Lucien Joseph Fontanarosa comes into the world on December 19th, in Paris. His father, François Fontanarosa, and his mother, Stéphanie Lucchin, are both Italian. Early in 1912, his parents move to Paris where his father works as a tailor.
Lucien Fontanarosa spends his childhood in Paris as well as in Padua (Italy). Later on, we will see how his trips to Veneto will influence his work. He attends public school in Paris and in San Remo where his parents move to in 1921. In 1923, the Fontanarosas return to Paris where they will settle permanently.
At the age of 12 or 13, he is already interested in drawing. He spends his Sundays drawing in the streets of Paris, along the banks of the Seine and in the suburbs. According to Lucien Fontanarosa himself, it seems that he has drawn all his life. In the black cotton wrapper which envelops the suits he is to deliver to his father’s clients, he slips a note-book of sketches; for Lucien Fontanarosa, those years were marvellous : “They contributed greatly to strengthen in me this taste for the arts which, very young, I felt almost instinctively”. He attends evening drawing classes at a neighbourhood school, and on Thursdays, following the advice of Gérard Cochet, he attends Classical art drawing classes at the Académie Julian.
After he has graduated from Estienne, his parents understand his desire to paint and give him one year to try under the condition that he attends the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts (fine arts french national school). He works more and more, attending to evening classes at the Ecole des Arts Appliqués and painting at the Louvre Museum, in the Jardin des Plantes and in the streets. He sets up his first studio in an abandoned shop where he works alone. The paintings of the Cubist movement help him to find his way. To understand the great Classical painters, he undertakes a series of studies of Le concert champêtre by Titian, in the Louvre.
Sorti d’Estienne, ses parents ne font pas obstacle à son désir de se consacrer à la peinture et lui accordent un an d’essai, à la condition d’entrer à l’Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Il travaille de plus en plus, suit les cours du soir de l’Ecole des Arts Appliqués, travaille au Musée du Louvre, au Jardin des Plantes et dans la rue; il installe son premier atelier dans une boutique désaffectée et y travaille seul. Les toiles cubistes le mettent sur la voie. Pour comprendre les grands classiques Le Concert Champêtre du Titien, au Louvre, sera le point de départ de toute une série d’études qu’il fera au Musée même.
He exhibits his work in the Archipel Gallery along with Marie Katz, Oguiss, etc. He also paints four lithographs for this gallery around the subject of the parisian Ile Saint-Louis.
He is an auditor in Lucien Simon’s studio at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, a class where the students work very freely. He likes the atmosphere, and during that period, he meets young students most of whom will become excellent painters (Hambourg, Rohner…). He divides his time between his classes at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts and his own studio. In 1933, in Lucien Simon’s studio, he meets Annette Faive, who will become his wife.
He moves his studio in the 14th district of Paris (6, rue Asseline). For the first time, he shows his Nu dans l’atelier (120 FF – 130 x 195 cm) at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (fine arts french national society). Although he continues to regularly attend Simon’s classes, he works alone. In August, he takes a short trip to Italy.
He exhibits his painting Les Musiciens at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (fine arts national society’s exhibition). He obtains a travel scholarship from the French State and leaves for Spain in November. There, he discovers the similarities between the Spanish artists and the Venetian painters whom he has always admired and studied. He is very touched by the tragedy the Spanish people have endured, and he paints very solemn works during his stay in Spain.
First purchase by the French State. The City of Paris awards him the “Grand Prix d’Afrique du Nord” (grant of 18000 french francs) which allows him to work in Morocco for one year : from October 1935 to March 1936 he spends six months in Fez, goes to Tafilalet, then returns to Paris to participate in the “Concours de Rome”. In July 1936 he obtains the “Premier Grand Prix” along with his friend Jean Pinet, who died very young. From August to October 1936, accompanied by his wife Annette Faive, he returns to Morocco, stops for a time in Casablanca, then settles in Rabat, from where he takes frequent trips South. His paintings from that period show his attachment to the luminosity of this country that fascinates him and to scenes from everyday life. He holds a personal exhibition in Rabat where he sells a painting to the city’s museum. The French State buys a painting for the National Museums.
In January, he leaves for the Villa Medici in Rome, where he will stay until March 1939. He occupies Ingres’ studio. He works a lot in the Italian museums and travels in the regions of Veneto, Tuscany, etc.
He meets André Greck, a sculptor, who makes a bust of him in bronze. In Rome, he also meets André Gide, for whom he will do illustrations later on. When Gide dies, Lucien will be contacted to make a series of drawings and oil paintings of the author on his death bed.
Lucien Fontanarosa exhibits the work he did in Italy at the Musée de l’Orangerie, in Paris. He is awarded the “Prix Cottet”.
