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Elbert Hubbard: An American Original - WNED | PBS

Early Artisans

Alexis Fournier

Alexis Fournier Richard Le Gallienne and Alexis Fournier
Courtesy of the Elbert Hubbard Roycroft Musuem

Alexis Jean Fournier (American, 1865-1948)

Born: St. Paul, Minnesota
Died: Lackawanna, New York (near East Aurora)

Born to French Canadian parents in St. Paul, Minnesota, Alexis Jean Fournier became a plein air painter and one of the most prolific and enduring artists of the Arts and Crafts period.

The young Fournier worked as a sign painter and scenery artist before beginning his studies in 1886 with Douglas Volk, founding director of the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts. The following year, Fournier opened a studio, and in 1888, he produced a series of landscapes depicting vistas outside of Minneapolis. Unlike his later, Barbizon-inspired landscapes, these paintings present a clear, straightforward vision of naturalism.

One of Fournier's early patrons hired him to be the staff artist on an archaeological trip to the American Southwest. Following their excursion, Fournier painted a 50 x 12 foot panoramic mural called The Cliff Dwellers for exhibit at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. That autumn, he moved to Paris and entered the Académie Julian where he studied under Jean Paul Laurens, Benjamin Constant, and Henri Harpignies. One of his earliest paintings, A Spring Morning Near Minnehaha Creek, was exhibited at the Salon of 1894.

Fournier also exhibited at Buffalo's Pan American Exposition in 1901 with fellow Académie Julian landscape painter Sandor Landeau. In 1902, Elbert Hubbard bought a Fournier painting in Chicago and shortly thereafter invited the artist to come to Roycroft. Fournier, his wife Emma and their two children, Grace and Paul, moved to East Aurora in 1903.

Alexis Fournier - Peace Peace
Courtesy of a Private Collector

As artist-in-residence, Fournier became an influential force in the Roycroft community and one of Hubbard's closest associates. Hubbard gave Fournier property adjacent to the Roycroft campus, and it was there Fournier set up his home and studio. His painting Hollyhocks in the Garden, The Bunglehouse depicts a smaller home and studio that he built on the property.

Fournier's landscapes of this period are typically atmospheric views of the countryside often with idyllic traces of human occupation in the form of houses, gardens, or flocks. Many are exemplary of the tonalist aesthetic that was closely associated with the American Arts and Crafts Movement.

Fournier, often referred to as the last American Barbizon painter, went to the village of Barbizon, France in 1907 to paint the studios and homes of the great French painters. Recalling Elbert Hubbard's narrative sketches in his popular Little Journeys series, "The Homes and Haunts of the Barbizon Masters" was shown at the Schaus Art Galleries in New York in March 1910 before going on tour.

In addition to his activities with Roycroft, Fournier painted at the artist colonies in Woodstock, New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts. After Elbert Hubbard's death in 1915, Fournier also spent a significant amount of time in Brown County, Indiana where he developed an American Impressionist style. He was, however, actively involved with Roycroft and maintained his primary residence at the Walnut Street "Bunglehouse" until his death in 1948.

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Funding for Elbert Hubbard: An American Original provided by The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation
Elbert Hubbard: An American Original is a production of WNED-TV