Louis Anquetin was born in Étrépagny, a village in Northern France, the only child of a prosperous family. In 1882, following a brief period of military service, Anquetin moved to Paris to pursue a career as an artist. He joined the studio of painter Leon Bonnat, where he befriended Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, before moving to the studio of Fernand Cormon. Anquetin’s Parisian circle included Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, and Georges Seurat.
Anquetin’s early work was heavily influenced by Impressionism and the Divisionism pioneered by his friend Seurat. Anquetin focused his artistic attention on the cafe scenes and prostitutes of Parisian nightlife. In 1887, Anquetin and Émile Bernard developed a new style of painting called Cloisonnism, a term coined by the art critic Edouard Dujardin the following year. The style employs thick, heavy black contours outlining flat areas of color, and was inspired both by the aesthetic of stained glass windows and by Japanese ukiyo-e (wood block prints), whose style and subjects famously influenced Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec.
This new style earned Louis Anquetin critical acclaim. In 1889, he participated in a major exhibition at the Paris Exposition and later with the group Les XX in Brussels, Belgium to further acclaim. In 1891, Anquetin held a major exhibition at the Salon des Independents of ten of his best works.
In 1894, Anquetin and Toulouse-Lautrec travelled to Belgium and Holland, where they encountered the works of Rubens, Rembrandt, and Franz Hals. From the mid-1890s onwards, Anquetin’s work became increasingly Rubensian and allegorical. He later wrote a book on Rubens, which was published in 1924. Louis Anquetin died in Paris in 1932.