved to Cleveland where Alfred became an American citizen and where two sons were born. As the Civil War tore apart their adopted country, the Boisseaus retreated to Canada. In Montreal Alfred was a founder of the Society of Canadian Artists and the Canadian Institute. He exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts of Montreal and the Royal Canadian Academy. By 1885, he was a professor of fine art. He painted genre scenes of life in Montreal. Among the politicians, artists, musicians, and actors whose portraits he painted were the prominent Papineau family, whose patriarch, Louis Joseph, was the city’s mayor.[1]

By 1880, Adele had died and his children were scattered across the country. Boisseau became more peripatetic. He traveled to Ottawa, to Buffalo where he opened a studio, and to Manitoba to see his son Alfred François, a hotel keeper in Selkirk. Alfred Boisseau died 7 October 1901, in Buffalo, New York.

Museums that own his work include the New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana State University Museum of Ar, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio; Musée Des Beaux-Arts De Montréal; Portrait Gallery Of Canada, Ottawa, Canada; and the Library And Archives Of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.

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[1] William H. Gerdts, Revealed masters: 19th century American art: [catalogue of] an exhibition organized by American Federation of Arts, New York (American Federation of Arts, 1974), 25. The other two paintings were La Creole and Le Barbier Negre David Karel, “Boisseau, Alfred,” Dictionnaire des artistes de langue française en Amérique du Nord: peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs, graveurs, photographes, et orfèvres (Presses Université Laval, 1992). 95-96; The elder Boisseau, Jacques Messidor dit Henri Boisseau (1794-~1848), engraved plates for a comprehensive work Univers Pittoresque. Some of his work is housed in the National Library of Paris. Seventh Census of the United States: Lawrence, Tuscarawas, Ohio, October 30, 1950, Roll: M432_734; Page: 187B, Household of Alfred Boisseau, lines 34-36; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Index Cards to Naturalization Petitions for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Cleveland, 1855-1967; Microfilm Serial: M1893; Microfilm Roll: 3, Certificate 751; 1871 Census of Canada, Census Place: East Ward, Montreal Centre, Quebec; Roll: C-10040; Page: 5; Family No: 18; 1881 Census of Canada,: Centre Ward, Montreal City, Quebec; Roll: C_13217; Page: 14; Family No: 70; Buffalo City Directory, 19o1 (Buffalo, New York, Courier Publishing, 1901), 1435.