Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Massacres of Machecoul (1884)

François Flameng: The Massacres of Machecoul

François Flameng (1856-1923) was a portrait, landscape, illustrator, printmaker and painter of history. He was commanded by the State to produce historical scenes to decorate public buildings, such as the National Assembly. The painting The Massacre of Machecoul belongs to this historical vein.

The scene takes place in the moat of the old castle of Machecoul where insurgents imprisoned patriots. In the foreground to the left, number of victims lie at the foot of high walls: a sans-culotte, easily identifiable in his striped trousers, a woman with chest bared, lying on her side next to a child. Tied to a tree is a man with gray hair with a bare chest. A large spot of blood smears his clothes at the pelvis. Probably it is the parish priest Le Tort, pierced with bayonets by insurgents; many documents say that "a woman took off his manhood." To the right, one of the leaders of the insurrection, François de Charette, walks on the scene of these summary executions, accompanied by three elegant aristocrats. Two of them lean to observe the bodies curiously. The third makes a gesture of repulsion. To the right of these three, an armed insurgent with a gun has a white cockade in his hat and holding a dog leash. In the background, the silhouettes of a group of armed men stand in front of the burned huts. [L’Histoire par L’Image]

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Flight of King Gradlon (1884)

There are several versions of this painting: The Flight of King Gradlon, by Evariste Luminais.

The drawing below of the same scene predates the paintings by a couple of years.

Having met Théodore Hersart de La Villemarqué, who had published a collection of popular Breton songs, around 1884 Luminais based on one of the songs his Flight of King Gradlon, depicting the king fleeing on horseback from his city of Ys as it is swallowed by the sea; St. Winwaloe urges him to jettison his only child, Dahut.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Siege of Paris (1884)

Ernest Meissonier: The Siege of Paris

At the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, Ernest Meissonier sketched out an initial idea for a painting that would symbolise the Siege of Paris. He would only take this up much later, finishing the work in 1884. His vision combines reality and allegory. The figure of Paris - represented by Madame Meissonier, draped in a black veil and a lion skin, in front of a tattered French flag – rises above the ruins of a barricade. Above her, in a sky of billowing clouds of ash and unfolding tragedy, the spectre of famine hovers over a Paris destroyed by fire.

All around, in a scene of confusion, dead and dying soldiers lie stretched out on the palm leaves of martyrdom. With his characteristic, highly detailed realism, Meissonier describes each face, each detail of clothing. Collapsed against the personification of Paris, the painter Henri Regnault, lies dying. He was killed at the age of 27 during the second battle of Buzenval in January 1871. He symbolises a young generation full of promise, decimated by the conflict.

Although defeated, the uninjured soldiers continue to fight. They can be seen on the left of the painting loading a cannon and sounding the charge. Finally Meissonier evokes the suffering of civilians through a few scenes observed with compassion: an old man looks for his son amongst the bodies, a woman shows her husband their dead child, another woman cries over the body of her husband.

The defeat had a profound and long-lasting effect on France at the end of the 19th century. This trauma explains why, for many years, the 1870 war was a common theme in art, and remained popular with the public. Like other painters, sculptors and writers, Meissonier glorifies the spirit of sacrifice and heroism of his compatriots, in a conscious desire to increase national feeling and prepare for revenge. [Musée d’Orsay]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Drinkers (1884)

Émile Friant: The Drinkers

The influence of the camera is very obvious here, yet it feels fresh and spontaneous. Two drinkers sharing cheap wine, perhaps on a lunch break at work...Friant chooses unusual themes and in turn creates a realism that forces us to think about people and life in a way that we often overlook. He is a poet and storyteller and yet no words are spoken at all. A poet without drama, yet discovering a reality behind the lives of ordinary people that is truly engrossing. [Beside the Easel]

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Portrait of Lucy Lee Robbins (1884)

Emile Carolus-Duran: Portrait of Lucy Lee Robbins

Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran was a painter, teacher, and member of several French arts organizations. In 1872, he opened a studio in Paris, France.  His studio welcomed James McNeil Whistler, a young John Singer Sargent, and aspiring female artists through workshops, or ateliers. One promising artist of the women’s atelier was Lucy Lee-Robbins. Dressed in a fine black cloth, Lucy Lee-Robbins gingerly leans and rests her right arm on the chair. A favorite student and model of Carolus-Duran, she began painting around 1884 and debuted at the Salon of the Société de Artistes Français in 1887. She wanted the same artistic opportunities that were available to her peers in the male dominated French art world. [Chrysler Museum]

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Manette Salomon (1883)

