Thursday, April 28, 2016

Markos Botsaris (1874)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: Markos Botsaris

Markos Botsaris was a Greek general and hero of the Greek War of Independence and captain of the Souliotes. Botsaris is among the most revered national heroes in Greece. At the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, he distinguished himself by his courage, tenacity and skill as a partisan leader in the fighting in western Greece, and was conspicuous in the defence of Missolonghi during the first siege of the city (1822–1823).

On the night of 21 August 1823 he led the celebrated attack on Karpenisi by 350 Souliots, against around 3,000 Ottoman Albanian troops who formed the vanguard of the army with which Mustai Pasha, the Pasha of Shkoder (modern northern Albania) and advanced to reinforce the besiegers. Botsaris' men ambushed the enemy camp and inflicted serious causalties, but Botsaris was shot in the head and killed. [Wikipedia]

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

An Afternoon Idyll (1874)

Auguste Toulmouche: An Afternoon Idyll

Auguste Toulmouche enjoyed notable success during the Second Empire with his paintings of attractive and lusciously decorated bourgeois interiors and elegantly dressed ladies. He was a student of Marc Gabriel Charles Gleyre and debuted at the Salon in 1848. His entry into the Salon of 1852 won him a third class medal, followed by a second class medal in 1861 and another third class medal for his entry into the 1878 Exposition Universelle (the first class medal at this event was awarded to William Bouguereau's La Charité). Toulmouche was appointed Chavalier de la Lègion d'honneur in 1870.

The fashionable gowns decorated with large satin ribbons, ruffled lace sleeves and multiple petticoats demonstrate the absolute height of fashion in France during the mid 1870s. … Painstaking detail has been put into the modeling of these fantastic gowns as well as their luscious fabrics and bright colors. In fact the color pink was a rather recently developed artificial dye at the time, and along with other newly invented luxuries of this period it suggests opulent consumption, an emblem of an era which is popularly called La Belle Epoque.

During a time of such riches, luscious consumption was not only satisfied through fashionable gowns and exquisite lace but also through the acquisition of antiques and rare objects imported from foreign lands. The vogue for japonisme peaked during the Second Empire and Oriental screens, blue and white porcelain, and even kimonos were being assimilated by artists across Europe, from James McNeil Whistler to Jean-Jacques Tissot and Edouard Vuillard. The use of a Japanese screen in Tissot's 1869 Salon entry titled Young Ladies admiring Japanese Objects would have been viewed as both exotic as well as sumptuous. In An Afternoon Idyll, Toulmouche introduces a similar element with the use of the screen, in order to complete and compliment this very extravagant composition. [Christie’s]

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Gustave Courbet (1874)

 Gustave Courbet: Lake Leman
 Gustave Courbet: Seascape
Gustave Courbet: Sunset on Lake Leman

Monday, April 11, 2016

Portrait of Madame Marie Clerc (1874)

Carolus-Duran: Portrait of Madame Marie Clerc

Mme. Clerc was the second wife of a well-known Parisian public administrator. She was an accomplished musician and held popular music recitals at her home on the rue de Monceau. [Christie’s]

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Le Salon de 1874

Camille Cabaillot Lassale: Le Salon de 1874

A word regarding Camille-Léopold Cabaillot-Lassalle’s Le Salon de 1874. In the history of French art, 1874 is noteworthy not for anything that transpired at the centralized, official Salon but rather for the first Impressionist exhibition that was held that year. While a variety of artists exhibited at this venue, we can say that if many of them represented scenes of daily life in the France of their time, their often innovative execution techniques placed them squarely in the avant-garde. The art works on the background wall of Cabaillot-Lassalle’s Le Salon de 1874 – a portrait and scenes from rural France – also depict subjects taken from contemporary life. However, their less-innovative, dark palette makes their debt to Dutch genre painting of the seventeenth century clearly evident. Thus, although the paintings represent the present, they appear to turn more toward the past than the future.

