Sunday, October 22, 2017

Émile Munier (1891)

Émile Munier: At the Fountain
Émile Munier: Messenger of Love

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Reception of Louis XVI at the Hotel de Ville (1891)

Jean-Paul Laurens: The Reception of Louis XVI at the 
Hotel de Ville by the Parisian Municipality in 1789

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Vive L'Empereur (1891)

Edouard Detaille: Vive L'Empereur. The Charge of the French 4th Hussar 
Regiment at the Battle of Friedland, June 14th 1807

The Battle of Friedland (June 14, 1807) was a major confrontation of the Napoleonic Wars between the armies of the French Empire commanded by Napoleon I and the armies of the Russian Empire led by Count von Bennigsen. Napoleon and the French obtained a decisive victory that routed much of the Russian army, which retreated chaotically over the Alle River by the end of the fighting. The battlefield is located in modern-day Kaliningrad Oblast, near the town of Pravdinsk, Russia.

The engagement at Friedland was a strategic necessity after the Battle of Eylau earlier in 1807 had failed to yield a decisive verdict for either side. The battle began when Bennigsen noticed the seemingly isolated corps of Marshal Lannes at the town of Friedland. Thinking he had a good chance of destroying these isolated French units, Bennigsen ordered his entire army over the Alle River. Lannes held his ground against determined Russian attacks until Napoleon could bring additional forces onto the field. By late afternoon, the French had amassed a force of 80,000 troops on the battlefield. Relying on superior numbers, Napoleon concluded that the moment had come and ordered a massive assault against the Russian left flank. The sustained French attack pushed back the Russian army and pressed them against the river behind. Unable to withstand the pressure, the Russians broke and started escaping across the Alle, where an unknown number of them died from drowning. The Russian army suffered horrific casualties at Friedland–losing over 40% of its soldiers on the battlefield. [Wikipedia]

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Restoration (1891)

Édouard Dantan: A Restoration

Dantan was especially drawn to painting the interiors of the artist's studio. His father, Antoine-Laurent Dantan, was a well-known and acclaimed sculptor and would have involved him in his studio practice and, consequently, fostered an ambition for Edouard to develop his own. He would go on to document the professional artistic landscape of the late nineteenth century and is most celebrated for his paintings of working studios and exhibition spaces. His submissions to the Paris Salon in 1880 (L'Atelier de mon père), 1887 (Un moulage sur nature) and in 1891 (Une restauration, the present lot) depicted the interiors of an artist's studio. Of these, Une restauration shows Dantan at his very best through the virtuosity of paint handling, attention to detail, complexity of compositional arrangement and relative monumentality. It would later be exhibited at Chicago's Columbian World's Exposition in 1893.

There is a longstanding tradition of presenting the artist's studio as either allegory or anecdote. Masterpieces like Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas (1656), which later influenced Gustave Courbet's The Artist's Studio (1855), set important precedents that Dantan, and  innumerable other artists, would draw from. The Salon jury would have been especially receptive to this subject, and because his 1880 submission was well-received and much talked about, Dantan would have been prompted to submit more of the same genre.

Immediately evident in this painting is the tremendous attention to detail, as Dantan is careful to convey a vision of the artists' studio while he is in the act of creation. Marble is prized for its malleability and skin-like translucency but remains an extremely unforgiving medium given that it is a subtractive process. One foul blow of the mallet or careless placement of the chisel could spell ruin for a masterpiece.

The sculpture is likely based on Antoine Houdon's masterpiece, La frileuse (1787), which is an allegory for winter and translates to a woman who is susceptible to the cold. As in many of his works, Dantan maintains a sense of humor and play of irony. Here, the artist's fully clothed sculpture is an exaggeration of Houdon's half naked Frileuse, and while the bare branches seen through the window indicate winter, his bared model shows no susceptibility to the cold.

