Friday, July 31, 2015

Haussmann Presents the Emperor with the Plan for Annexation of the Communes (1865)

Adolphe Yvon: Haussmann Presents the Emperor with the Plan for Annexation of the Communes
Georges-Eugène Haussmann was appointed Prefect of the Seine by Napoleon III, and in this capacity undertook to direct an ambitious program of urban renewal in Paris.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (ca. 1865)

 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Courtyard of a Bakery near Paris
 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Large Sharecropping Farm
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Women in a Field of Willows

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Gustave Courbet (1864)

 Gustave Courbet: The Great Bridge
Gustave Courbet: The Oak at Flagey

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Reception of the Siamese Ambassadors (1864)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Reception of the Siamese Ambassadors at Fontainebleau

This painting was an official commission by the Ministère d'Etat in commemoration of the reception of the ambassadors of the king of Siam, Rama IV, by Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie in the great Salle de Bal in the Château de Fontainebleau, 27 June, 1861. The event not only marked the re-establishment of diplomatic relations (broken off since the 17th century) but also the signature of the treaty between France and Siam, 15 August, 1856, which ensured peace between the two countries, religious freedom for missionaries, and commercial dealings. The embassy was received with great pomp at a ceremony which mirrored the famous 1684 Siamese embassy to Louis XIV.

Gérôme took three years to finish this large painting, which shows the unusual procession of the bowing ambassadors, a long horizontal movement contrasting strongly with the verticality of the members of the Imperial court. The curious ceremonial is an Asiatic tradition: even though they enter in a line on all fours, the Siamese king's envoys are not expressing submission to but rather respect for the sovereign. The exoticism of the scene is reinforced by the sumptuous costumes, the coloured silk robes, the pointed hats decorated with burnished gold, the lavish gifts, the crown, palanquins, stepped parasols, and replicas of objects belonging to the King of Siam and subsequently held in the Empress Eugénie's Chinese Museum. On the dais transformed into a throne, Napoleon III, flanked by Eugénie and the young Prince impérial, receives a chalice containing a letter from Rama IV.

Taking his inspiration directly from David's 'Sacre de Napoléon Ier', Gérôme here painted a remarkable gallery of portraits, either taken from nature or from photographs by Nadar. 80 personalities can be identified, including the Comte Walewski, the Duc de Bassano, the Duc de Cambacérès and Mérimée. The distant vantage point, required so as to be able to get the whole of scene in the picture, makes it possible to reveal all the Renaissance splendour of the Salle de Bal with its frescoes by Nicolo dell'Abate after Primaticcio. The exactitude of the rendering gives a strong sense of reality. Indeed Gérôme fixed with almost photographic accuracy this strange encounter of East and West. []

Friday, July 24, 2015

Portrait of Charles Theodule Devéria (1864)

Eugène Devéria: Portrait of Charles Theodule Devéria

Charles Theodule (or Theodule Charles - I've seen it that way too) Devéria was a prominent Egyptologist.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1864)

 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: The Curious Little Girl
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: The Evening Star

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ernest Meissonier (1864)

 Ernest Meissonier: Emperor Napoléon III at the Battle of Solférino
Ernest Meissonier: The French Campaign, 1814

This painting—in a small format rather unusual for a painter of military history—indicates Meissonier's taste for seventeenth-century Flemish and Dutch painting and demonstrates his nimble, polished style. Despite its smallness, the vast expanse of desolate plain and leaden sky give breadth to the scene as does the dilated perspective around the central figure of the Emperor magnified by a slightly low angle. The least details are minutely recorded: Napoleon's sprouting beard, the veins on the horse's legs, the snow dirtied by the marching troops... the Director of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Charles Blanc, said that Meissonier "painted grandly in a small size". The artist applied the same meticulous approach, but as a historian this time, to his preparatory research: he collected abundant documentation, questioned many eyewitnesses and tried unsuccessfully to borrow the Emperor's grey coat. [Musée d’Orsay]

