Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1873)

 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: A Shady Resting Place
 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: La route de Sin-le-noble près de Douai
 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Smyrne-Bornabat
 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Venus Clipping Cupid's Wings
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Ville d'Avray, the Pond seen through the Foliage

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Japanese Toilette (1873)

Marie-François-Firmin Girard: The Japanese Toilette

Marie-François Firmin-Girard was born on 29 May 1838 in the village of Poncin, a hamlet in the Ain region of France adjacent to the Swiss border.  The landscape is comprised of a surprising variety of terrains from flat marshlands to rich agricultural plains to the Jura mountains.  By age sixteen, the ambitious young artist had left his hometown to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  Initially he sought out the guidance of Charles Gleyre, the Swiss painter, who offered a traditional visual arts curriculum in an independent studio setting.  Later, Firmin-Girard would study with Jean-Léon Gérôme, the academic master of orientalism and anecdotal history paintings.

Western aesthetic traditions were even more profoundly transformed by contact with the utterly unfamiliar design techniques evident in Japanese woodblock prints. According to art historical tradition, Félix Bracquemond first saw Hokusai Manga in 1856 as part of the wrapping for a porcelain consignment. More reliably, a Japanese import shop called La Porte Chinoise is documented as having opened on the fashionable rue de Rivoli in 1862. In short, Japanese art was gradually finding its way to Paris; following the 1868 Meiji restoration, the trade in Japanese goods would expand exponentially. Firmin-Girard, like so many of his contemporaries, would enjoy Japanese art as an unending source of both motifs and inspiration.

In the midst of this refreshing jolt of artistic thinking from Japan, France plunged into a destructive and ultimately devastating war with Prussia in 1870. When the hostilities officially ceased in 1871, Paris was a city divided by fierce political ideologies, and France was subjected to the humiliating occupation of enemy troops. It was in this environment that Firmin-Girard sought to re-establish his career. At the Salon of 1873, he exhibited one of his best-known paintings, La Toilette Japonaise, a slightly risqué scene of three geishas assisting each other in preparing for work. Several features are especially notable about this image: first is the oblique angle of perspective—a common technique in Japanese prints, but comparatively rare in western art in 1874. Second is the painstaking delineation of the interior furnishings and costumes, almost as if the artist hoped to offer his viewers a photographic image of a Japanese geisha’s life. This was characteristic of this early phase of Japonisme, a term coined by art critic Jules Claretie in 1872 to describe the craze for all things Japanese. As aesthetic understanding of Japanese design principles deepened, the stylistic elements would become increasingly integrated into western imagery. [Rehs Galleries]

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Battle of Waterloo (ca. 1873)

Henri-Félix-Emmanuel Philippoteaux: The Battle of Waterloo - 
The British Squares Receiving the Charge of the French Cuirassiers

This painting is a fine example of Félix Philippoteaux' battle scenes, a genre in which he specialised with success. It shows the Battle of Waterloo between the British army and the French Napoleonic army, which took place on the 18th June 1815. This very accurate representation of warfare tends to re-create the past, mainly the Revolutionary and Empire period. This type of representations draws upon 17th-century Dutch examples such as Philips Wouverman (1619-1668) and differs from the Realist interpretation of the subject. [Victoria and Albert Museum]

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Battle of Fontenoy (1873)

Henri-Félix-Emmanuel Philippoteaux: The Battle of Fontenoy

Felix Philippoteaux (1815-1884) was born in Paris where he trained with Léon Coignet (1794-1880). He soon specialised in history and portrait paintings and started exhibiting at the Salon in 1833. He also produced battle scenes, some of them in a panorama format with the assistance of his son Paul Dominique Philippoteaux (1846-1876), who would be at the forefront of a new generation of panorama painters. Félix Philippoteaux was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1846.

This painting is a fine example of Félix Philippoteaux’ battle scenes, a genre in which he specialised with success. It shows the Battle of Fontenoy during the Austrian Succession War between the British, Hanoverians, Austrian and Dutch and the French, which took place on the 11th June 1745 and more specifically Lord Charles Hay of the First Foot Guards challenging the Gardes Francaises. This very accurate representation of warfare tends to re-create the past, drawing upon 17th-century Dutch examples such as Philips Wouverman (1619-1668) and differs from the 19th-century Realist interpretation of the subject. [Victoria and Albert Museum]

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ville d'Avray (1873)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Ville d'Avray - Le Cavalier à la entrée du bois

During the last years of his life, public affection for Corot had deepened. His popularity had not waned and collectors and dealers alike waited impatiently for his paintings to dry so they could be released from the artist's studio. At the Salon, he continued to be a success, although now that he was either on the jury or served hors concours, his works were automatically accepted. The reviewers of the Salons wrote long elegies on the 'poet of the landscape'.