He is commissioned by the State to decorate one of the four entries of the French Pavillon at the Water Exhibition in Liège (Belgium). He fulfills this assignement with another painter, Annette Faive, whom he has just married in Rome during his stay there from May to June. After returning from Rome, he sets up a new studio at the Buttes Chaumont, in the 19th district of Paris (97, rue Compans).
When war breaks out, he is drafted into the infantry, which will not prevent him from participating in collective exhibitions abroad. The Museum of Sofia buys one of his paintings. The sketches, drawings and studies that he realizes during his military service will later be bought by the Museum of War, at the Invalides.
During an exhibition at the Orangerie of the work he did in Rome, he meets Edouard Vuillard, who will give him lots of advice. He is awarded the “Prix Gillot-Dar”. Whenever he can, he paints sceneries of Paris near the Canal Saint-Martin or in Saint-Denis.
In January 1940, Edouard Vuillard says of his work : “We can let ourselves express our joyous praise upon seeing Fontanarosa’s paintings. How grateful we must be, because today, a young artist has attempted to do a real painting. He has accomplished a true composition which is not just a simple study. His talent to imagine, to organize, to harmonize shapes and colours is shown with generosity.”
The French State buys his Paysage de Venise for Chartres’ Museum.
Upon returning from the war, carried away by a dizziness of colours he felt incapable of overcoming, he imposes upon himself, in order to organize his palette, to reduce it to the extreme point of beginning a new : at that time, he destroys a large part of his paintings and drawings.
He is commissioned by the State to paint a fresco for the staff room of Marcelin Berthelot High School, in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés. The State buys his composition Le brabant (200 x 285 cm), which now decorates the Crédit Agricole Bank in Paris. He is nominated member of the management committee of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
He decorates the Richelieu lecture theatre of the Faculty of Arts in Poitiers. The siege of La Rochelle is the theme. This decoration will disappear or be destroyed when restoration work is done at the faculty. The State buys Les Buttes-Chaumont (53 x 73 cm) for the Musée National d’Art Moderne (National Museum of Modern Art).
His son, Patrice Fontanarosa, comes into the world in Paris.
Lucien meets Jean Aubecq, a collector who buys a number of his paintings and becomes his friend. Lucien sells Les Chevaux (200 x 200 cm) to the French State for the Château-Gontier city hall. The painter moves to Bry-sur-Marne with his friend François Fauck, another painter, whom he met in Lucien Simon’s class at the Beaux-Arts. He will spend the summer months working there.
Returning from captivity, his friend Jacques Ratier opens the Chardin Gallery in Paris (36, rue de Seine). From then on, they will never stop working together. The City of Paris buys the large painting, Paysage de Neuilly sur Marne.
He is commissioned to decorate the reception hall of Saint-Germain-en-Laye city hall. For financial reasons, this work will never be displayed. It is now kept by the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain. After the war, he takes part in a French Art exhibition in Luxembourg.
Frédérique Fontanarosa comes into the world in Paris.
The publishing house Les Editions Gasnier commissions illustrations for L’Empreinte du Dieu written by Maxence Van der Meersch. Lucien thus draws lithographs in black for this book. He becomes member of the jury of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. During the summer, he travels to Brittany where he realizes several paintings.
He is nominated member of the jury of the Concours de Rome (for painting) and teacher at the American Academy of Fontainebleau. Mr. and Mrs. Aubecq lend him a studio on their property in Acheux, near Amiens. Lucien goes there regularly to work with other painters (Roger Chapelain-Midy, Robert Humblot, Claude Schurr, etc.).
The City of Paris offers the city of Stockholm his painting Place de la Concorde.
Renaud Fontanarosa comes into the world in Paris.
Lucien decides to no longer participate in major exhibitions for a certain time. He organizes his first personal exhibition at the Chardin Gallery. The French State buys his Pichet d’étain and a Nature morte (still life) for the Ministry of Finance. From now on, he spends all his summers in Fontainebleau, working on his paintings and teaching at the American Academy. For the publishing house, Les Editions Les Heures Claires, he illustrates Wuthering Heights with fifty water-colours that Armanelli will engrave on wood.
The State buys his painting Fleurs for the Chancellery of the Legion of Honour. Lucien illustrates Pages d’amour de la Rose des Sables by Henry de Montherlant with lithographs in colours for the publishing house, Editions Laffont.
Second personal exhibition in Paris at the Chardin Gallery. Along with Derain, Dufy, Van Dongen, Christian Bérard, Clavé and others, he participates in the illustrations of “Récits, Romans, Soties” by André Gide for the publishing house N.R.F. Gallimard (“L’Immoraliste“). He participates in a contemporary painting exhibition at the Pavillon de Marsan with La Répétition – which he will partially modify in 1953.
