Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Victor-Gabriel Gilbert (1978)

 Victor-Gabriel Gilbert: Market Day
 Victor-Gabriel Gilbert: The Flower Seller
Victor-Gabriel Gilbert: The Vegetable Market, Paris

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

October (1878)

Jules Bastien-Lepage: October

Many artists developed a particular interest in rural life and themes, including subjects that highlighted regional customs and industries that were slowly disappearing. In his work, Bastien-Lepage blended a contemporary approach to painting such as October, 1878 (everyday subject matter and landscapes painted en plein air in an Impressionist style) with aspects of traditional academic art practice (figures painted with clear, firm outline and strongly modeled form). This blending of styles treated everyday subject matter, such as the work of the potato harvesters in October, with the dignity and nobility traditionally reserved for “serious” history painting. [All Things Victorian]

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Construction of Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre (1878)

Paul-Joseph-Victor Dargaud: The Construction of Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre

Paul-Joseph-Victor Dargaud's Paris studio was located at 34, boulevard de Clichy not far from the the building site of Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre. The present work was painted in 1878, three years after the basillica's foundation stone was laid, and captures the complex construction efforts that would continue through 1914. [Sotheby’s]

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rolla (1878)

Henri Gervex: Rolla

In the Spring of 1878, a month before the inauguration of the Salon, Rolla was brutally excluded from the event by the Beaux-Arts administration. Yet, Henri Gervex was a renowned painter. Aged only 26, he had already been awarded a medal at the Salon, which in theory made him an "outsider" in terms of competition and therefore dispensed from the deliberations of the jury in charge of choosing the artworks exhibited. This time, the authorities decided otherwise as they judged the scene to be "immoral".

Gervex found his inspiration in a long poem by Alfred de Musset (1810-1857), published in 1833. The text recounts the destiny of a young bourgeois, Jacques Rolla, falling into a life of idleness and debauchery. He meets with Marie, a teenager who found in prostitution an escape from misery. Rolla is seen here ruined, standing by the window, his eyes turned to the girl sleeping. He is about to commit suicide by poison.

If the scene was judged indecent, it was not because of Marie's nudity, which in no way differs from the canonic nudes of the time. The attention of contemporaries rather turned to the still life constituted by a gown, a garter, and a hastily undone corset covered with a top hat. Gervex might have been advised by Degas to put "a corset on the floor" so that the spectator may know this woman "is not a model". Indeed, this disposition and the nature of the clothes clearly indicate Marie's consent and her status as a prostitute. Moreover, the walking stick emerging from the garments acts as a metaphor for sexual intercourse.

After its exclusion from the Salon, Rolla was exhibited for three months in the gallery of a Parisian art dealer. The scandal, largely echoed by newspapers, attracted large crowds. Many years later, in interviews published in 1924, Gervex recalled the pleasure he had in seeing the "uninterrupted procession of visitors", although it is unknown whether he had anticipated the reaction of the authorities and willingly provoked the scandal. [Musée d’Orsay]

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Reception for Duc de Condé at Versailles (1878)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Reception for Duc de Condé at Versailles

The year is 1674, and on the great Escalier des Ambassadeurs, in Versailles, Louis XIV is welcoming the Grand Condé, who has just defeated William of Orange in the battle of Seneffe. This event marked the end of almost fifteen years of exile for the Grand Condé, which had been designed by the king to punish "his cousin" for leading the Fronde against the monarchy.

Gérôme concentrated all his passion for historical reconstruction into this modest-sized painting, making use of different iconographic sources to lend the scene more credibility such as engravings of the Château de Versailles and portraits of the various persons represented.The composition is made dynamic by the high-angle view and the off-centring of the large compositional X structure. Gérôme employed a delicate palette in which the overall sense of clarity and the cool tones of the marble are invigorated by the colours of the costumes and flags. [Musée d’Orsay]

Friday, August 19, 2016

Edmond Georges Grandjean (1878)

 Edmond-Georges Grandjean: View of the Champs-Elysees from the Place de L’Etoile in Paris
Edmond-Georges Grandjean: Vue de la Rue Rivoli et la Tour Saint-Jacques, Paris

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Camille Cabaillot Lassalle (1878)

 Camille Cabaillot Lassalle: The Railway Carriage
Camille Cabaillot-Lassalle: The Sculpture Exhibition

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Graziella (1878)

Jules-Joseph Lefebvre: Graziella

Winner of the coveted Prix de Rome in 1861, Lefebvre fulfilled his early promise both as a painter of meticulously executed portraits and nudes and as a teacher: during his long career, he earned three Salon medals, was appointed to the French Academy of Fine Arts, and attained the rank of Commander in the Legion of Honor.

