Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ingres as a Young Man (1850s)

Madame Gustave Héquet: Ingres as a Young Man

This painting is a version, with several significant changes, of Ingres's self-portrait of 1804, exhibited at the Salon of 1806. The 1804 portrait is known from a copy by Julie Forestier of 1807 and a photograph known as the Marville print of about 1850. Most scholars agree that the 1804 portrait was reworked in 1850 and is the painting now in the Musée Condé, Chantilly. The MMA painting, which combines elements from both the 1804 and the Chantilly portrait, was made between 1850 and 1860 under Ingres's supervision by one of his pupils, probably Madame Gustave Héquet. [Metropolitan Museum]

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Sower (1850)

Jean-François Millet: The Sower
Millet's 1850 piece "The Sower", which has come to be associated with the Social Realist movement, shows a peasant man striding through a plot of freshly tilled soil as he sows his crops. The sun shines in the top half of the painting just over the horizon to show that the peasant has risen at the crack of dawn in order to accomplish the day's work that lies ahead.

The painting is characterized as a Social Realist work because of its focus and subject matter, and additionally due to the manner in which the work is portrayed. Millet breaks from the traditional academic route with "The Sower" and it shows in his dark and muddy earth tones. Rather than idealizing the peasant man or ignoring him entirely, Millet portrays the peasant as a stocky, well-built young man wearing simple, practical peasant clothing.

When "The Sower" is looked at in light of its Social Realist associations, a whole new realm of icons and meanings can be grasped. The Sower himself or the peasant can be viewed as a sewer of social justice, a representative of the lower classes fighting for social mobility by sowing the seeds of protest and dissent. A bright sun is rising behind the peasant man indicating that the sower has the forces of social justice on his side. The sun rise can also be interpreted as a symbol of change, in the Social Realist sense; this would mark the change from the bourgeoisie middle class dominance of the capital industrial era in France to one of socialist enlightenment. [hoocher.com]

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Burial at Ornans (1850)

Gustave Courbet: A Burial at Ornans

This painting is considered one of the major turning points of 19th-century French art. The painting records the funeral in September 1848 of his great-uncle in the painter's birthplace, the small town of Ornans. It treats an ordinary provincial funeral with unflattering realism, and on the giant scale traditionally reserved for the heroic or religious scenes of history painting. Its exhibition at the 1850–51 Paris Salon created an "explosive reaction" and brought Courbet instant fame. 

People who had attended the funeral were used as models for the painting. Previously, models had been used as actors in historical narratives; here Courbet said that he "painted the very people who had been present at the interment, all the townspeople". The result is a realistic presentation of them, and of life, in Ornans. [Wikipedia]

A sampling of some of the "explosive reaction" at the Salon: With few exceptions, viewers reacted to the work as an assault on the very idea of what a painting should be. To sophisticated Parisians, rural folk were considered proper fodder for small genre pieces; it's unprecedented to accord them the magisterial scope of the historical masterpieces of French tradition. With the worker uprisings of 1848 a recent memory, Courbet's use of the common people as a grand subject is deemed a radical act -- "the engine of revolution," as one critic said. Furthermore, in his push towards a realistic style, Courbet intentionally painted his black-clad folk in a manner that did not idealize their suffering. The Salon audience is accustomed to paintings that poeticize and uplift, and they read Courbet's grieving figures as vulgar and ugly. One critic wrote, "He paints pictures as you black your boots." [Culture Shock]

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Good Samaritan (ca. 1850)

Eugène Delacroix: The Good Samaritan

A mere forty years after this painting was done, Van Gogh paid homage to it with a copy in his own inimitable style:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Napolean Crossing the Alps (1850)

Paul Delaroche: Napoleon Crossing the Alps

This is arguably the most famous painting of Napoleon. In contrast to many portraits of Napoleon which exaggerate his status and authority, Paul Delaroche has elected to portray a younger Napoleon, who was yet to crown himself Emperor.

The sharp angles of the rock faces, icicles and freezing mist reinforce the treacherous nature of the Great St Bernard Pass which cuts its way through the Alps. A lone peasant leads a mule through the snow-capped scene. Atop the mule sits a forlorn and slightly bedraggled Napoleon, wrapped in a greatcoat that is more functional than vainglorious. There are no visible accoutrements to his immense power. He leads no army, wields no weapon and displays no medals; he rides a lowly mule rather than his more usual rearing white stallion, which follows him in the bottom left corner. The painting is unusual in the way it downplays what was a victorious military campaign but also because it was commissioned by an Englishman, Arthur George, 3rd Earl of Onslow one of many noblemen who, surprisingly perhaps, admired Napoleon.

The painting, however, is not meant to disparage or insult a man with whom Delaroche was fascinated. His obsession stemmed from the strong physical resemblance he bore to Napoleon and whose successes and reversals he compared to his own. In his view, the iconic figure of Napoleon would not be demeaned by being revealed as a credible and vulnerable man. [Cheshire Life]

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Exiles of Tiberias (1850)

Félix-Joseph Barrias: The Exiles of Tiberias

Barrias was a painter of religious, historical, and mythological subjects.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Entry of the French Army in Rome

Hippolyte Lecomte: Entry of the French Army in Rome. 
General Berthier at the head of the army, 15 February 1798

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

Battle of Quiberon

Jean Sorieul: The Battle of Quiberon in 1795

This battle was part of an attempted counter-revolutionary invasion of France by Royalist forces. Instead, it was a disastrous defeat, resulting in the execution of 750 soldiers of the defeated invasion.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Medieval Scenes

 Jean Alaux: Meeting of the Estates-General in Paris, April 10, 1302
Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse: Louis VII takes the standard at Saint-Denis, 1147

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Théodore Gudin

Théodore Gudin: Naval Combat off Cape Lizard in Cornwall, 21 October 1707, won by the French fleet commanded by DuGuay-Trouin and Admiral de Forbin against five English war vessels

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pierre François Eugène Giraud

In some places his name is given as Eugène Pierre François Giraud.

 Italian Customs at Simplon
 The Finding of Moses
 The Spanish Beauty with a Fan
Women of Algeria

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Alfred Dehodencq

Alfred Dehodencq: The Hajj

The Hajj is, of course, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are expected to undertake at least once in their lives.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jean Antoine Simeon Fort

Battle of Eylau, Febuary 8, 1807. The Russian army pushed back by the French troops

 Panoramic View of the Battle of Austerlitz, December 2, 1805

Monday, November 17, 2014

Henri Valton

Henri Valton: A Peddler Selling Scarves to Women from Troyes

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Charles-Émile Jacque

Charles-Émile Jacque was a painter of rural scenery who focused especially on farm animals. He was a member of the Barbizon School.

 A Shepherdess with her Flock near a Stream
 Guarding the Flock
Sheep in a Pasture

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014


 Charles Meynier: Helen and Paris
Raymond Monvoisin: Callirhoe

Callirhoe and her lover, Chaereas, appear to have been the subject of the world's earliest known historical novel.