Monday, November 7, 2016

Sulking, Gustave Courtois in his Studio (1880)

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret: Sulking, Gustave Courtois in his Studio

In 1880, when Dagnan-Bouveret completed this painting, an important, captivating, and until now completely unknown work characteristic of the artists early genre manner, was establishing himself as a recorder of Parisian scenes populated by a broad range of Parisian types. Whether in his The Bird Charmer in the Tuileries Garden, 1879 (brown ink drawing, Chrysler Museum of Art) or in the painting of an exhausted washerwoman resting along the Quai near the Seine (The Laundress, 1880) Dagnan-Bouveret was moving away from traditional academic themes to embrace contemporary life made popular by the writings of Alphonse Daudet and Emile Zola. Undoubtedly, Dagnan-Bouveret was also inspired by the discussions he was having with artistic colleagues from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, including his long-time friend, the romantic academic painter Gustave Courtois.

In the painting we see a well-appointed atelier, with a bearskin rug on the floor, and a screen decorated with flowers. The elegantly dressed painter, holding his palette and mahl-stick, is relaxing on a sofa; at the other end of the sofa sits a young woman, dressed in black, who is separated from the artist both in actuality and in demeanor. Exactly what the relationship is between these two participants remains unclear. Although they don't seem to be communicating with one another, and they each exist in their own worlds, there is a distinct possibility that the scene represents a painter and his model or subject. There is also little or no doubt that the painter is Dagnan-Bouveret's friend Courtois in his own atelier resting during a posing session with his model. Another portrait of Courtois by Dagnan-Bouveret (1884) strongly suggests this. If Bouderie is the true title of the work it could it be that the woman is the one sulking because she is unhappy with her likeness. Another proof that the work is a portrait of Courtois is that the painting reflected in the large mirror, in the central part of the composition, closely recalls a work that Courtois was completing at this moment in time, Portrait of Mme Rochetaillie (1877). [Christie’s]

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