Nicolet, Frank Lucien - portrait of Rodin with The Thinker

Update - This miniature portrait has been included only in the European section of the collection. However, as recent research has shown that that Frank Nicolet mainly worked in Canada, the entry is now also being shown in the American 20C section of the collection.

Although somewhat larger than most miniature portraits at 243mm x 165mm, this is a stunning miniature portrait by Frank Lucien Nicolet (1889->1944) of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) standing by his most famous sculpture. It shows Rodin around 1905.

The bronze sculpture of Rodin shown here is by the British sculptor John Tweed (1869-1933), who was a good friend of Rodin.

It has been dated to around 1902 and is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection, see

There is a miniature portrait of John Tweed in this collection which is painted by John Stewart Clark. Whenever Rodin visited London, he stayed with John Tweed.

An early painting of Rodin is this 1881 portrait by Francois Flemang (1856-1923).

No doubt there are other paintings of Rodin, but the miniature portrait, being nearly contemporary with Rodin, must be rare as a painted portrait.

There are many images of Rodin's sculptures available on the Internet, but not many photographs of Rodin himself.

Those available do seem to support the view that the miniature of Rodin represents him around 1905.

One example of a photograph is this 1905 portrait by Walter Henry Barnett which is helpful in dating the miniature,

The head of Rodin in the miniature portrait is about the same size as would appear in a normal sized miniature portrait.

No direct source for the miniature has been found, although a biography of Rodin includes several photographs which seem to have been taken around the same time, as he is wearing the same dust coat. Contact has been made with the biographer and also the Rodin Museum, but neither of them had seen the image previously.

As indicated below, it is even faintly possible that Nicolet painted the portrait from life, although Nicolet would have been only aged about 16 at the time the portrait relates to.

It is more likely that Nicolet painted the miniature of Rodin as an illustration for a magazine article, perhaps around the time of Rodin's death, but to date no such magazine article has been located.

He was in Canada at some stage as a kind visitor has advised that Nicolet used to go fishing with his father in Canada and in addition, painted a portrait of him.

While there he painted several images which were used for Victory Bond war posters. They included this one titled "Doing my bit- Four Years".

Other Canadian references to F L Nicolet are found in Canada as the painter of more World War I Victory Bonds posters such as "Be yours to hold it high" which is part of the Ontario Archives Collection at Canadian Posters from the First World War - Victory Bonds

Another poster by him is this 1918 poster of a soldier in poppy fields."If ye break faith, we shall not sleep".

Both the latter two posters were inspired by the words in the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McRae, which was first published anonymously in the 8 December 1915 edition of Punch Magazine, as per the copy here below, where the words used on the posters can be seen.

It is owned by The Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, see Parks Canada - Teachers' Corner - The Price We Paid for Nationhood ...

This second poster was used as part of a campaign to raise $150 million, but it was so successful it raised $400 million. As a result Frank Nicolet was awarded a prize by the Canadian Government, see Amanda French SCMLA 2005 Poetic Propaganda and the Provincial ...

An example of the poster which is 61cm x 89 cm, was sold at auction on 19 April 2008 for a hammer price of $300.

There were a number of poems written in reply to Flanders Fields and some of them can be read at Reply-poems to In Flanders Fields

It has been difficult to find further many definite references to Nicolet the person, as opposed to the artist, but it seems likely that he is the Frank Nicolet listed in the 1930 USA census as lodging in White Plains, Westchester, NY. He described himself as an artist who had arrived in America in 1912, having been born in England in 1889 of French and English parents.

There is also a USA draft registration record of June 1917 completed by Frank L Nicolet born 21 October 1889 at Brighton, Sussex, England, who described himself an artist and at that time was living in New York. However, most references say he was born in Sussex England in 1887 and immigrated to Canada at an early age.

After the end of World War Nicolet continued to create posters, including this 1919 one about reconstruction which is part of the Elizabeth Coenan Collection, Provincial Museum of Alberta.

Although no record of him has been found in British census records, it may be that he was the son of Theophile Nicolet (1849-?) of St Etienne, France and Clara Clements (1860-?) his wife who was born on the Ganges, in India. They were married in JFM 1880 and are recorded in the 1891 census record, where Theophile Nicolet was a teacher of languages who lived in Brighton, Sussex, England with five children.

There are a couple of art records for watercolour paintings by a Theophile Nicolet dated 1913 and 1915, one titled "Venise" and the other "Bord de rivière" thus it seems possible that the Nicolet family were in France or Italy at some point after the 1891 British census.

Given this it is quite possible Frank Nicolet did meet Rodin in France.

There are references to Nicolet also making posters for World War II, see Liste alphabétique des titres : À nous de jouer : guide pratique ... 251


Kate said...

I purchased a piece of art today that has an F.L. Nicolet signature in the bottom left corner. The signature looks almost identical to the one featured on your blog post although the subject of the work is much different. The picture is of a covered bridge over a river in a scenic rolling hills environment. I'd be happy to send you a picture if you'd like. I'm just curious to know if you have any information about other works that Mr. Nicolet may have completed. Thanks so much!

Don Shelton said...

I am sorry I cannot help you, as all the information I found out about Frank Nicolet is recorded here.

Kate said...

Not a problem. Thanks so much for your response!

Claire Abel said...

My comment:

I am a great niece of the painter Theophile Nicolet. He was the son of Jean Nicolet the evangelist and Sophie his wife nee Sophie Dessoulavy of Fenin near Neuchatel Switzerland. He had three brothers: the Royal academician Gabriel Nicolet, the doctor Gustave Paul Nicolet and Clement Nicolet who was a pastor in Copenhagen. The children of Theophile Nicolet were Muriel, Dora, Daisy, Maud and Frank Nicolet who at the age of 16 emigrated to America. More details available.
Claire Abel-Nicolet

Simona said...

I'm curious, Claire! I have a large watercolor by Frank Nicolet, and have always wondered about his life.