The Ponchin Legacy: Two Generations of Masterful Art

The Ponchin Legacy Collage

This exhibit from the Museum’s permanent collection pays homage to the creative work of two generations of acclaimed artists from the south of France- Antoine Ponchin (1872-1933) and his son, Jos. Henri Ponchin (1897-1981). All of the paintings were generously donated to the Museum by Renee Ponchin Barnes, daughter of Jos. Herni and a lifelong resident of North Alabama.

The Ponchins were unusual among artists- a father and son who were equally well trained and critically respected in their native France. Antoine’s father, Louis Ponchin (1828-1899) was also an artist, best known as a genre painter who exhibited extensively at the Paris Salon and painted many religious murals in cathedrals throughout southern France.

Antoine Ponchin went on to become a landscapist, achieving the title Hors-Concours, a distinguished mark of achievement in the French artistic community. He received his training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Marseille, and achieved the honored position of official artist of the French navy.  In 1926, both he and his son were selected by the French Ministry of Fine Arts to decorate the palace of the Governor General of Indochina. While in Hanoi, Antoine founded the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for Vietnamese and French artists. Upon his return to Paris, Antoine reconnected with the artistic community there, and became acquainted with Pablo Picasso. Mrs. Barnes remembers Picasso visiting her grandfather at his studio across from the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, and addressing him as “Mon cher Ponchin.”

Jos. Henri Ponchin followed in his father’s footsteps and became a landscape painter. He trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and graduated first in his class. Most of his career was spent in Provence painting in and around his family’s ancestral home in the village of Martigues. Like his father, he received many prizes and honors during his long career.

Highlights of the exhibition include a dramatic rendering of Les Baux in the South of France, a view of the entrance to the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, scenes of quaint cities and towns in Provence, and paintings inspired by travels to exotic locales in North Africa.

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