Corot had become the grand old man of French painting. Young painters such as Berthe Morisot sought out his instruction and approval. Camille Pissarro described himself in his entries to the Salon as 'student of Corot' in an effort to win more respect from his contemporaries and many others did the same. And unexpectedly, Corot was adopted by the critics of the New Painting: Emile Cola, Theodore Duret and Edmond Duranty all considered Corot to be the progenitor of Impressionism. At one time or another, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Pierre Auguste Renoir all experimented with Corot's method and technique.

In Ville d'Avray - Le chevalier à l'entrée du bois, Corot deftly captures the effect of the diffuse, pale sunlight. The figure and his horse merge into the landscape and are in complete harmony with their surroundings. The critic Edmund About wrote: 'No artist has more style or can better communicate his ideas in a landscape. He transforms everything he touches, he appropriates everything he paints, he never copies, and even when he works directly from nature, he invents. As they pass through his imagination, objects take on a vague and delightful form. Colors soften and melt; everything becomes fresh, young and harmonious. One can easily see that air floods his paintings, but we will never know by what secret he manages to paint air.' (Quoted in G. Tinterow, Corot, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, exhibition catalogue, pp. 236-237).

Corot has deftly combined all of the elements of his style into Ville d'Avray - Le chevalier à l'entrée du bois, and he uses his unique ability to portray light to bind these elements into a cohesive whole. A figure on horseback, his back to the viewer, makes his way down a sun-dappled path heading to a forest. A woman, perhaps a faggot gatherer taking a rest from her back breaking work, is seated to the side of the road and watches the rider approach. The path is lined by silvery toned birch trees which filter the sunlight onto the sandy path. In the distance, the village peeks through the trees that surround it, hinting at the rider's destination.

With a palette of grays, greens, browns and white, Corot has captured the essence of a late afternoon on the edge of a forest. The silence is palpable, the serenity complete. Overhead, patches of blue sky are punctuated by bright clouds. Through his palette and his ability to capture nature's subtleties, Corot has told the viewer that it is late afternoon in summer. [Christie’s]

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pandora (1873)

Alexandre Cabanel: Pandora

Cabanel, a professor of painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, specialized in portraits of "High Society." Here, he depicts the Swedish soprano Christine Nilsson as Pandora, the woman in Greek mythology who opened a forbidden box, releasing all the troubles that afflict humanity. [The Walters Art Museum]

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

The White Calf (1873)

Gustave Courbet: The White Calf

Painted in 1873, Le Veau blanc is one of the last paintings that Gustave Courbet created in his much-loved Ornans as he prepared to flee across the border into Switzerland in self-imposed exile. The distant limestone cliffs, the trickling stream at which the bull pauses, and the lush, olive-tinged foliage of the rising hillside all refer to the mountainous Jura region that Courbet had celebrated in so many paintings over thirty years. Courbet had always deeply entwined his own life in his art and it is quite probable that in Le Veau Blanc he wished to recreate something of his younger self in this powerful bull calf, holding its ground so forcefully, locking the viewer in its knowing gaze.

Le Veau blanc has frequently been compared to the most famous old master animal picture, Paulus Potter's life-size Young Bull, painted in 1647 and carried off to Paris by Napoléon's conquering armies in 1795. "Potter's Bull" was frequently reproduced during the nineteenth-century and the painting was consistently upheld as the measure of animal realism by numerous critics appraising pictures of Courbet's most prominent animalier rivals, Rosa Bonheur and Constant Troyon. Courbet had frequently painted animals as important elements of larger compositions, whether the hunt scenes for which he first won popular success during the 1850s, or more complex views of life in Ornans, such as Young Ladies of the Village. But the concentrated focus on the young bull in Le Veau blanc is unusual in Courbet's art, as is the animal's direct engagement with the viewer, suggested by animal's alert stance and steady gaze toward the center of the picture's audience. Le Veau blanc is the 1873 equivalent of Courbet's 1864 masterpiece, The Oak of Flagey, a painting in which Courbet wrapped his provincial origins and immense ambitions into a ground-breaking depiction of a massive tree. In the uproar of 1873, Courbet chose to identify with a young bull.

Courbet was quite proud of Le Veau blanc and attempted several times during his years in exile to enter the picture in international exhibitions in England and America. His compromised position made the effort futile and Le Veau blanc was not seen for the first time until the extraordinary posthumous celebration of Courbet's work mounted at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1882. A sumptuous photo album, recording every wall and screen display of that exhibition, provides important documentation for Le Veau blanc and demonstrates how easily this unexpected white bull holds his own among Courbet's most powerful portraits and figure compositions. [Sotheby’s]

Monday, March 14, 2016

Maternity (1873)

