Completed Continental European after 1800, London: Artists and Subjects 36 Can we find out more about the French artist Jean Cordet and if he had a connection to the Slade?

Topic: Artist

The artist is Jean Cordet, born 1910. Some comparison works: | | The Collection have commented to say that they accept the attribution, and would appreciate knowing more about this artist, his death date and if there is a possible Slade connection with the artist. [Group leader: Frances Fowle]

Andrew Shore, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

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James Gorin Von Grozny,

can see Manet in this lush 'ispano mo- an Manet was implicitly implicated in Stroud's founding- in so, near all French art is influenced (and 'modern-ised') from Slade. Hope you find more about Cordet- he's very assertive so will have 'left impressions'. Good luck wi research. xjam FRSA

Jacinto Regalado,

Some online listings say he was born in Lyon, studied in Paris and later settled in Vienna, but details are sketchy.

That's a deceptive reference: read carefully and you'll see it's a picture of Bologne, Haute-Marne (east and slightly south of Paris), not a place of birth.

Kieran Owens,

I think I smell a rat!

I believe that Jean Cordet is a "nom-de-brosse" for the c.1920 Manchester-born Robert Heyer-Hayes. From Marcie's attachment above, from the Coventry Evening Telegraph, of the 19th September 1963, it can be seen that "Jean Cordet" and "Robert Heyer-Hayes" exhibited in the same exhibition at Anslow's.

As one website puts it:

"Robert Heyer-Hayes, who often used the pseudonym ‘Layé’, was born in 1920 (sic) in Manchester where he also attended the Industrial School of Arts. After WWII took him to Austria as a soldier, he decided to settle in Vienna. He continued his studies at the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts. His landscapes are well sought after as they work particularly well as part of mid century themed interior schemes."

Attached is a composite of the work of Robert Heyer-Hayes, signing as Layé, together with the painting under discussion and two anothers signed as Cordet. Another single image is also attached. The similarities are very evident.

It also seems like too much of a coincidence that Cordet is recorded as having moved to Vienna and that Hayer-Hayes also took up residence there.

The marriage of a Robert Hayes to and Annie Pattison in Manchester was registered in December 1919. The birth of a Robert Hayes is registered in March 1920 in Manchester to a Robert Hayes and his wife, née Pattison. The 24th April 1921 Census shows that a Robert Hayes, an "iron dresser", was living with his wife, Annie, and their 1 year and five month old son, Robert (born in November 1919). If all of these dates are correct, Robert would have been an illegitimate son.

If it is accepted that the artist who painted this discussion's work is the Robert Heyer-Hayes then he worked under at least two other pseudonyms, they being "Jean Cordet" and "Leyé" (sometimes rendered as "R. Layé"). How many of the biographical detail of his life, or that of "Jean Cordet", are true has yet to be established.

Jacinto Regalado,

There is no Jean Cordet in Getty/Ulan or in Oxford Art Online. It appears he was an essentially decorative painter of fairly stereotypical, mainly Parisian-themed cityscapes. I expect Kieran indeed found him out.

1. Unless it is also complete fiction the statement that 'Jean Cordet' studied in Paris under 'Professor Maurice' must have come from somewhere other than this link supplied at the top by Andrew Shore: Does Maurice ring any other bells?

2. How did Hayes become Heyer/Hayer-Hayes? (If not a given forename marriage can be an explanation)

Kieran Owens,

The transformation of the artist's surname from Hayes to Heyer-Hayes, and the claim of having studied under a Professor Maurice in Paris, could have been a self-promoted and fanciful aggrandisement of his status. There also might be a connection to the changing of his surname to his war service and the conditions of his leaving his regiment after 1945.

Jacinto Regalado,

Since Maurice is typically a given name rather than a surname, the Professor Maurice sounds like a fabrication, at least in terms of the actual name. All biographical information I have seen in sale listings sounds like it could have been concocted for promotional purposes.

Kieran Owens,

The 1939 Register shows that this Robert Hayes was in the Royal Artillery but does not give his full enlistment number.

Attached is another Cordet / Layé composite, in case further proof is needed that they are one and the same artist.

1 attachment
Jacinto Regalado,

The UCL picture looks relatively more painterly and less formulaic than the ones Kieran has been posting, which are all practically interchangeable.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose it's possible that all these names, real or invented, do not necessarily relate to the same person. The style is obviously the same or very similar, but it is essentially a formula which was no doubt commercially successful with a certain market and may have been adopted and practiced by more than one person. However, those which can be connected with Hayes in some fashion, such as living in Vienna or exhibiting together, are most likely the same man.

