Emile Charles Labbé (Mussy-sur-Seine 1820 - 1885 Alger), Banana trees, ca. 1850, black pencil on paper, ca. 27 x 41 cm.
Handwritten inscription lower right: "bananiers."
Born in Mussy-sur-Seine in 1820, Charles Emile Labbé attended Cabot's studio in Paris where he quickly became friends with Eugène Fromentin. Conquered by the forest landscapes of Compiègne, Fontainebleau and Normandy, the two companions worked together regularly. Labbé traveled extensively, notably to Italy from 1842 to 1845, but also to Greece, Turkey and especially Algeria where his family settled in Blidah in the 1850s. Deeply linked to this geographical area, he participated in the Exhibition of Painting, Sculpture and Arts Applied to Industry in Algiers in 1880. The following year, Charles Labbé was also appointed director of the National School of Fine Arts in the same city. A public education officer, the painter exhibited regularly at the Salons from 1836 to 1876. He seemed to meet with a certain success, the critic Alfred de Menciaux underlined in particular that "M. Charles Labbé has facility, but of this facility which pleases, because it does not exclude the severity of the execution".
Dating from the 1850s, this unpublished drawing represents banana trees sketched by the artist in Blidah, perhaps during one of his stays in Algeria. Charles Labbé is important for the history of art in this region since he is mentioned several times in the correspondence between Eugène Fromentin and Alexandre Bida. This sheet testifies to his talent and his undeniable passion for the Mediterranean region. His interest was as much in the flora as in the landscapes, but also in the different cultures present in this geographical area.