Two silhouette of women in bonnets by Edgar Adolphe

Edgar Adolphe, a Frenchman in Brighton

THE FRENCHMAN known as “Monsieur Adolphe” seems to have been quite a character in Brighton. Was he responsible for the myth that silhouettes were a traditional French art?

Monsieur Adolphe – a local character

Silhouette of a young woman with ringlets in her hair
Miss E. ‘The Voila’ Rowe by Edgar Adolphe, c.1832

The French artist known as “Monsieur Adolphe” seems to have been quite a character. He was well known for his brand of ‘French’ silhouettes in nineteenth-century Brighton.

Edgar Adolphe was prolific silhouettist who worked in Brighton throughout the 1830s and 40s. He is most famous for his posthumous profile of George IV. His work is always signed and so easily identified.

Edgar Adolphe began making silhouettes in France for King Louis Philippe (or so he said) before making his way to Brighton in the 1830s.. He mostly painted bust, ¾ and full length silhouettes on card, as well as compositions and profile miniatures. His silhouettes are his best work.

Silhouettes in the French style

Silhouette of a woman with a bonnet and shawl, painted in some detail
Wife of a naval officer, by Edgar Adolphe, c.1836

Though he did sometimes paint purely in black, Edgar Adolphe’s style is defined by his restrained use of colour and embellishments. He preferred to use green-grey and blue-grey watercolour as a base colour, rather than black, adding gold and white details on top. Many of his silhouettes have a line of shadow (thin black paint) below the bust-line, which gives them a slightly 3D effect. They look like the silhouette is floating about 2mm above the paper.

Collector’s items

Today, Adolphe silhouettes are prized collector’s item, hard to come by and quite valuable. They are quite easy to spot, juts look for “Adolphe” in neat letters under the bust line.

Silhouette of a woman with a bonnet and scarf, painted in some detail
Portrait of a lady, by Edgar Adolphe, c.1830s

Further information about Edgar Adolphe

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