In the present work, Dantan's artist is chiseling at the drapery of his subject which is carefully propped on a series of wood blocks so that his area of occupation is at eye level and close to his body. Chisels and spatulas are carefully hung and ordered under shelves that house studies and maquettes, as well as incomplete works and broken fragments. Friezes hang on the walls and earthenware vessels and woven baskets sit on the floor. Interestingly, and a sign of Dantan's ambition, there are two light sources implied in the artist's bright studio. The window shown diffuses light that illuminates the model from behind, and the drapery that she is enveloped in seems to glow. The surfaces of each object are given an extreme amount of consideration, and the result is an artistic tour de force. [Sotheby’s]

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

William Bouguereau (1890)

 William Bouguereau: Calinerie [A Little Coaxing]
William Bouguereau: L'Amour et Psyché, enfants

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Bohemian Girl (1890)

William Bouguereau: The Bohemian Girl

The Bohemian is a painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau completed in 1890. It depicts a barefooted young woman sitting on a concrete bench on the south bank of the Seine across from Notre Dame de Paris resting a violin in her lap. Her right arm is resting on her thigh while the palm of her left hand is pressed down on her left knee so that she does not lean on the violin. Her hands are clasped with the fingers pointing forward while her shoulders are wrapped in a shawl dyed maroon and light green, and she is wearing a gray dress that extends to her ankles. The bow of the violin has been stuck through diagonally under the fingerboard. To her right is a maple tree. [Wikipedia]

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Cairo Market (1890)

Philippe Pavy: A Cairo Market

Philippe Pavy and his brother Eugène specialized in Orientalist paintings after traveling to North Africa and the Near East in the 1870s and 1880s. Pavy produced various Orientalist themes of costumed natives practicing their trade or in their characteristic ethnic settings, which he regularly exhibited in Paris and London. He usually painted compositions of Nubian soldiers, water-carriers, orange vendors, processions, and market scenes on wood panel, like this painting. Pavy’s talent for light and color is evident in this immensely detailed image, featuring sellers, basket, bread, oranges, pigeons, water jugs, two figures playing a board game, and another playing the lute. [Dahesh Museum]

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Central Dome at the Universal Exposition (1890)

Louis Béroud: The Central Dome at the Universal Exposition of 1889

The Fourth World Exposition held in France celebrated the centenary of the French Revolution. 1889 was a decisive year, in the words of Agulhon, for a Republican France that had found its place among the great powers. This event can be considered a massive campaign of the government and the City of Paris for the exaltation of republican values. Before becoming "conservative", the new republic showed the results of its founding years: having built a colonial empire  therefore it has overshadowed the Prussian invasion and the Commune, overcame a deep economic crisis and is always capable of offering the world the fruits of its many artistic talents.

A project of Joseph Bouvard (architect of the City, a regular collaborator of Alphand), the "central dome" was built on the major axis of Mars, punctuating the garden of the background vis-à-vis the Eiffel Tower. It gave access to the galleries of "varied industries" and especially the "30 meter gallery" that led to the spectacular Palace of Machines. The dome became the main link between the various buildings of the Exhibition; not used for the presentation of works, it was intended, according to Alphand, "to capture the imagination of the visitor, to serve, to some extent, the frontispiece to the splendours that were to unfold before his eyes." Béroud shows that vestibule seen since the "gallery of 30 meters." The foreground hints at some of the works in this "grand avenue of the domestic industry." The monumental arch that separates the dome has a walkway allowing visitors to go all round the pavilion and forms a balcony where they have an overview of the gallery as, in contrast, the prospect of Champ de Mars visible through the glass wall that closes the dome next to the Eiffel Tower - the painter hints at in the bottom of his composition. The warm colors of the table Béroud evoke the sumptuous setting of the dome, very influenced by Orientalism. [L’Histoire par L’Image]

Monday, September 25, 2017

Working in Marble (1890)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: Working in Marble (aka The Artist Sculpting Tanagra)

This complex self-portrait is a summation of Gérôme’s remarkable career as both painter and sculptor. It is also a commemoration of his famous sculpture Tanagra (1890, Musée d’Orsay, Paris), a stately nude personification of the ancient Greek city, who holds one of the small painted figurines for which the artisans of that city were known. These figurines were discovered and exhibited widely in the late 19th century, reinforcing the notion that classical sculpture was originally vividly colored. Inspired by his characteristic desire for both archaeological accuracy and realism, Gérôme delicately tinted the skin, hair, lips, and nipples of his Tanagra, causing a sensation at the Salon of 1890.