He realizes a number of lithographs for the publisher Editions La Bonne Compagnie, to illustrate the works of the poet Ronsard.
After a personal showing in Lyon, he travels to Tuscany. He illustrates Terre des Hommes by Saint-Exupéry for the N.R.F.
He decorates the chapel of the Saint-Camille hospital in Bry-sur-Marne. He receives the prize of the Biennal Event of the City of Menton.
For the French State, he decorates the dining hall of Nogent-le-Rotrou’s high school. One of his paintings is shown at a French Art exhibition in Poland. He is member of the jury for the Concours de Rome (painting). For the N.R.F, he illustrates Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence.
This same publishing house also asks him to illustrate Poésies, Journal, Souvenir by André Gide, along with Brayer, Brianchon, Chapelain-Midy, Clavé, Dunoyer de Segonzac, etc.
Lucien Fontanarosa is invited to the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps (‘Painters as Witnesses of their Time’), where he shows La Chasse. The City of Paris buys Tulipes jaunes for its modern art museum.
He shows a series of compositions around the theme of music for his third personal exhibition at the Chardin Gallery in Paris. For the N.R.F., he illustrates Bataille dans la Montagne by Jean Giono.
Lucien is elected member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (fine arts French academy) (Institut de France). He does not wish to carry the traditional sword. Instead, he prefers to be offered a guitar.
The State commissions him to decorate Malakoff technical high school.
Invited to the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, he shows his painting Le Bonheur. For the N.R.F., he illustrates the Poésies complètes by Francis Carco, along with Vlaminck, Dignimont, Brayer, etc.
He travels to London for his exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery. He illustrates Le Moulin de la Sourdine by Marcel Aymé for the N.R.F. At the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, he exhibits the portrait of the actor Albert Rémy in a composition called L’artiste dans sa loge (100 FF – 130 x 162 cm). The State will buy this work for Albi Museum.
He is invited to the first painting festival in Vichy and takes a short trip to Holland.
In a few years, the Chardin Gallery has acquired the support of such painters as Paul Charlot, Claude Schurr, Marzelle, of the sculptor Volti and of the ceramist Henry Plisson. Not only does Lucien Fontanarosa approve of these choices, but he and his friends create a unique atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect. For the Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, the artists paints Le Boxeur (120 FF – 130 x 195 cm), a large composition shown at the Salon des Tuileries. He illustrates Germinal by Emile Zola for the N.R.F.
In December, he is made chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the French Ministry of Education.
For the Salon “Comparaisons”, he sends his painting L’enfant aux instruments de musique, and for the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, Le dimanche au bord de la Marne.
In June, he organizes his fourth personal exhibition in the Chardin Gallery. The Ecole Polytechnique appoints him junior lecturer for drawing and plastic arts classes.
He buys a house at La Cadière d’Azur, in the Var (Southern France), an area he discovered in the 30’s and 40’s. He sets up a studio there where he will regularly work. The Mediterranean climate will inspire him many compositions and still lifes.
He exhibits Le chantier at the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps. Both art critics and the public notice and highly appreciate this painting. The City of Paris buys Dimanche au bord de la Marne .
Danseuse is bought by the Musée de Bougie in Bejaia, Algeria. That year, he sends to the Peintres Témoins de leur Temps Le Trio, portraying his three children, all musicians (1, 2, 3).
He decorates the “Roussillon” apartment of the French liner “France” and he paints a decoration for the Ecole Estienne in Paris. He illustrates Poussière by Rosamund Lehmann and Colas Breugnon by Romain Rolland. In May, the city council of the City of Paris awards him the “Grand Prix de Peinture de La Ville de Paris”.
Faithful exhibitor in the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, Lucien sends his Le pont de l’autoroute de Marseille. In May, he has his fifth personal showing at the Chardin Gallery. For the first time in 25 years, Venice is the subject of some of his paintings. Crowds of French and foreign visitors make the exhibition a success. Lucien illustrates Rebecca by Daphné du Maurier, Noé by Jean Giono and Tartarin de Tarascon by Alphonse Daudet. He decorates the library of the Science Faculty in Orsay University.
In January, the Chardin Gallery, in collaboration with the Palm Beach Galleries, organizes an important exhibition of Lucien Fontanarosa’s work in Florida. Once again, the success of this showing surpasses all expectations. In May, for its twentieth anniversary, the Chardin Gallery organizes an exhibition entitled “Joie de vivre” (joy of living), where Lucien shows ten remarkable paintings. He also shows seven paintings at the Munich Museum in an exhibition called “French contemporary painting”. The German press write very enthusiastic articles on his work. He also exhibits L’art et la médecine at the Roger Dulac Gallery, in Paris. For the N.R.F., he illustrates Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and La guerre des boutons by Louis Pergaud. The City of Paris awards him a medal, the Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris.
