Claudie Ressort, who died in Paris on 9th February 2021 at the age of eighty-seven, was for many years in charge of Spanish Paintings in the Louvre Museum. During her career spent entirely in that institution, she worked endlessly to defend the cause of Spanish Art and the place it should have in such a museum, beyond the exceptional masterpieces of Spain’s most renowned artists.
After her studies at the École du Louvre and a few years in the Educational Service of the museum, Claudie moved in 1969 to the Department of Paintings where she worked first both with Michel Laclotte, the head of Department, mainly on early renaissance painting, and with Jeannine Baticle (1920-2014) then chief curator of Spanish Paintings. She discreetly but very efficiently assisted Baticle in her series of important exhibitions – Goya (with A.B. De Vries, Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris; Mauristhuis, The Hague, 1970), La Galerie espagnole de Louis-Philippe (Louvre, 1981), Zurbarán (Paris, Grand Palais; New York, Metropolitan Museum, 1987-1988). From their close collaboration on another exhibition, then quite pioneering, Eugenio Lucas et les satellites de Goya (Lille and Castres museums, 1972) for which she established most of the challenging catalogue, she kept an interest in nineteenth-century Spanish painting that she liked to collect. Her first “solo exhibition”, Mariano Fortuny et ses amis français (Castres, 1974) that commemorated the centenary of the painter’s death also confronted a field then totally unclear.
In 1983, she took full responsibility for a seemingly modest exhibition, Murillo dans les musées français in the Louvre series “dossiers du département des peintures”. The catalog, one of the first to seriously tackle Murillo’s provenances, is still a mine of references today with its in-depth study of the masterpieces preserved in France and of the French taste for Murillo since the eighteenth century. She further deepened our knowledge of the exceptional collection of Murillo’s drawings held in the Louvre Cabinet des Dessins in Spanish Drawings: Masters of the 16th and 17th Centuries exhibition catalogue (Louvre, 1991, with Lizzie Boubli and Alfonso Pérez Sánchez).
Claudie’s preferred area of research was the Spanish painting of the 14th and 15th centuries, notably Catalan and Valencian works with their many contacts with Italy, but also those from Castille and Aragon. At the time of her death, she was working on the history of the Altarpiece of St George in the Victoria and Albert Museum, trying to resolve the enigma of its arrival in France around 1864. Her interest in the researches of the Louvre Research Laboratory and her exceptional ability to work in collaboration resulted in more than a dozen of important articles among them several written with Mathieu Hériard-Dubreuil on Valencian painting (1978, 1979 and 1994). Her death will be keenly felt among the specialists of this period who greatly respected her work and judgments.
A committed curator, Claudie was always looking for works to be acquired by the Louvre Museum or the Musée Goya in Castres. Jean-Louis Augé, who has just retired from his long curatorship in the latter museum, paid tribute to the help she gave him in his active acquisition policy, among them Herrera the elder’s Multiplication of loaves and a panel by Juan Rexach as well as in writing the catalogue raisonné of Castres paintings and sculptures of the 14th and 15th centuries (Cahiers du Musée Goya, n° 3, 2000). Once she took over the responsibility for Spanish Paintings after Jeannine Baticle’s retirement in 1988, she tried, in a difficult context, to obtain new paintings for the Louvre. She managed to acquire a Pieta by Morales, the splendid panel of Juan de Borgoña of The Virgin, Saint John, two holy women and St Dominique of Guzmán and three panels by the Maestro de Alcobacer. She was also always determined to study these new acquisitions as well as to help colleagues from “musées de province” with their Spanish works. She knew all these museums very well and started enthusiastically, some years ago, to contribute to a new project of inventorying the Spanish works kept in French public collections (RETIB) travelling to Burgundy, Franche-Comté or Aquitaine.
Claudie Ressort, was extremely attached to the scholarly tradition of museums, and keen to consummate her professional career by producing the catalogue raisonné of Spanish and Portuguese paintings at the Louvre, in a department that, apart from another curator, largely ignored this kind of task. The Musée du Louvre, Département des peintures, catalogue, Écoles espagnole et portugaise, Paris, Réunion des Musées nationaux 2002, to which she kindly associated me, is, with her 1982 catalogue of Murillo dans les musées français, her greatest legacy to the museum where she spent all her working life.
Almost ten years ago Claudie, still indefatigable, undertook the enormous task – and associated me again in this enterprise –of inventorying Spanish works that had passed through France between 1800 and 1914, and of studying their collectors. Her starting point was really to pay homage to the work of the bibliographer and bookseller Louis Soullié (1860-1940) whose manuscript of his never published Relevé détaillé des tableaux et dessins de l’École espagnole ayant passé dans les ventes de collection depuis 1801 is in the Library of the Prado museum. Claudie was able to complete most of her chapters and hopefully the finished work will be online in 2022.
Many scholars of Spanish art, Spaniards, British, American etc, older or even still quite young, will remember Claudie’s wonderful generosity and warm kindness: she was always ready to help them in their work, to guide them in the complicated network of libraries and archives, to share her immense knowledge of Spain but also, and these may be the most precious memories, to welcome them, as real friends, in her Parisian flat or her charming country house in the Chevreuse valley.
A list of Claudie Ressort’s publications can be found here.
Obituary and Bibliography written by Veronique Gerard-Powell.