Goupil, Léon Lucien (1834-1891)

Goupil, Léon Lucien (1834-1891)
Goupil, Léon Lucien (1834-1891)

Léon-Lucien Goupil was an accomplished French painter of historical and genre subjects. He worked during the mid to late 19th century, a time of great transition for European art. But unlike many of his contemporaries, he rebuked the advances of modern tastes, preferring to stick with his classical ideals. In this respect, he was a rebel in his own right.

His artistic education was a formal affair at the Paris School of Fine Arts under Ary Scheffer and his brother Henri. Both were romantics and Ary, in particular, was well-admired for his fine brushwork and exquisite figures. Also the teacher of King Louis Philippe I’s children. For young Goupil, his training would’ve been taxing, with the focus on perfecting one’s drawing skills and studying the old masters, yet equally rewarding.

At just 16, in 1850, he debuted at the Paris Salon, somewhat audaciously with a self-portrait. It was a fascinating exhibition with a palpable tension between old and new. The behemoths of French romanticism, such as Eugene Delacroix, were represented - so too were the classicists. But equally, the young realist painters, such as Gustave Courbet and Théodore Rousseau were also shown. Courbet with his controversial ‘The Stone Breakers’. It’s evident that Goupil favoured his classical teachings and interesting to consider how he felt amid this dizzying array of ideologies.

He continued to exhibit at the Paris Salon for decades to come - maintaining his beliefs, despite these changing times. Living predominantly in Paris with his brother, Jules, also an artist.

In 1867, he produced a scintillating portrayal of Catherine of Aragon staring longingly towards a window. Her raised right hand supporting her cheek, while the other droops forlornly. A book lays open on a nearby table - perhaps her only escape from a lonely existence. He often turned to the past for inspiration, producing portraits of models dressed as Renaissance courtesans and tavern scenes overrun with bawdy cavaliers. Each handled with careful attention to the ornate details and sumptuous drapery.

In his later years, he moved to Montmartre in Paris, a melting pot of artistic creativity. The impressionists, Monet, Manet, Degas, Pisarro, Cézanne etc, were frequenting the same cafes. The discussions would’ve been lively, to say the least. In one such meeting place, the Café Pigalle, Goupil, having heard a story regarding the smell of the place, painted a rat on the ceiling. It remains in place today and has become synonymous with the venue, which was renamed ‘Le Rat Mort’.

Today, as we look back on the oeuvre of this mostly forgotten artist, it’s easy to overlook that his classical approach and fine technique were controversial in their own way.

He’s represented in numerous public collections including the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts, Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, and National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires.


Paris Salon, Limoux, Dancourt Gallery in Montmartre.

Public Collections

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, Dijon Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of the Château de Compiègne, Museum of Fine Arts of Pau, Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Rennes Museum of Fine Arts.



Born in Paris to Pierre-Charles Goupil and Marie-Élisabeth Goupil (nee Havard).

Studied at the Paris School of Fine Arts under Ary and Henri Scheffer.


Debuted at the Paris Salon with a self-portrait. He continued to exhibit until 1887.
Lived in Paris.


Lived in Antwerp and Brussels.


Returned to Paris and lived with his younger brother, Jules-Adolphe.


Died in Paris.

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