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gustave Courbet (1864)

 Gustave Courbet: Cave of the Saracens near Nan-sous-Sainte-Anne
 Gustave Courbet: Source of the Loue
Gustave Courbet: The Chasm at Conches

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Grand Illuminated Fountain (1864)

Eugène Lami: The Grand Illuminated Fountain in the Pool of Neptune in Honor of the King of Spain

 During the Second Empire, France wanted to develop its commercial presence in Europe, particularly by exploiting the railroad to build a large network of exchanges on the European continent. Housed in Spain since 1856, Crédit Mobilier of Pereire brothers quickly took control of the economic fabric of the country through its subsidiaries: coal mines, coke ovens, gas companies and especially railways. Besides being an important source of income for entrepreneurs, building the Spanish network provides the means for France to detach Portugal from the economic sphere of England. In August 1864 the first Franco-Spanish rail link is opened between Hendaye and Irun over the Bidasoa River in the western Pyrenees. On this occasion Napoleon III received the King of Spain in his honor and gives a sumptuous feast in the castle park of Versailles. A contemporary description goes as follows (translation via Google):
On August 21, 1864, the Emperor gave a party at the King of Spain Don Francis of Assisi. After many waters there was show at the Opera which was presented Molière and Corneille Psyche, a step Gisèle and entertainment of Seasons of the Sicilian Vespers. After the show we went to the park where the decoration was very original. A double line of lights drew configuration ponds, lawns and hedges. The trees were laden with transparent orange globes that turned the park into a vast garden of the Hesperides. The waters of the main parts of all shades tinted played by electric light. Resin lights burning in carved vases and Bengal lights turn round dyed groves purple or light green. The height of the facade of the castle was lit up in full. After the fireworks which was pulled behind the Apollo basin, dinner was served in the Hall of Mirrors. [L'Histoire par Image]

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eugène Fromentin (1863)

 Eugène Fromentin: Arab Falconer
Eugène Fromentin: Falconry in Algeria, the Kill

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Awakening (1863)

Charles François Jalabert: The Awakening

This looks like it was inspired by Italian Renaissance Madonna paintings.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Goose Girl (ca. 1863)

Jean-Francois Millet: The Goose Girl

A young girl, identifiable as a peasant by her kerchief and her work-roughened hands and feet, extends her leg to dip a heel into the stream. In this painting, Millet refers to a long tradition in European art of depicting the idealized female nude in a natural setting, often in the guise of a mythological figure. The artist reworks this convention from a Realist perspective, emphasizing the goose girl's working-class status, adolescent body, and vulnerable pose. Millet developed this composition through numerous studies made over a period of seven years. [The Walters Art Museum]

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains (1863)

Eugène Delacroix: Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains

Eugène Delacroix, France’s leading romantic painter of the first half of the 19th century, advocated the opposite aesthetic of his contemporary, Jean–Auguste–Dominique Ingres. In contrast to Ingres' controlled images that are characterized by his interests in linear purity and a finished surface, Delacroix championed the primacy of color and quick execution as expressive of the artist's imagination.

The Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains was painted a few months before the artist's death. It harks back to Delacroix’s first and only visit to North Africa in 1832, more than 30 years before this picture was painted, an excursion that made a deep impression on him. The figures and horses are placed on a diagonal that traverses the lower right foreground plane. The action then shifts to the middle ground as a horse and rider charge towards battling Arabs in the center. The background abruptly rises into a craggy landscape, with a fortified castle and a line of mountains blending with the clouds.

The fluidity of Delacroix's brushstroke animates the composition, heightening the violence of the scene and the moment when the rider is thrown off his horse. The brilliant use of red, blue, and white forces the eye to stop at each grouping, accenting the rhythm of the battle itself. Delacroix has created a fictive battle, his work not only recalling an earlier personal experience but also stimulating the imagination of his viewers. [National Gallery of Art]

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Birth of Venus (1863)

Alexandre Cabanel: The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus was one of the great successes of the 1863 Salon where it was bought by Napoleon III for his private collection. Cabanel, a painter who received numerous awards throughout his career, at that time played an important role in teaching at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and in running the Salon. Typical of his virtuoso technique, this painting is a perfect example of the popular and official artistic taste of the period. In the eclectic spirit of the Second Empire, he combines references to Ingres with an 18th century style of painting.