Like most 19th-century sculptors, Gérôme did not carve the marble himself but furnished professional marble cutters with a full-size plaster to use as a guide. It is this intermediate step that is depicted in Working in Marble, a title that refers to the overall creative process. Gérôme portrays himself on a turn stand putting the finishing touches on the plaster version of Tanagra, carefully judging the accuracy of his work against the live model. He is in his second-floor painting studio (which could not actually have housed an unfinished marble of that size), described by a contemporary as a “splendid room, with its great sculptures and paintings, some still unfinished, and a famous collection of barbaric arms and costumes.” Indeed, this painting includes many of these props—quiver, saddle, armor, drums, waterpipes, flag, textiles, masks—used regularly by Gérôme to enhance the authenticity of his Orientalist and classical scenes. It also contains several of his finished works: the Tanagra-inspired Hoop Dancer; Selene the moon goddess; and his painting Pygmalion and Galatea (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). This small image of a marble sculpture transformed into female flesh provides a mythological gloss on Gérôme’s own activity in Working in Marble, powerfully evoking the continuous interplay between painting and sculpture, reality and artifice, as well as highlighting the inherently theatrical nature of the artist’s studio. [Dahesh Museum]

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pygmalion and Galatea (1890)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: Pygmalion and Galatea

Between 1890 and 1892, Gérôme made both painted and sculpted variations on the theme of Pygmalion and Galatea, the tale recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book X, lines 243–97). All depict the moment when the sculpture of Galatea was brought to life by the goddess Venus, in fulfillment of Pygmalion’s wish for a wife as beautiful as the sculpture he created. Gérôme’s correspondence with his biographer Fanny Field Hering provides information about the origins of the present picture. In 1890 the artist remarked that he had begun painting Pygmalion and Galatea, stating that he was trying to rejuvenate the subject, which he thought very hackneyed, and adding that the picture would depict the statue coming to life. In November 1890, he mentioned Pygmalion and Galatea among several pictures that he had painted the prior summer, which were nearly finished. [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Friday, September 8, 2017

Harlequine (ca. 1890)

Jean Béraud: Harlequine

In the 1890s, Béraud departed (like so many artists and writers at this time) from his earlier naturalism in favor of more symbolic content, as if discontented with mere surface appearances. He did not totally renounce street scenes, but he experimented with new subjects, such as his contemporized versions of biblical stories and costume pieces like Harlequine, in which a single figure is the sole focus of the painting.

This conventionally pretty woman is dressed for costume ball as the female counterpart of the stock figure Harlequin. Her costume adopts elements of the traditional commedia dell'arte character: the diamond pattern, the bicorne hat, the stage sword whose harmlessness is coquettishly demonstrated by the model. But Béraud discards the half-mask so that her porcelain-smooth profile is fully visible. The traditional multicolored costume is exchanged for stylish pink and black.

Elegant she may be, but she is also a vivacious coquette. Béraud emphasizes her desirability through her coy behavior and exposed legs. Her painfully tight corset, which achieves the fashionable 18-inch waist, adds to her seductive charms. [The Haggin Museum]

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Legend of Kerdeck (1890)

Fernand Le Quesne: The Legend of Kerdeck

This painting by Fernand Le Quesne is an academic (and Parisian) version of the Brittanic folkloric story Les Lavandières de la Nuit or The Washerwomen of the Night. Whereas, in the painting by Dargent (ca. 1861), the spectral women are depicted as clothed and ghoulish, here they are naked and comely - luring the lone bagpiper to a watery and not entirely unpleasant grave. [Lee Hutchinson]

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Venise, le Coup de Canon (ca. 1890)