Kieran Owens,

The style is not just very similar, it is identical, with many of the exact same features and precise painting styles and colour palette appearing in each so-far-highlighted painting. I believe that it is highly unlikely that there were three or four different artists mimicking so precisely the same subjects. Event a comparison of the signature styles indicates that they were signed by the same artist (see attached).

That there are other works signed as being by Jean Cordet that are in different styles only suggests that they may have been painted at different time periods throughout the artist's life.

Jacinto Regalado,

"Cordet" may have "tried harder" with some pictures than with others, depending on their intended purpose (such as formal exhibition in an art gallery versus sale via some other means).

Kieran Owens,

I would suggest not, as his style is visibly different from that of our artist. The attached view, of Sacré Coeur from the top of the Rue Norvins, compares Legendre's treatment of the same view to that of Cordet/Collins.

However many individuals we are dealing with, this looks like a case of 'street art' both in terms of subject and being sold there, off the railings, as well as occasionally elsewhere in a 'furnishing' association. The auction appearances of more recent years are what happens to most things sooner or later, of whatever original note (or not).

What seems lacking is the sort of gallery exhibiting record that leads to entries in art dictionaries and databases. At present (setting aside Legendre) the only man whose actual existence is demonstrable from official record is the Robert Hayes born in Manchester : that he became the artist calling himself Heyer-Hayes is also an assertion for which there is no independent supporting evidence. The 1939 register calls him a 'general labourer' and in 'T. Royal Artillery' with an incomplete number (905...). The 'T' is likely to mean 'Territorial': i.e. part-time and thereby called up early for WWII.

The original question on 'Cordet' assumed a possible connection with the Slade, presumaby because the painting is in UCL, but it was only presented by their Friends organisation in 1959. We might at least enquire if any particular motive for the gift was recorded?

I've asked the collection if they might be able to find out more about the acquisition, although we were in contact with them at the start so I imagine we already have everything they know.

Well, either way, we need some independent proofs of these assertions: the only 'inherited talent' evident for Hayes from his father is that the 1939 register shows them both as 'general labourers'.

The labels on their own as easily smack (as Gilbert had Pooh-bah say) of 'corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative'.

UCL Culture,

The only information that UCL has is that the painting was given by the Friends of UCL in 1959. Back in 2013 a member of the public got in touch via Your Paintings to try to decipher the signature with no luck. Now I'm convinced that this is signed 'Cordet' - many thanks. But I'm not any clearer on who that artist might be, and I'm also not convinced that the all the artists presented in this discussion are the same. It's a genre that many artists promoted (and still do!). That no one has been able to locate the artist Cordet is frustrating. How do you or Art UK suggest we attribute the work? I do not think there is any connection with the Slade.

Jacinto Regalado,

More information may surface, but if the matter remains as it now is, the picture could be listed under Cordet (probably "Jean Cordet"). An explanatory note could be added to the Art UK entry to elaborate.

UCL, thanks for your latest comments.

Just to be clear, I wasn't suggesting that George Hann was one and the same, but just commenting on how popular this genre was.

Kieran Owens,

Robert Hayes, born in Manchester on the 26th February 1920, a retired postman at the time of his death, died at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, Scotland, on the 27th November 1994, aged 74 years. His death certificate states that his father was Robert Hayes, a retired foundry labourer, and that his mother was Annie Pattison. He was married in Manchester in 1942 to Lily Emery. They had a son by the name of Keith Hayes, who was born in Manchester in 1945 and who signed his father's death certificate in 1994. He passed away in 2016:

If this first Robert is the same as Robert Heyer-Hayes then there should be some family still living in Inverness who could confirm this.

Robert Hayes (1920 - 94), pre-war general labourer in his native Manchester where he married in 1942 and had a son in 1945 (though apparently also a wartime artilleryman) and who was a retired postman at his death, probably close to his son in Inverness, does not sound a convincing identity for Robert Heyer-Hayes.

The only substantive information on him and Jean Cordet is on the 'labels' produced by Kieran @11/04/2022 21:45 -presumably attached to works the same seller was marketing from their design similarity but both unsupported by verifiable authority. Whether (given pictorial similarities in some cases) one man or two, or fictional inventions of a third, or part of a wider 'factory operation' - which the Anslow's display of 1963 suggests is possible - all remain just speculations.

The original question, however, is 'who was Cordet?'-presumed to be the Jean reputedly French and b. 1910. The obvious answer (thus far) is 'a prolific and travelled Continental street artist producing decorative townscape views but about whom no reliably verifiable information has been found'.

We already have more than enough artistic parallels under various names - real or fictional- but the only good independent facts are those which appear to rule 'postman' Hayes out. If others cannot be found, then it would be better not to extend speculations that just add length to the discussion without leading anywhere firmer.