Léon Jean Basile Perrault: Maternity

Though little known abroad, Perrault enjoyed a considerable following in France as a painter of genre subjects and portraits. A student of Picot and Bouguereau, he made his first appearance in the Paris Salon in 1861. In addition to easel paintings he also produced some decorative works, including a ceiling decoration for the Marriage Chamber of the city hall of his native Poitiers. In this interior scene that was first exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1873, Perrault shows a pretty young mother holding her young son. The child is nude and the mother wears a kimono, with her left shoulder and breast exposed. Perrault has excelled in achieving a remarkable richness of colors and textures: the embroidered saffron-colored silk of the mother's kimono constrasts with the rich purple velvet upholstery of the chair. The vibrantly colored Oriental rug and Japanese carved teak bed, on which rests a punchinello doll, reflect the vogue for Japanese products in 1870s France. [The Walters Art Museum]

Sunday, March 13, 2016

St. Paul's from the Surrey Side (1871-73)

Charles François Daubigny: St. Paul's from the Surrey Side

This view shows St Paul's Cathedral in the distance, left of centre. The vantage point of the artist was on the south, or Surrey side of the river Thames, between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. Daubigny first visited London in 1866, returning in 1870-71 to escape the Franco-Prussian war. This painting, dated 1873, was either begun on the spot and finished in the studio, or was worked up from sketches made of the river during this visit. [Gandalf’s Gallery]

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Henri IV at the Battle of Arques (1873)

Eugène Lami: Henri IV at the Battle of Arques

In August 1589, following the assassination of Henri III, Henri IV became king of France. One of his first tasks was to bring peace to France. To do so, he lifted the siege of Paris, which was in the hands of the Catholic League, in order to begin a military campaign in Normandy. Henri set up camp near the Chateau d'Arques near Dieppe, and prepared to do battle with the duc de Mayenne. He was outnumbered –pro-Catholic forces numbered between 25,000 and 30,000 soldiers, whereas he had only 8,000 men. (He was eagerly awaiting the arrival of reinforcements from England.) On 21 September 1589, Henri was victorious, particularly thanks to his artillery, which was under the command of the duc de Sully. After this initial success, and that of the Battle of Ivry, not far from Dreux, Normandy rallied to his cause, and Henri could once again turn his attention to Paris.

Eugène Louis Lami was a romantic artist of the 19th century who had made a name for himself as a battle painter, particularly under the July Monarchy. In this work, he has taken great pains to depict not only the two armies but also the landscape, and he has included some picturesque details. In this work, the Leaguers can be identified by their red sashes, but also by the cross of Lorraine. At the centre of the picture, Henri IV leads the charge, holding high his hat with the white plume – which actually would become celebrated later, at the Battle of Ivry. The artist emphasizes the role of the cavalry, suggests the artillery's firepower and shows the arquebusiers in action. This representation of the king is also an idealized one, but it also factors in a certain number of historical details as well. [Henry IV, The Interrupted Reign]

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Dune at Dunkirk (1873)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: A Dune at Dunkirk

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot traveled to Dunkirk at the end of July 1873 to paint with his friend, Charles-François Daubigny. It was Corot's second visit to the area, having been there sixteen years prior in September 1857. Situated in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region of France, near the border with Belgium, Dunkirk, with its old port, structural ramparts, and surrounding dunes, provided Corot with ample motifs for his painting. Of the six paintings of Dunkirk recorded in Alfred Robaut's Corot catalogue raisonné, the present painting is the largest and the only one in which reference to the town is completely abandoned. The absence of architectural elements allowed Corot to focus solely on the effects of light as it played across the stark dune landscape. Working en plein air, he rendered this topography in a harmony of beiges and greens which he punctuated with the presence of human figures to provide accents of color. [Christie’s]

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Ernest-Ange Duez (1873)

 Ernest-Ange Duez: Honeymoon
Ernest-Ange Duez: Looking Out To Sea

Friday, March 4, 2016

Self-Portrait at Sainte-Pélagie (1872-73)

Gustave Courbet: Self-Portrait at Sainte-Pélagie

In 1871 Courbet’s involvement in politics reached its zenith with his participation in the Paris Commune–a series of events that barely register in his art, for the simple reason that he had more urgent things to do than paint during those dramatic months. But the fall of the commune led to a brief imprisonment (retrospectively depicted in Portrait de l’artiste à Sainte-Pélagie, in which his wistful gaze out the barred window oddly echoes his expression in La Curée, fifteen years earlier) and in 1873 to an unhappy, mostly unproductive exile in Switzerland that lasted until his death in 1877. [The Nation]

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Last Cartridges (1873)

Alphonse de Neuville: The Last Cartridges

De Neuville showed peculiar insight into military life, but his full power was not reached until after the Franco-Prussian War. He then aimed at depicting in his works the episodes of that war, and began by representing the Bivouac before Le Bourget (1872). His fame spread rapidly, and was increased by The Last Cartridges (1873), memorializing an episode involving the Blue Division of the French marines, in which it is easy to discern the vast difference between the conventional treatment of military subjects, as practised by Horace Vernet, and that of a man who had lived the life that he painted. [Wikipedia]