Three men and six females of various generations are represented by Cabaillot-Lassalle, which suggests that the Salon was a public space suitable not just for both sexes but even for old women and little girls. Strikingly, however, although the paintings represent subjects popular with bourgeois viewers of the time – those taken from domestic life rather than from the heroic past or from mythology – few of the salon visitors are shown actually looking at the exhibited paintings. All of the three men depicted in Cabaillot-Lassalle’s painting occupy the work’s middle ground: they are, therefore, in close physical proximity to the paintings. Of the three, we can only assert definitively that the man in the center is absorbed in a painting. However, since we can only see the back of a man’s head on the left, we can reasonably assume that this figure is looking at the painting in front of him. It is not clear to what object the man on the right, seen in profile, has directed his gaze. Significantly, each of the three men appears as a solitary figure, engaged only with his thoughts.

The six women are represented in a completely different manner. First, if salon attendance by the men is associated with solitary contemplation, for the six women it is strongly related to sociability: two of them converse with each other and four are in physical contact, while five are looking at another woman. In fact, none of the women is engaged in actively viewing the art works on display. Interestingly, three of the four females in the foreground are shown as readers. Along with their elegant dresses, this detail identifies them as being members of the well-educated classes, most likely the bourgeoisie. [Wendelin Guentner (ed.), Women Art Critics in Nineteenth-Century France, University of Delaware Press, 2013, pp. 10-11]

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In the Trenches (1874)

Alphonse de Neuville: In the Trenches

Members of the Garde Mobile (French expeditionary forces) are huddled in a shallow trench during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. De Neuville has conveyed the general misery and tedium between battles that is associated with trench warfare. The artist complained that his dealer, Alphonse Goupil, wanted more flattering, less disturbing subjects and refused to pay him more than 6,000 francs, a small fee, for this painting. De Neuville entered the naval school at Lorient in 1856, where his artistic instincts began. His work focuses on war, battle scenes, and soldiers. He also illustrated "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and Guizot's "History of France" as well as others. He also studied under Eugène Delacroix. [The Walters Art Museum]

Monday, April 4, 2016

Echo (1874)

Alexandre Cabanel: Echo

In Greek mythology Echo is the beautiful nymph who falls in love with Narcissus, a handsome youth who loves only his own reflection. Because of her endless chatter, Hera condemns Echo to a life of silence except for repeating what others say to her. Still in love with Narcissus, Echo retreats to a remote grotto and pines away until only her voice is left. [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Nymphs and Satyr (1873)

William Bouguereau: Nymphs and Satyr

Three nymphs playfully drag a Satyr into a woodland pond, while a fourth calls to her companions in the distance. Satyrs—half-man, half-goat—were reputedly unable to swim. Bouguereau exhibited this painting, accompanied by a verse from the Latin poem that inspired it, at the 1873 Paris Salon. Its vaguely classical subject provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate his skill painting the female nude from multiple viewpoints. An American collector immediately bought the work, which eventually ended up on display in the bar of New York City’s Hoffman House, where Sterling Clark first encountered it. [Clark Art Institute]

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Thorny Path (1873)

Thomas Couture: The Thorny Path

The Thorny Path is Couture's satire of decadent French society. A courtesan drives a carriage pulled not by animals but by four male captives who represent different ages and states of society. The naked old man leading the procession is flabby from indulgence; the troubadour following him, a symbol of young love, parodies the medieval ballads popular in nineteenth century France. The old soldier bends his head in self-reproach, and the young student writes as he walks, symbolizing the educated nobility's ignorance of the realities of daily life. The thistles and thorny plants along the road suggest the painfulness of their journey. The decrepit figure seated at the rear of the carriage with a bottle of wine in her basket foreshadows the courtesan's future. Finally, Couture signed his initials on the stone figure at center, which seems to be laughing at the entourage. [Philadelphia Museum of Art]

Friday, April 1, 2016

Jules Breton (1873)

 Jules Breton: Collector of Figs
Jules Breton: Peasant at Rest