Félix Ziem: Venise, le Coup de Canon

Felix Ziem debuted at the 1849 Salon with views of Venice and the Bosphorus; he returned to these subjects throughout his life. The city of Venice was for him an inexhaustible source of inspiration and his many trips prove it: he came to Venice more than twenty times, for stays ranging from several weeks to several months. He worked from his boat, which he used as workshop and home. In May 1890, the year of this painting, Ziem moved to Venice for six months; the Venetian festivals opened as customary on the city lake. The departure is given by a shot gun from a boat specially decked out for the occasion. With extraordinary virtuosity, Ziem loaded his canvas with sparkling colors posed by small vibrant keys. This separation of keys characterizes the work of Ziem after 1878. By this technique, flexible and removed, this view of Venice is perfectly integrated in the work of the artist, but is required by its high quality. [Gazette Drouot]

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Catechism Lesson (1890)

Jules Alexis Muenier: The Catechism Lesson

Muenier’s rapid rise at the Paris Salon, beginning with Le Bréviaire (The Breviary) in 1887 and reaching a crescendo in 1891 with The Catechism Lesson, caused considerable consternation in the artistic community. Numerous artists wondered how this painter from the provinces could complete works of such delicate precision without associating with Paris artists. Few were aware of his ties with Dagnan-Bouveret, and little was known of his training when he exhibited The Catechism Lesson at the Salon of 1891. That work established his reputation: it attracted the attention of collectors, both private and in the government.

Few realized that The Catechism Lesson was the product of Muenier’s ultimate use of photography and of his glass studio. In constructing the image, he took an extensive series of photographs of this models in a garden in Coulevon…. The exiting glass-plate negatives prove that Muenier utilized photographs much like drawings. To retain all details in sharp focus, especially the flowers at the right and the background landscape, he took close-up photographs of them. Once he had transferred these elements to the canvas, he reassembled his models in the studio, where he concentrated on the tonal and color relationships that contributed to his painting’s popular success. [Schiller & Bodo]

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Portrait of Jane Hading (1890)

Alfred Roll: Portrait of Jane Hading

Jane Hading (25 November 1859 – 28 February 1941) was a French actress. Her real name was Jeanne-Alfrédine Tréfouret.

She was born in Marseille, where her father was an actor at the Gymnase. She has said that her first appearance on the stage came when she was three years old.

She was trained at the local Conservatoire and was engaged in 1873 for the theatre at Algiers, and afterwards for the Khedivial theatre at Cairo, where she played, in turn, coquette, soubrette and ingenue parts. Expectations had been raised by her voice, and when she returned to Marseille she sang in operetta, besides acting in Ruy Blas.

She first appeared in Paris in 1879 in La chaste Suzanne at the Palais Royal, and she was again heard in operetta at the Renaissance. She sang in La petite mariée and La belle Lurette. In 1883 she had a great success at the Gymnase in Le maître de forges. In 1884 she married Victor Koning (1842-1894), the manager of that theatre, but divorced him in 1887.

In 1888 and 1894, she toured America with Benoît Constant Coquelin. She helped to give success to Henri Lavedan's Le Prince d'Aurec at the Vaudeville in 1892, and afterwards joined the Comédie Française. Her reputation as one of the leading actresses of the day was established not only in France but in America and England. She also toured South America. Victorien Sardou chose her for the title role of his Marcelle in 1896. [Wikipedia]

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

L'amour et Psyche (1889)

William Bouguereau: L'amour et Psyche

William Bouguereau arrived in Paris from the provinces in 1846 at the age of 20; he was determined to build a career as an artist. He immediately joined the atelier of the esteemed painter François-Édouard Picot, and soon after persuaded Picot to recommend him for entry to the École des Beaux-Arts. While he was barely accepted, placing ninety-ninth out of 100 applicants, Bouguereau went on to achieve extraordinary fame and popularity, becoming one of the most critically and commercially successful painters of his day.

By 1899, the year L'Amour et Psychè was painted, Bouguereau had attained a level of success likely unimaginable for a once quiet boy from a modest family in La Rochelle. He had received countless medals at various juried exhibitions both in France and abroad; secured numerous important public and private commissions; was named professor at the École des Beaux-Arts; and was made Officer of the Légion d'honneur, one of the most prestigious decorations in France.  Painted in the last decade of the 19th century,  L'Amour et Psyché embodies the culmination of Bouguereau's long and successful career.  It displays his consummate artistic ability, particularly in rendering the human form, where his two protagonists appear as if created by real flesh and bone rather than paint and brush.  From a commercial point of view,  L'Amour et Psyché represents Bouguereau's keen understanding of contemporary popular taste, an appreciation which had evolved throughout his career. In fact, this painting is almost the polar opposite of his monumental early masterpiece, Dante et Virgile aux Enfers from 1850, the type of painting he himself acknowledged would never appeal to the main-stream art buying public.

