Paul Cornoyer 1864-1923

Cheyne Walk and All Saints Church, London

  • 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower left: Paul Cornoyer

Why We Love It

Paul Cornoyer, his palette and style are usually moody and atmospheric and this picture fits that description perfectly. The temptation to compare it to Whistler and his efforts to capture the spirit of his adopted hometown is overwhelming. Tonality and composition far outweigh the pictorial importance of the work. Despite the fact that Cheyne Walk is a famous street in the Chelsea section of London, Cornoyer resists the temptation to turn out a picture postcard of the site and, instead, captures the essence of an early evening in that lovely part of town.

The Value

Cornoyer was best known for his interpretations of city landscapes. His early works of this subject were executed in Paris and later most of them were executed in New York. The London scenes, of which we have owned two, are rare. Other painters joined Paul Cornoyer in their depictions of city life and architecture, but few rival him.

Artist Background

1864: Born in St. Louis, Missouri; 1889-94: Traveled to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian; 1899: Moved to New York City upon the suggestion of William Merritt Chase, who admired Cornoyer’s work; 1900s: Started painting New York City street scenes in a Tonalist style, which gained him critical acclaim; 1923: Died.

Best known for his cityscapes, Paul Cornoyer used the tonal quality of his painting style to capture the look and feel of the street.  Although he is often affiliated with the Ashcan School his works lack the grit and action that mark the paintings of his peers.  Instead Cornoyer focused on the mood of a scene. He used a limited palette to great effect, creating a singular sense of atmosphere.

It’s difficult to determine when Cornoyer painted Cheyne Walk, as it is unclear when and if he returned to Europe after his studies in Paris.  Stylistically, the painting exhibits the characteristics that mark the artist’s mature work. The atmospheric, almost blurred quality of the composition is very much in keeping with Cornoyer’s preferred method of painting.  This in concert with the limited palette gives the scene a quiet mood.  As in all of Cornoyer’s cityscapes, he captures a moment in time and offers his viewer a glimpse of citylife almost a century ago.

Cheyne Walk and All Saint’s, or as it’s now called Chelsea Old Church, are two important historic monuments in Chelsea.  There has been a church on the site since the earliest time of Christianity in England.  The chancel dates from the 13th century and the nave and tower from 1670.  The south chapel was Sir Thomas Moore’s private chapel in the mid 1550s.  During the Blitz of World War II the church was nearly destroyed and today it looks quite different from the way Cornoyer pictured here.  It appears in JMW Turner’s and James McNeil Whistler’s depictions of city, but often simply as a tower in the distance (see in particular Whistler’s Nocturne: Blue and Gold — Old Battersea Bridge, c. 1872-75).  Cheyne Walk is equally historic.  Before the 19th century the houses that lined it fronted the banks of the River Thames.  Such cultural luminaries as JMW Turner, George Eliot, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeil Whistler, and Henry James all lived on the walk at various times in their lives.