Gaston SCHNEGG was born in Bordeaux in 1866 into a renowned Bavarian cabinet makers’ family. His ancestors had originally settled in the south of France in the early 1800s. Like his elder brother Lucien he wanted to become a sculptor. From 1885 to 1888 he attended the Municipal Drawing School in Bordeaux and won several prizes for sculpture and painting. In 1888, he was admitted into Falguière’s class at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, joining his brother who was already a member of the class. The studio they shared  soon became the meeting place for a group of young sculptors known as the "Bande à Schnegg". A few years later, Gaston provoked a  scandal in his family : he fell in love at first sight with a very beautiful young woman who came to try on the dress of his bride-to-be --a bride chosen by his parents. He broke off his engagement and married the dressmaker, Madeleine Lydie Rousseau, in 1894. The young couple settled in Paris in a maid's room just under the roof of a building. His young wife was amazed by the talent of her husband. She was the model he preferred and she often helped sustain the household with her sewing work. They eventually had three children : Pierre in 1896 and, in 1903, twins--André and Jeanne.
A balcony on the facade of his parents' house
9. rue du Docteur Albert Barraud in Bordeaux
This façade was entirely decorated by Gaston Schnegg .
In 1895, Gaston Schnegg became a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts , where he exhibited until 1953. In 1900, he won the bronze medal for sculpture at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. He began to work for the great Sculptor Rodin about at that time. This collaboration endured until Rodin’s death in 1917. During that period he mourned several times : first he lost his father and his mother, then his brother Lucien in 1909, and finally his eldest son Pierre, a future artist studying at the famous Ecole Boulle in Paris, who died as a soldier at the Chemin des Dames during the war in 1917. Gaston Schnegg sculpted the war memorial on which his son is listed in Quinsac, a village near Bordeaux where his family lived at that time. He sculpted extensively and secured important commissions until about 1925. Then with the fatigue which accompanies age, he began to devote himself entirely to painting . Very fond of his birth place, he came back to Gironde every year after selling his Salon. From 1923 on, he used to spend every summer and a part of the autumn in Lestiac sur Garonne. There he painted still lifes, the interiors of rustic houses, the villages and the countryside around them so passionately that he sometimes forgot his meals. It is not surprising then that neighbors found him nearly fainting in the vineyards. Later, suffering from diabetes and becoming blind, he could paint no more. He no longer felt  like living, refused to eat, and died in 1953 in Paris in his eighty-seventh year.
His daughter told us he would never depart from his ideals of beauty, independence, and wisdom and that he instilled these values in his children. He would not be professionally enrolled and, despite the insistence of Rodin, he would not accept becoming a freemason. He surely would  have won honors and wealth, but there is no doubt he feared the loss of his personal liberty and of the soul that appears so elegantly in his works. More preoccupied by his art than by his image, he lived very simply during  his entire life. His daughter Jeanne, who ardently admired the talent of her father, had understood very early that artistic professions give no security. She became a telephone employee, never married, and chose to live by her parents during their lifetime in order to help and sustain them.
Strangely the brothers Schnegg have been nearly forgotten and passed into some obscurity. But they were well known and renowned artists in the early years of the 20th century. They appeared in the standard French encyclopedias of that time as did Despiau, Wlérick, Bourdelle, and others of the Bande à Schnegg while others like Camille Claudel, for example, very well known at the present time, were little known.

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Document created by Marine Schenegg in 2000
Pr Art Spring kindly helped to translate into English