For someone who was right there at the centre of Belle Epoch Paris, there really should be more information available on the artist Alexandre Lunois (1863-1916). He was right there. But, despite his eye-popping prints being held at many of the most presigious art institutions of the the planet, his biography remains fragmentary and contradictory.
What bio we do have goes like this. Lunois was born in Paris and was totally self taught – an autodidact – goes one story. Other sources report that he did receive training and that from 1880, he apprenticed with the Parisian printer-lithographer Achille Sirouy, under whom he produced his first two lithographs and one etching, all based on the work of leading artists. These 3 prints were shown at the French Salon in 1882, and he continued to exhibit such work – derived from originals created by masters such as Delacroix, Daumier, and Béraud – through to he salon of 1890.
By 1886, Lunois was producing his own original etchings and in 1888 he explored the low countries followed by travels through Algeria and Morocco, returning to Paris with a portfolio of sketches and drawings in late 1889. Inspired by his journey, Lunois ventured into colour lithography in a quest to make visual the vibrancy he experienced he found in exotic locations. He set to work with both colour and B&W lithography and exhibited five B&W lithographs at the Universal Exhibition of 1889. This attracted the attention of the dealer Edmund Sagot, who first published his lithographs; from 1894, he was represented by gallerist and editor Gustave Pellet.
He also produced illustrations for Theophile Gautier’s Fortunio, among others. He also worked as an engraver in 1907 publishing a luxury edition of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen with 66 of his own engravings under the title Histoires et Aventures in his own publishing house.
Today, Lunois is considered the re-inventor of the so-called lithotint technique.
Lunois died, aged 53, in the western suburbs of Paris on September 2, 1916, in Le-Pecq.