Umbricht, Honoré Louis (1860-1943)

Umbricht, Honoré Louis (1860-1943)
Umbricht, Honoré Louis (1860-1943)

Honoré Louis Umbricht was a distinguished French painter of genre scenes, landscapes, stills and portraits.

Born in the attractive city of Obernai, in the Alsace region of North-East France, Umbricht had inspiration at his fingertips. Distant mountains, picturesque valleys, the sparkling Ehn River, and sprawling rural plains - a veritable smorgasbord of views. He honed his draughtsmanship under the tuition of his uncle, ‘Hess’, and was soon offered a scholarship by the German government to study in Munich. He refused, however, and headed for Paris to train under the highly-regarded Léon Bonnat (1833-1922).

Bonnat’s studio was synonymous with success and he encouraged his students to paint freely and with expression. His own portraits were influenced by the Spanish masters, such as Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), and he extolled the virtues of this style. Umbricht was in fine company as Bonnat also trained John Singer Sargent, P. S. Krøyer, Erik Werenskiold, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Gustave Caillebotte among others.

Following his training, the Paris Salon beckoned and the young Umbricht’s debut came in 1880. By 1884, he’d been awarded his first medal and several more would follow including at the Chicago and London Exhibition and the prestigious Exposition Universelle (1900). He was subsequently knighted with the Cross of the Order of Leopold.

Midway through his career, the critics were alive with praise describing his portraits as “full of mastery” and with “very true and harmonious” colouring. In 1911, the newspaper ‘Le Rappel’ described him as “earning a place among our best portraitists”. His adroit handling of colour was often the highlight of press reviews, rarely dull, he preferred to tantalise the eyes with a lively, yet harmonious palette.

From the 1920s onwards, his career seems to have plateaued, perhaps due to the rise of the avant-garde in Paris. Interest waned in classically inspired works in favour of the emerging modernists. During this later period, he produced numerous portraits for local dignitaries, such as the daughter-in-law of Alexandre Grosjean, mayor of Besançon. These were full of guile, energy and his trademark effervescence. Each underpinned by his education with Bonnat - the spirit of Velázquez firmly front of mind.

Today, the achievements of Honoré Louis Umbricht are consigned to the archives and rarely do his works surface. He was a traditionalist usurped by new Parisian ideologies. His daughter, Marie-Thérèse Umbricht, also became a painter. He’s represented at various museums including in Nancy and Strasbourg.


Paris Salon, Société des Arts, Salon d'hiver, Monte Carlo Salon.

Public Collections

Witt Library at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, Nancy Museum of Fine Arts, Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, L’ancien Musée Historique in Obernai, Obernai Town Hall.



Born in Obernai, France, to Laurent André Umbricht and Josephine Umbricht (nee Fritz).

Trained in Strasbourg in the studio of ‘Huss’.

Trained in Paris under Léon Bonnat.


Debuted at the Paris Salon with a self-portrait and a portrait of his mother.


Awarded a medal at the Paris Salon.


Married Marie Thérèse Octavie Fritz.


Awarded a First Class Medal at the Chicago and London Exhibition.


Received an Honourable Mention at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.


Elected a member of the Société des Artistes Français.


Awarded a Grande Gold Medal at the Rouen Exhibition.


Awarded a medal at the Paris Salon.


Awarded a medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.

Knighted with the Cross of the Order of Leopold.


Biography in Le Journal newspaper.

“A young man began his studies as a painter in Strasbourg, in the studio of Huss, his uncle and his first master. He refused the subsidy that the German government offered him to the School of Fine Arts from Munich, and came to settle in Paris. A student of the master Bonnat, whose powerful execution he had, Umbricht began at the Salon of 1880 with a ‘portrait’. From then on, his success grew, and in 1884, a third medal rewarded him for his efforts. Out of competition since 1898, H. Umbricht, through the search for character, the intimate individuality which emerges from his works, has earned a place in the forefront among the artists of our contemporary school.

Among the most noted portraits, we must cite: Madame la Baronne de Sury d’Apremont (1888). A bad path in the Vosges the portraits of Mr. Jobert (1890), of Doctor Huchard (1891), of Mr. Henri Boucher, former minister of commerce (1892), of Monseigneur d'Hulst and Albert Sorel, of the Academy French (1896), Madame de Santa-Anna Nerri (1897), Mr. Knieder (1898), Mr. Dollfus, the famous collector of paintings, etc.