Catharine Lorillard Wolfe commissioned Graziella in 1878. It depicts the heroine of Alphonse de Lamartine’s popular tale of the same name, which was first published in 1849. The story revolves around the narrator’s love for the beautiful daughter of a Neapolitan fisherman. Lefebvre portrayed her mending a fishing net as she gazes over her shoulder toward the distant simmering profile of Mount Vesuvius. [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

La Toilette (1878)

Henri Gervex: La Toilette

Zola’s Nana was one of the most widely read naturalist novels from the moment of its appearance in book form. Here, Zola chronicled the rise, adulation and eventual fall and decay of a contemporary sex goddess. The press response to his novel was overwhelming; cartoons continually appeared in the daily Parisian press extolling Zola for having touched upon a societal nerve. The response to Nana was immediate and profound. Edouard Manet created his version of Nana (in 1877) before the extensive text of the novel was published, demonstrating that the literary character, who had been introduced in earlier Zola novels, was already an icon among the public inaugurating and aura of anticipation. By 1880, in a painting that has not been located, Gervex created his first version of Nana. The beautiful young woman is dressing before a large mirror in the company of an elderly maid and a young gentleman. The latter eyes her admiringly, while twirling his moustache in an attitude of ownership. Since Gervex was much taken with the theme of sexuality, and with the significance of Nana as both an emblem and as a figure both used and abused in spite of her beauty, he clearly wanted to create other versions of the same sex goddess. La Toilette follows in this tradition.

In this painting, Gervex focuses on the actions of the young courtesan as she is looking at her reflection in a small mirror on a chest of drawers. Her dress cast aside at the left, her hat thrown on a small table in the rear create an ambiance of disarray; the atmosphere speaks of a sexual encounter -- a moment made more intense by the pensive look of the young woman. What connects the scene to Zola’s novel, and to Nana in particular, is the fact that this interior suggests a fashionable decor where plush draperies and rich carpeting reveal the type of environment in which Nana must have lived. At the right, a small series of stained glass panels, hanging in front of a large French window from which the light that illuminates the scene enters the room, further heightens the richness of the setting and reveals the current taste for stained glass in interiors. The use of these details suggests contemporaneity. The work is painted with a very broadly brushed surface and with an understanding of the color tonalities of Impressionism. In this canvas, Gervex demonstrates that he has understood the innovations of the Impressionist painters. The work is also treated with the same lively brushed style and tonality as Gervex's Rolla, which would date it in the late 1870s or very early 1880s. [Schiller & Bodo]

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Auguste Toulmouche (1878)

 Auguste Toulmouche: At the Corner of the Fire
Auguste Toulmouche: Reflection of Beauty

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Little Savoyard (1877)

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret: The Little Savoyard Eating in Front of an Entrance to a House

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Haymaking (1877)

Jules Bastien-Lepage: Haymaking

Dubbed the "grandson of Millet and Courbet" by Zola, Jules Bastien-Lepage specialised in agricultural scenes which were a far remove from the affected pastoral scenes that cluttered the Salon. Zola was excited by Hay Making, seeing it as the masterpiece of naturalism in painting.

Indeed it is a far cry from Millet's Rest. The artist has powerfully captured the epic of the French countryside and depicted the peasants in their simplicity and despondency: the young woman sitting in the foreground is haggard with weariness. The scene is inspired by a poem:
"The reaper stretched out on his bed of fresh grass
Sleeps with clenched fists while
The tedder, faint and fuddled, tanned by the sun,
Sits vacantly dreaming beside him […]. "
The painting clearly exceeds the scope of this mild text and was indeed very popular at the 1878 Salon. The composition is daringly photographic: the horizon is unusually high, allowing the hay "like a very pale yellow cloth shot with silver" to fill the main part of the canvas. The effects of accelerated perspective, the light palette, and close framing of the figures are signs of modernity within the naturalist approach. [Musée d’Orsay]