Our painting is closely related to two other versions of the subject painted earlier in Bouguereau's career. In 1889, he created Psyché et l'Amour, his first life-size version of the mythological lovers as young adults hovering mid-air. That same year he created another version of this subject, L'Amour et Psyché, enfants, this time depicting the characters as young children resting on, rather than soaring through, the clouds, with Cupid pulling a reluctant Psyche toward him for a kiss. Five years later Bouguereau returned to the theme of the two lovers as young adults, creating Le ravissement de Psyché (1895), which also features a full-size Cupid and Psyche traveling to Cupid's celestial lair. Bouguereau's repeated return to this subject of young adult lovers featured in a large-scale, full-size format attests to its enduring popularity and the artist's personal satisfaction with his interpretation of it.

The tale of Cupid and Psyche greatly appealed to turn-of-the-century audiences for its obvious themes of love, beauty, jealousy and perseverance; with the ultimate conclusion that love conquers all. As the story goes, Psyche, a young mortal woman of exceptional beauty, drives the powerful goddess of Love, Venus, into a jealous rage. Venus in turn commands her son Cupid to use his famous golden arrow to make Psyche fall eternally in love with a monster. Cupid approaches Psyche in her sleep and, upon seeing her, is too overcome with her beauty, accidentally scratching himself with his arrow. Victim of his own trickery, he falls deeply in love with the human girl. After a complex series of trials and tests created by Venus to destroy Psyche, the young mortal woman prevails and she and Cupid are united in a marriage blessed by Jupiter. Psyche is ultimately transformed into a goddess.

In L'Amour et Psyché, the two figures are a physical embodiment of the transportive power of love, as Cupid is literally moving Psyche through the air, away from Earthly hardships, and toward a celestial world. Cupid's role as Psyche's protector is reinforced by his lean physical strength and broad, outstretched wings. Psyche, appearing demure in his firm embrace, is often identified by butterfly wings, as her name in Greek literally means "soul" or "butterfly," and she has come to represent the human spirit's ability to emerge from darkness. She is particularly striking in her distinctly feminine physique, which is accentuated by her position in Cupid's arms. The origins of this pose are found in a preparatory drawing (fig.4); it is also interesting to note that Bouguereau's decision to show the back of Psyche rather than the frontal pose of the 1889 and 1895 versions, recalls an earlier motif that he used in his 1884, L'Etoile perdue. Additionally, Bouguereau worked out the final composition by repeating the two figures in a variety of interchangeable poses on separate sheets of drawings. Once he had settled on the final composition, he made a small, almost "impressionistic" oil sketch to determine his color choices. The last step of the process was to complete a large cartoon on blue paper, close to the scale of the final painting.  All of these preparatory works are in a private French collection. [Sotheby’s]

Monday, August 21, 2017

Portrait of Col. William F. Cody (1889)

Rosa Bonheur: Portrait of Col. William F. Cody

Buffalo Bill enthralled Europeans with his Wild West exhibition when he took it to Paris in 1889. Bonheur visited the grounds of Cody's Wild West to sketch the exotic American animals and the Indian warriors with their families. Cody, in turn, accepted the invitation of Rosa Bonheur to visit her chateau in Fontainebleau where she painted this portrait. For Rosa Bonheur, Buffalo Bill embodied the freedom and independence of the United States. [Wikimedia Commons]

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Norbert Goeneutte (1889)

Norbert Goeneutte: An Elegant Lady on a Balcony
 Norbert Goeneutte: Anna Goeneutte Wearing a Beret
Norbert Goeneutte: Reine Goeneutte Washing the Young Jean Guerard in the Artist's Studio

Monday, August 14, 2017

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1889)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: Bathsheba
Jean-Léon Gérôme: Nude Woman
Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Harem Bath
Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Marabout in the Harem Bath