At the same time, H. Umbricht continued to send works to major exhibitions in France and abroad. First Class Medal at the Chicago and London Exhibition (1888). Grande gold medal at the Rouen Exhibition (1897). Out of competition at the Brussels Exhibition, which earned him, as a final distinction, the cross of the Order of Leopold. Member of the Society of French Artists, H. Umbricht exhibited at the Salon of 1901, an exquisite portrait of Mt D and a Lord of the past of a scale and richness of colouring which is reminiscent of the masters of the Renaissance.”


Reviewed in L’Univers.

“M. H. Umbricht exhibits three excellent portraits, including one of a woman which seemed to me full of mastery. The design and colouring are very true and harmonious. I will say the same about his Player whose expressive physiognomy perfectly depicts the disappointment and anger of having lost the game.”


Referred to in La France regarding works shown at the Paris Salon.

“Two pretty portraits by M. H. Umbricht must be praised as they deserve: the charming Mme de R. and the portrait of the viscount de S. F. Mr. Brispot's two brothers are painted with great wit and great taste.”


Referred to in Le Rappel regarding works shown at the Salon d'hiver.

“such lively and luminous figures of M. H. Umbricht (who seems to me to be earning a place among our best portraitists)...”


Referred to in L’Alsacien-Lorrain de Paris et des départements, français et annexés following an exhibition.

“M. H. Umbricht made various submissions such as the Reading, the Philosopher, the Company Leader and a portrait. In the Reading, we see a Louis XIII gentleman in a large plumed felt hat, a lace collar and a purple doublet, enhanced with an orange belt, leafing through an old folio. The design and colouring of this work are most commendable. The Philosopher is only a small sketch, but very original, of a reiter smoking his pipe. The Company Leader is quite simply a partridge which, although still life, gives the illusion of a living nature. Finally, the portrait represents a young man, with an energetic face, barred by a strong red moustache. This head is treated with truly remarkable care and stature.”

Reviewed in The International Studio.

“A proud independence of character and spirit, a very ardent temperament dedicated to the service of a noble ideal, such are the distinguishing traits of the Alsacian painter Honoré Umbricht. He was born at Obernai in Alsace, and his childhood's days were passed in this little town picturesquely nestling at the foot of the chain of the Vosges, not far from the mountain of Saint-Odile, one of the most interesting spots in the environs of Strasbourg. Strasbourg it was that saw his first joys as artist; the spire of its old cathedral typified his dreams of adolescence, which he later followed in Paris with so much perseverance and success, so that today we find Honoré Umbricht hors concours and member of the Committee of the Salon des Artistes Français.

On his arrival in Paris Umbricht entered the studio of Bonnat, a master who will stand in the history of contemporary art as the head of a school, and a school of which Honoré Umbricht is one of the most brilliant disciples. Umbricht was born an artist; he became a painter through unflagging study of drawing and colour. He is always severely critical of his own work and admits of no compromise when he comes to depict what is for him the truth, whether he is painting the scenes and landscapes of his own Alsace, or still-life pieces, or when he sets himself the task of transferring to his canvas all the character and expression of the human face. He has succeeded in realising the perfect artistic equilibrium of the painter and portraitist, and in this latter branch he is particularly successful.

The pictures and portraits of Honoré Umbricht, have nothing to fear from the flight of time, for his palette is never dull or monochromatic, but on the contrary is flooded with light and all sparkling with harmonious colouring. Among the portraits, that of Mlle. Marie-Thérèse Umbricht, a work of exquisite technique and great charm, caused quite a sensation in the Salon of 1912. In all of them, however, we find ever present his brilliant qualities as artist; his works are distinguished by their powerful execution and by their beauty of appearance. They have nothing superficial, but are on the contrary solidly built up, closely observed and comprehended, and by virtue of these facts give an undoubted impression of life. Is it not, indeed, the function of the portrait painter to reveal the mind and in some sort, if he can, the soul of his sitter?”


Lived in Paris with his wife, Octavie, and daughter, Marie-Thérèse, who was also a painter and trained by her father.


Died in Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines.

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