Cabanel took as his subject a famous episode from classical mythology when Venus is born of sea-foam and carried ashore. This theme, very popular in the 19th century, provided some artists with the opportunity to introduce eroticism without offending public morality, under the pretext of representing a classical subject. For Cabanel, the mythological theme is indeed a pretext for the portrayal of a nude figure, which, though idealised, is nonetheless depicted in a lascivious pose. Emile Zola denounced this ambiguity: "The goddess, drowned in a sea of milk, resembles a delicious courtesan, but not of flesh and blood – that would be indecent – but made of a sort of pink and white marzipan". The writer was thus deploring the use of a pale, smooth and opalescent palette.

That same year, Edouard Manet's Olympia caused a scandal. The subject of the two paintings is identical: a reclining nude. But the calm assurance with which Manet's subject stares back at the viewer seems much more provocative than the languid pose of Cabanel's Venus. [Musée d'Orsay]

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Trellis (1862)

Gustave Courbet: The Trellis

In 1862 Courbet's young friend, the critic Jules Castagnary, introduced the artist to Etienne Baudry, a landowner from Castagnary's native province of the Saintonge in western France. Attracted by Courbet's work, Baudry invited him to come and stay at Rochement, his estate near Saintes. Courbet went to Saintes in May of 1862 and stayed for a year, though not all of the time at Rochemont. He found the place and the people in Baudry's circle agreeable and conducive to work. Baudry was an intellectual, a liberal, and a supporter of the arts who took a great interest in botany and was a serious gardener. The gardens at Rochemont were extensive and equipped with fine greenhouses, and Baudry possessed a large botanical library as well. All of these elements combined to exert a positive influence on the painter. He had painted small flower still lifes as part of a larger composition, as in The Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine, but here in Saintes for the first time he focused on the painting of flowers for their own sake. In so doing he placed himself in a tradition going back to the seventeenth-century Dutch painting that he had long admired and taken as a model in his youth. At the same time he put his own particular imprint on that tradition. The Trellis is the largest and most ambitious of the Saintes flower paintings. Two-thirds of its area is taken up with a cornucopia of richly painted summer flowers, their petals all opened out toward the space of the viewer. Traveling by eye through this mass of finely articulated shape and color is an intensely pleasurable experience. Reversing the usual order that obtains between still life and the human figure, the painting is dominated by the floral profusion, while the young woman is off to one side. Her dark dress with its discreet small floral print pattern is a lightly ironic gloss on the tumbling mass of large living blossoms. The figure of the young woman herself, her slender youthfulness and good cheer unusual in the artist's repertory of female subjects, is a mark of the lightheartedness that he was permitted to experience in Saintes. The painting was widely admired when it was shown in the exhibition that Courbet and his local friends organized in Saintes in January of 1863. []

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Orestes Pursued by the Furies (1862)

William Bouguereau: Orestes Pursued by the Furies

In this dramatic scene from an ancient Greek tragedy, Orestes is swarmed by mythological spirits of vengeance, the three Furies. The impressive scale of the canvas, the careful balance of compositional elements, the intense realism of the scene, and the flawlessly rendered surfaces within it are trademarks of Bouguereau’s conservative, academic style.

Bouguereau was the grand master of the French art establishment and set the bar for those painters who aspired to commercial success in the second half of the 19th century. Critics, however, dismissed this painting for its heavy, melodramatic tone. “I soon found that the horrible, the frenzied, the heroic does not pay,” Bouguereau lamented after showing the work at the 1863 Paris Salon. [Chrysler Museum of Art]