Sophie la Rosiere

Biography

Born in 1867 as the only child of a small manufacturer, Sophie grew up in the town of Nogent-sur-Marne, outside of Paris. Raised Catholic, she was sent to a convent in Aubervilliers for her formative years. As a child, accompanying her father on some work errands, she met Madeleine Smith, with whom she would develop a life-long friendship. Born into an aristocratic family residing in a chateau in Nogent, Madeleine was raised together with her sister Jeanne by her early-widowed mother. Stemming from this friendship Sophie developed a deep interest in collecting and pressing plants, and in drawing and painting. She would later develop these interests further over the following decade as she obsessively documented her passionate, but hidden relationship with Florence, a model much younger than her that she met during this most productive period.

During the First World War, Florence, her lover at that time, decided to work as a nurse in the military hospital that Madeleine and her sister had established in their chateau. By the end of the war she ended her relationship with Sophie. Apparently she moved to Paris, and no trace is found of her after.

Sophie lived on in the small house she had inherited from her parents, and maintained an unassuming, secluded lifestyle. In 1946, she moved into the retirement home for artists in Nogent that had been established by the estate of Jeanne and Madeleine Smith for the support of struggling artists. Sophie died in 1948 at the age of 81.

Sophie’s legacy

The inventory of Sophie’s work consists of 292 paintings, drawings, sketches and some plaster works. For a long time these works were were considered amateurish, mere Sunday-painter quality. However, two recently discovered works in the storage rooms of the retirement home sparked an extensive investigation into one phase of her production: the black paintings, consisting of black-beeswax encaustic underneath which oil paintings can be found. Relating to this period, which ending coincides with the end of the first World War, these paintings are considered of interest for their strange iconography: x-ray investigation show original vibrant coloured oil-paintings underneath that seems to reject any concrete classification in relation to the works of well-known peers of her time.

Read More: