Pierre-Léon Cassard was born in 1858 in Le Cellier, located 24 kilometers from Nantes in the Loire-Atlantique. This region provided inspiration for subject matter throughout his career –landscapes with ploughed fields and rolling hills and village views depicting churches, schools and local workshop interiors, together with animated scenes of children (see Sotheby’s, New York, February 16, 1994, lots 129 and 303).
Little is known of Cassard’s life or his earliest training. Did he enroll in a local workshop in Nantes before making the requisite trip to Paris? We do know that he entered the Académie Julien in Paris in 1880, where he worked for at least two years under the direction of William Bouguereau. Establishing himself in Paris at this time, Cassard made his debut at the Salon in 1887, however, preferring a less rigid approach, he decided instead to show at the new Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, which had been founded in 1890. This institution was more receptive to new ideas in artistic expression and more cosmopolitan than its rival and Cassard exhibited there between 1892 and 1914. Beginning in 1894, he also appeared regularly in exhibitions organized by the Société des Amis des Arts de Nantes.