Pierre Adolphe Valette (1876 – 1942) was a French Impressionist painter. His most acclaimed paintings are urban landscapes of Manchester, now in the collection of Manchester Art Gallery. Today, he is chiefly remembered as the painter L. S. Lowry’s tutor.
Born in St Etienne in 1876, he trained at the Ecole Municipale de Beaux-Arts et des Arts Decoratifs in Bordeaux. He arrived in England for unknown reasons in 1904 and studied at the Birbeck Institute, now part of the University of London. In 1905 he travelled to the North West of England where he designed greetings cards and calendars for a Manchester printing company. He attended evening classes at Manchester Municipal School of Art and in 1907 he was invited to join the staff as a teacher. His French teaching style, painting by demonstration, was new to the United Kingdom.
Lowry expressed great admiration for Valette, who taught him new techniques and showed him the potential of the urban landscape as a subject. He called him “a real teacher … a dedicated teacher”. Lowry added: “I cannot over-estimate the effect on me of the coming into this drab city of Adolphe Valette, full of French impressionists, aware of everything that was going on in Paris.”
In 1920 Valette resigned from the Institute owing to ill health. He stayed in Lancashire for eight more years, teaching privately and painting in Manchester and Bolton. In 1928 he returned to Paris, and subsequently moved to Blacé en Beaujolais where he died in 1942.
Valette’s paintings are Impressionist, a style that suited the damp fogginess of Manchester. Manchester Art Gallery has a room devoted to him, where the viewer may compare some of his paintings with some of Lowry’s, and judge to what extent Lowry’s own style was influenced by him and by French Impressionism generally.