SELF-PORTRAIT AT AN EASEL, HOLDING A PORTFOLIO
Signed u.l. HF [Hoin fecit]
Gouache on thin cream paper
29 x 20cm
[Possibly] With John Peter Thompson, Great Newport Street (c.1792-1813) [Label to backboard]
"Hoin est l'un des quatre ou cinq plus remarquables pentres à la gouache du XVIII siècle" (Edmond de Goncourt, 1822 - 1896) 
This virtuoso early self-portrait, rendered with great dexterity in the often difficult medium of gouache, stands as testament to the artist's reputation as one of France's leading artists in the medium. The artist gazes out into the distance, as if entranced by the possibilities of his future career, while the combination of both easel and portfolio is a nod to his abilities across a variety of media. Hoin drew and painted more self-portraits than the average artist of his day, yet he never comes across as vain or arrogant: rather, he seems to have been introspective, interested in both recording his own aesthetic development as an artist and his physical development, and always achieving fresh insight into himself.
Claude Jean-Baptiste Hoin was a gouachist, miniaturist and pastellist among the top ranks of France's artists. Alongside these media, he also made large numbers of chalk drawings on blue paper, often with pastel highlights, which are sometimes catalogued as pastels. He drew and painted numerous self-portraits, which allow one to date them roughly according to the changes in the artist's appearance: the present work suggesting an early date with the unlined face and youthful appearance (see final image above for a roughly chronological series of comparisons). Of particular interest is a late (1815) self-portrait wherein Hoin sits before a picture, again on an easel, outlined in white pigment (which is the earliest impression on the imagined canvas), much like the present work's unfinished study upon an easel. This work was last with Didier Aaron in 1998 (see Jeffares, op. cit., J.4.123).
Claude Hoin (or Houin) was the son of Jean-Jacques Hoin, a surgeon, and his wife, Catherine Burette, the daughter of a goldsmith. His baptismal certificate records his forename as simply Claude; however, he appears in most references with the additional forenames Jean-Baptiste. His name is preceded by the large, monogrammed initials JB in the majority of his signatures until 1789, but appeared only as Cde Hoin thereafter.
Hoin began his career as a pupil of François Devosge at the École de Dessin de Dijon (where he exhibited only in the 1771 salon). He moved to Paris in 1774 (according to his carte de sûreté issued in November 1793) and studied under Jean-Baptiste Greuze, at first copying the master's works. By 1779, he was exhibiting at the Salon de la Correspondance as “Peintre, rue des Moulins, butte Saint-Roch, chez M. Noël, perruquier”. His submissions included miniatures, with the critic, collector and all-round artistic luminary Pahin de la Blancherie noting that Hoin was equally adept at this new medium as he was in pastels. He was also a friend of (and portrayed by) the enamellist Weyler, as well as one of the Masquelier engravers.
Hoin became a corresponding member of the Académie de Dijon in 1776; of Lyon, Rouen, and Toulouse in 1778; and in 1783 he wrote to the Académie de Besançon seeking to become an associate; his application was rejected, ostensibly because the Académie had no legal status, and was unable to accept associates; his submissions, “dont ils ont admiré l’élégance”, were returned. He was appointed peintre du comte de Provence in 1785. Despite this he continued to work during the Revolution, and in AN III he offered the Comité d’Instruction publique an “esquisse fidèle du monument” in the “Jardin national à l’immortel Jean-Jacques Rousseau” (AN, dossier 6369).
He exhibited in the Salons only in 1801 and 1802 (as élève du Muséum, Rue de la Jussienne, no. 17), returning to his native city in 1802: he had maintained his links with Dijon and with Devosge by serving on the jury of the école de dessin there in 1781, 1782 and 1783). He was finally appointed Professeur de Dessin at the Lycée in 1804, and in 1811 became Conservateur of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in the city.
 Quoted in Portalis (Baron Melchior-Roger), Claude Hoin (1750-1817) : gouaches, pastels, miniatures, Paris (1900), p.109
(i) Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, London (2006), p. 253.
(ii) Portalis (Baron Melchior-Roger), Claude Hoin (1750-1817) : gouaches, pastels, miniatures, Paris (1900)