Edouard-Léon Cortès was born in the small town of Lagny, east of Paris. His father and grandfather were accomplished artists who advised and trained the young Cortès. In 1899 he exhibited for the first time at the Société des Artistes in Paris and was immediately noticed as being a talented young man.
His early paintings reflected his life in the countryside, showing a strong relationship with nature. In 1901 his attention was drawn to the city of lights – Paris. Over a period of time, his impressionistic technique, full of life and vitality, recorded the history of this ever-changing and bustling city. Cortès portrayed life in the French capital in all its moods, full of drama and romance. In subsequent years he regularly sent canvases of Parisian scenes, often represented at night or in snow to major exhibitions. His work was becoming known and admired by a larger audience.
“When I see a place that I have painted, especially in Paris, year after year and above all ten years later, I am always fascinated and gratified by the changes. I was often impatient to know how one place or another had changed since I had painted them. How would they be today? this month? this season? under a hot sun, under snow, after rain…” quote from Edouard Cortès by David Klein 1999, p 212.
Little is known of Cortès as a young man in the years when he was coming of age during the Belle Epoque (c.1885 – 1914). His prolific output presents a masterly record of this provocative time. Cortès married his wife Lucienne Joyeuse in 1918 and shortly after settled in Paris, but by the mid 1920’s they had moved back to Lagny. This period saw Cortès build his reputation as an academic artist. He was an active member of the Union des Beaux-Arts de Lagny and was the Union’s first president. Their inaugural exhibition was held in 1927 and Cortès continued to exhibit there until the late 1930’s. After winning many awards from most major institutions he was invited to exhibit in America and Canada in 1945, and world recognition soon followed.