He moves his studio in the 17th district of Paris (32, Cité des Fleurs). It is a quiet place where those who admire his work often visit him.
He decorates a ceiling in the Lycée de l’Ouest in Nice, which later will become the Lycée Honoré d’Estienne d’Orves. The subject is “La fête marine” (Celebration of the sea). He then decorates the technical school of Châtellerault. For the French Postal services, he paints an important decoration for the Salon de la Philatélie (stamp collecting fair). This work will later be transferred to the central post office in Macon. He participates in a collective exhibition in Nice at the Palais de la Méditerranée along with Carzou, Bret, Goerg, Limouse, Cavaillès, Brayer. Approximately 10 water-colours are showed at the Chardin Gallery as part of an exhibition on “Water and Fire” with the other regular artists of the gallery. That same year, Lucien illustrates Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck.
Lucien Fontanarosa decorates four panels (the four seasons) for a school in the 17th district of Paris (rue Ampère). He illustrates For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. He prepares admirable illustrations for Sous la lumière froide by Pierre Mac Orlan.
An influent Japanese gallery shows Lucien Fontanarosa’s work in Osaka. At the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, his Cabanon is one of the most appreciated paintings. A few months later, it will become part of an American collection.
Lucien illustrates Dostoevski’s novel Crime and Punishment. Then he works on La chanson de Ronsard which will be shown at the Peintres Témoins de leur Temps. Since 1957, the Léandro Gallery in Geneva has been permanently showing paintings by Lucien. And the Verrière Gallery in Lyon (13, Quai Romain-Rolland) has been doing so since 1963.
At the beginning of the year, Lucien Fontanarosa shows Les guerilleros at the Peintres Témoins de leur Temps. In February, the famous department store Le Printemps organizes on its fourth floor a major contemporary art exhibition which 150 000 visitors will come to see. Lucien Fontanarosa participates in this event and will sell two of his paintings there. He illustrates “La maison Tellier” by Guy de Maupassant, and at the beginning of the spring, he starts working on his 1969 exhibition.
The exhibition is scheduled for June and it takes up most of his time. The public is eagerly awaiting this showing since the previous one dates back to 1962. In February, he is once again invited by Le Printemps. He illustrates Till Eulenspiegel for the publisher Union Latine d’Editions.
The publisher Editions Pierre Cailler in Lausanne is the first one to publish a book on his work.
At the Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, Lucien Fontanarosa exhibits Le rêve, a painting of his wife, Annette Faive, surrounded by music instruments, the symbol of this exceptional family of artists. Along with the group of artists of the Chardin Gallery, he participates in the exhibition “Les fruits de l’été” (summer fruits).
He has the place of honour at the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps. For this exhibition he paints its poster La Salute à Venise and Le Gondolier for the cover of its catalogue. He is awarded the “Prix Léonard de Vinci” by the City of Amboise.
He exhibits with the sculptor Volti at the Verrière Gallery in Lyon. At the Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, he shows a new, fine, tender and generous painting, Le portrait d’Annette, a portrait of his wife. He illustrates Poèmes épiques for the publisher Union Latine d’Editions, as well as the Contes et Romans by Voltaire and Louange du tabac by Louis Pauwels.
With Le Luthier (“the instrument maker”), at the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, Lucien Fontanarosa shows the nobility, the prestige and the qualities of this profession for which he has tremendous respect. This Salon awards him the Grand Prix for 1973. In May, for the thirtieth anniversary of the Chardin Gallery, and along with other artists from the Gallery, he participates in the exhibition “Climats et lumières” (climates and lights).
He illustrates L’Avare by Molière for the publisher Bibliophiles du Palais.
From June to September, the Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice exhibits 150 works which Lucien Fontanarosa painted between 1934 and 1973. It is his first retrospective. The tremendous success of this exhibition matches the quality of his work. The preface of the catalogue is written by Claude Roger-Marx.
Lucien Fontanarosa exhibits Les amoureux dans la ville at the Peintres Témoins de leur Temps. It is a tribute to youth, love and life.
This year, he sends to the Peintres Témoins de leur Temps Dominique aux Melons d’eau (Dominique and watermelons), a remarkable work of light and intimate poetry. He prepares his personal exhibition scheduled for the spring of 1976 in Paris. But at the end of March, his bad health calls for hospitalization and for surgery. He dies a few days later, on Sunday, April 27th. He is buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
Lucien’s wife, Annette Faive-Fontanarosa, founds with Stéphane Löber the Lucien Fontanarosa Foundation, in order to make Lucien’s work known by the widest public. Stéphane Löber is also preparing an extensive catalogue of his work.