Pierre Adolphe Valette was born in St Etienne, a small manufacturing town thirty-six miles south of Lyon. Little is known of his family and early life, except that his parents were poor and that he studied at the local art school in St Etienne. His second wife Andree, believed that he started working at sixteen, so it was about 1862 that he went to Lyon to work as an engraver and painter whilst continuing his studies.
He travelled a great deal and it was in Bordeaux where he was enrolled in evening classes that he won the crucial scholarship in 1903, which was to bring him to England. He enrolled in the painting course at the Birkbeck Institute in London. For some reason he left for Manchester after only a few months, arriving around Spring 1904. He worked for some time on private commissions and designing calendars and tickets.
In the evenings Valette attended classes at the Municipal School of Art and by 1906 he was on the staff and was soon Art Master. Between 1906-20 Valette's presence seems to have transformed the school of Art. One of his pupils was L.S. Lowry, who went on to achieve world wide fame. Lowry paid tribute to Valette on a number of occasions.
Whilst in Manchester Valette produced some stunning paintings of Manchester city scenes seen through an impressionist eye. He captured the city in all it's moods, from the bustling streets during the day through to the sombre stillness of the canals on a cold wintery evening. Lowry was obviously influenced by the way Valette painted Manchester.
He exhibited in Manchester in 1912 and with The Society of Modern Painters in Liverpool on a regular basis until he left England in 1928. He retired to his parents cottage in Blache. He continued to paint in the latter part of his life, concentrating mainly on French Landscapes.
In recent years exhibitions of his work have been held at Manchester City Art Gallery in 1976 and in 1994. Catalogues of these exhibitions are available for purchase from Clark Art Ltd. The Lowry Centre, Salford held a hugely succesful exhibition between Nov 2011- Jan 2012. There is now great interest in Valette and new record prices are regularly being set at auction fro his work.
Adolphe Valette - Brief Chronology
13 October 1876
Born in Saint-Etienne, to a middle-class family.
Enrolled at the Ecole Régionale des Arts Industriels in Saint-Etienne: in 1893, he came first in the engraving class. Amongst his tutors was Jean Dablin, who was later to be the founder of the Société des Arts du Forez' of which Valette was to become a member.
Enrolled at the Ecole Municipale de Dessin de la Guillotiére in Lyon, where he won a large number of distinctions. Amongst his teachers was Tony Tollet, a painter very much in Vogue in Lyon at that time.
Enrolled at the Ecole Municipale de Beaux-Arts et des Arts Décoratifs in Bordeaux.
He won numerous academic distinctions and worked during the day as a 'professional draughtsman.'
1903 and 1904
First exhibitions in Bordeaux, at the Société des Arts Girondins.
1904 or 1905
Arrived in England, for unknown reasons. Studied for a while in London at Birkbeck College and then went to Manchester. Worked during the day at the printing company Norbury Natzio and Co Ltd and in the evening as a student at the Municipal School of Art.
He was appointed 'Master of Painting and Drawing' at the Manchester Municipal School of Art. He was much liked by his students, who valued the contribution of his French experience and his understanding of impressionism. L.S.Lowry was one of his pupils in the 'Life Drawing' classes and remained so for many years.
First known oil paintings by Valette that have survived.
First known 'Manchester-scape' by Valette: this is dated 18 March and has as its subject the Manchester Ship Canal.
Married one of his students, Gabriella de Bolivar, of Venezuelan nationality: Gabriela was to be the artistic muse for his portraits.
Creation of 'Windsor Bridge on the Irwell'.
First exhibition of his canvases in the UK at the Autumn Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. He contributed further to this annual exhibition up to 1912.
Birth of his only child, Pierre who was soon nicknamed Peter or Tita.
Creation of 'Albert Square', 'Oxford Road' and 'Hansom Cab at All Saints'.
Creation of 'Old Cab at All Saints'.
Co- Founder of the 'Society of Modern Artists'. Seven of his own works were shown at the first exhibition of this society.
Creation of 'india House', 'Bailey Bridge', and ' Under Windsor Bridge on the Irwell'.
Change of name of the 'Society of Modern Artists' to the 'Society of Modern Painters'. At the exhibition of 1913 the avant-garde tendencies of certain members of the Society generated criticisms from some art critics.
New teaching roles at the Manchester School of Art, including the 'Etching Class' which had begun on an unofficial basis in c1909.
Creations of 'York Street leading to Charles Street', and 'The Irwell.'
Death of his wife Gabriella.
Valette's timetable at the Manchester School of Art is extended by the addition of numerous additional courses.
First Solo exhibition at the Finnigans Showrooms in Manchester, which was a resounding success and confirmed his reputation.
Married a fellow French national, Andrée Pallez, who was a teacher of French at the University of Manchester.
Second solo exhibition at the Finnigans Showrooms in Manchester which was equally as successful as the first.
Promoted to the position of 'Principal Master of Drawing' at the School of Art.
Health worries, amongst others arising from the poor working conditions at the School. He resigns his position.
Given that his reputation was at this point well-established, he began to receive an increasing number of commissions from public and private establishments.
Took a part-time teaching position at the Bolton Municipal School of Art.
In parallel with his role at the Bolton Art School,took up a further part-time teaching role at the University of Manchester.
1924, 1925, 1926 and 1928
Further exhibitions with the 'Society of Modern Painters'
The purchase of nine of Valette's major canvases by the Manchester City Art Gallery.
Leaves Manchester and moves permanently to Blacé to the house he had inherited following the death of his mother.
His wife Andrée remained in England to continue teaching and Valette retained the services of a housekeeper, a young neighbour, Maria Lafond, who became his second artistic muse, for his portraits.
Revived the links he had always maintained with the 'Société des Arts du Forez', in Saint- Etienne.
From 1928 to 1940, he made many trips in the Midi, Alps, Pyrenees and other parts of France, and to the Balearics, and each time returned with a large number of water colours and oil paintings that he continued to sell in Manchester.
Death of his son Peter, who had remained in England, from tubercular meningitis.
Purchase by the Musée de Saint-Etienne, of the canvas' Rocher Saint-Michel au Puy'.
Exhibition at the Sociéte Lyonnaise des Beaux-Arts, to which he continued to send works until 1939.
Co-founded, with Jean Puy amongst others, the 'Association des Artistes Foréziens' in Saint-Etienne. Paul Signac was an honorary member.
Exhibition at the Salon des Artistes Foréziens, to which he continued to provide works until 1935.
Personal exhibition of his works at the Galerie Livet in Saint-Etienne.
Exposition at the Salon d'Automne, in Lyon. He was buried in Lyon in the public graveyard in the Guillotiére Nouveau cemetery.
His widow Andrée arranged for his remains to be exhumed from the grave in Lyon and laid to rest next to those of his mother in a perpetual concession of his family in the cemetry of Villefranche-sur-Sa, where he still lies.