Pierre Outin (1840-1899) was born in Moulins in central France. His father was a wealthy trader who did not approve of his son’s taste for drawing and painting and discouraged Outin’s interest in the subject at his High School. He was sent to work for the silk trade in England, an attempt by his father to remove the creative flair his son so clearly possessed. Upon his return to France he was hired into the silk trade in Paris, much to his father’s satisfaction.
Unhappy in his forced employment, Outin emancipated himself from his father and left the trade. Under the encouragement of the artist Charles Joseph Lecointe, a highly lauded landscape painter, and a close family friend, Outin joined the studio of Alexandre Cabanel. Under Cabanel’s tutorage Outin embraced the traditional academic style celebrated in the Paris Salon of the day. In 1863 Outin was awarded the first prize at the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
Like many artists of his generation, he frequented the infamous Parisian café La Nouvelle Athènes, and became associated with Manet, Pissaro and Goeneutte, but his work retained its traditional style. In 1868 Outin submitted his first oil painting to the committee of the Paris Salon, and from this point onwards he became a regular Salon participant. His specialisation in historical scenes was favoured by the traditional Salon authorities and his genre scenes were adored by the public. During the Seige of Paris from 1870 to 1871 Outin settled in Auvers-sur-Oise on the edge of the city.
In 1874, Outin travelled to Algeria, where he remained for many years, mesmerized by the African land, the colourful cities, luminosity and the oriental clothes. The experience of these new surroundings strongly influenced his work upon his return to Paris, his palette became richer with a greater use of lighter shades. Outin’s orientalist works of this period were gracious and elegant, and showcased his talent as a draughtsman and colourist. As Outin’s style matured after his orientalist phase, his compositions were highly revered at the Paris Salon. During the 1880 Salon, the art critic Maurice du Seigneur recorded that Outin’s painting "Course d’Automne" was the main attraction.
Following this phenomenal success, Outin was awarded many medals and was praised by the Salon critics. In his 1885 Guide du Salon Louis Enault, the French novelist, journalist and translator described that ‘there is no way to dream of a more charming escape from life’ than in Outin’s paintings. In 1889 Outin exhibited his most famous painting, “Episode de la Déroute de Quiberon”, a magnificent history painting of this decisive battle in 1759 between the French and British during the Seven Years War. This painting was unrivalled for its compositional prowess and historical accuracy whilst also sensitively capturing the emotive drama and destruction of war and Outin was awarded an Honorable mention.
Throughout his career Goupil & Cie purchased Outin’s paintings directly from the artist and his work was also collected by English, American and German collectors that admired his elegant and lyrical paintings of the historical genre. Many of Outin’s works are on permanent display in his home town of Moulins.