Curator of Flemish painting at the Louvre; professor. Michel's family belonged to the French upper middle class. After graduating from the École centrale des Arts et Manufactures de Paris he worked as an industrial engineer and director of factories at both sides of the Franco-Belgian border. During World War I, while he served as artillery captain, his factories were destroyed. From 1919 onwards he chose a career in art history. He received his first initiation from his uncle, a collector of paintings. He spent much time in Belgium, where he studied under Georges Nicolas Marie Hulin de Loo. Michel's first publications (1920, 1923) dealt with civic and monastic monuments of Belgium. In 1924 he was appointed attaché at the department of paintings at the Louvre, where he specialized in Flemish painting. He published a volume on the Flemish school, École flamande, in La peinture au Musée du Louvre. With Hulin de Loo he authored, in 1927, the catalog of paintings of the Bruges art collector Émile Renders, Early Flemish Paintings in the Renders Collection at Bruges, Exhibited at the Belgian Exhibition, Burlington House, January, 1927. In 1931 his monograph on Bruegel the Elder appeared, Bruegel. In addition to his position at the Louvre he obtained, in 1934, a teaching position in the history of painting at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Free University of Brussels). At the Louvre department of paintings he founded, in 1935, together with René Huyghe, a documentation and education service, Service d'Études et de Documentation du Département des peintures. Michel headed this service for several years, starting in 1936. He published a critical study on the Bruegel reception in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1938). In 1939 his monograph on seventeenth-century Flemish painting appeared in French and in English. In 1940 Michel obtained the position of adjunct curator. During World War II, along with other colleagues, he was responsible for safe keeping the Louvre collections, which were hidden in castles all over the country. In 1944 he retired from the University of Brussels, while at the Louvre he was appointed honorary curator. He published a basic overview of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Flemish painting in 1951. His catalog of Flemish paintings of the fifteenth- and sixteenth century in the Louvre appeared in 1953. As the head of the Service d'Études et de Documentation Michel had a special interest in museum reform. His recommendations were published in 1948, Musée et conservateurs.
13 August 1873
25 July 1953
Hôtels de ville et beffrois de Belgique; la vie sociale et économique de la Belgique illustrée par ses monuments civils. Brussels: G. van Oest, 1920; Abbayes et monastères de Belgique; leur importance et leur rôle dans le développement du pays. Brussels: G. van Oest, 1923; contributor, La peinture au Musée du Louvre. École flamande. Paris: L'Ilustration, 1925; Early Flemish Paintings in the Renders Collection at Bruges, Exhibited at the Belgian Exhibition, Burlington House, January, 1927. With an introduction by G. Hulin de Loo and notices by Edouard Michel. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1927; Bruegel. Paris: Les Éditions G. Crès et cie, 1931; "Bruegel et la critique moderne" Gazette des Beaux-Arts 19 (1938): 27-46; Flemish Painting in the Seventeenth Century. Paris: Hyperion Press, 1939; Musées et conservateurs: leur rôle dans l'organisation sociale. Brussels: Office de publicité, 1948; Les grands maîtres flamands au seizième et au dix-septième siècle. Paris: F. Nathan, 1951; Catalogue raisonné des peintures du moyen-âge, de la renaissance et des temps modernes: peintures flamandes du XVe et du XVIe siècle. Paris: Éditions des Musées nationaux, 1953.
Lavalleye, Jacques. "Michel (Édouard- Louis - Claude) historien de la peinture" Biographie nationale 35 (1969-1970): 595-597; [obituaries:] Sulzberger, Suzanne and De Laguiche, B. "Édouard Michel" Le Flambeau (1953): 521-528; Sulzberger, Suzanne. "Édouard Michel (1873-1953)" Revue belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 32 (1954): 370-371.