Charles Durand: Manette Salomon

In this remarkable composition, exhibited at the Salon of 1883, Charles Durand illustrates a scene from Edmund and Jules Goncourt’s 1867 novel, Manette Salomon, which explores the trials and triumphs of artists in mid-nineteenth century Paris.  Two artists, whose likenesses seem to recall those of the Goncourt brothers themselves, gaze upon the title character posed on a chair draped in fabric. Her illuminated body and discarded white dress are highlighted within the artist’s dimly lit atelier, crowded with a myriad of objects, oil sketches, plaster casts, and props. Anatole observes from a chair at the edge of the studio as his friend Coriolis, with brushes and palette in hand, adjusts the pose of his wife and muse, Manette. Her prominent position here parallels her role in the Goncourt’s novel, for Coriolis’s career would be both propelled and ruined by his tireless efforts to capture the beauty, charm, and irresistible features of Manette Salomon. [Sotheby's]

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Gardens of the Carrousel (1883)

Louis Béroud: The Gardens of the Carrousel and the Richelieu Pavillion in Paris

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Rout of Cholet (1883)

Jules Girardet: The Rout of Cholet, October 1793

The Battle of Cholet was fought on 17 October 1793 during the French Revolutionary Wars, between French Republican forces under General Jean Léchelle and French Royalist Forces under Louis d'Elbée. The battle was fought in the town of Cholet in the Maine-et-Loire department of France, and resulted in a Republican victory. [Wikipedia]

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Two Majesties (1883)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Two Majesties

A highly esteemed Salon painter and respected professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, Jean-Léon Gérôme embodied the artistic establishment of late-nineteenth-century Paris. Like Delacroix and Chassériau before him, Gérôme recorded the daily life and customs of the people and places he saw on his many travels to North Africa and the Near East with the zeal of an ethnographer. This painting is remarkable for its quiet solemnity. A huge, solitary lion, the king of the beasts, gazes across the seemingly endless terrain at the majestic setting sun, thus explaining the romantic title. The eerie grandeur is dramatized by the lion's profile, the single vertical element, against the horizontal planes of the desert. [Milwaukee Art Museum]

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Death of Joseph Bara (1883)

Jean-Joseph Weerts: The Death of Joseph Bara

Joseph Bara, also written was a young French republican drummer boy at the time of the Revolution. He was in fact too young to join the army but attached himself to a unit fighting counter revolutionaries in Vendée. After his death General J.-B. Desmarres gave this account, by letter, to the Convention. "Yesterday this courageous youth, surrounded by brigands, chose to perish rather than give them the two horses he was leading." The boy's death was seized on as a propaganda opportunity by Robespierre, who praised him at the Convention's tribune saying that "only the French have thirteen-year-old heroes". But rather than simply being killed by Breton royalists who solely wanted to steal horses, Bara was transformed into a figure who denied the Ancien Régime at the cost of death. His story became that having been trapped by the enemy and being ordered to cry "Vive le Roi" ("Long live the King") to save his own life, he preferred instead to die crying "Vive la République" ("Long live the Republic"). [Wikipedia]

Monday, February 6, 2017

Une Séance du Jury de Peinture (ca. 1883)

Henri Gervex: Une Séance du Jury de Peinture au Salon des Artistes Français

Since the Salon of 1880, the artists themselves elected the colleagues whom they wished to pass judgment on the admission or the refusal of artworks to the Salon. The thirty-one jurors whom Gervex represented in a hall of the Palais des Champs-Elysees, gesticulating before the pictures to be examined, were never actually all present at the same time. So what we have here, rather, is an artistic homage with a strong realistic connotation rather than a scene of stormy kind. Portraitists such as Bonnat or Carolus-Duran, lovers of mythology and history like Bouguereau, Cabanel or Jean-Paul Laurens, can also be seen as supporters of the renewal of the landscape, like Français, Harpignies or Cazin, and some strong personalities that will soon shake this system of exposition. With his self-portrait and the portraits of Puvis de Chavannes or Roll, in the group of seven people represented to the left of the door, Gervex introduced the representation of a number of future dissidents.

Despite the reform of the status of the exhibitions and although the artists now decided among themselves who was entitled to judge works, the protests of those excluded did not cease. For example, in the spring of the previous year, a number of rejected artists, including a number of proponents of neo-impressionism (Cross, Seurat, Signac, etc.), formed themselves into an independent group and then, in the winter, into an artistic society under the name of Society of Independent Artists. Clarifying its motto, "An exhibition without a jury or a reward", this group of artists began the work of undermining which would soon succumb to the oldest French artistic institution. In 1890, led by Meissonier and Puvis de Chavannes, a split resulted in the creation of the National Society of Fine Arts, followed soon by the creation of a host of other new specialized or generalist fairs. The Salon had lived. [L'Histoire par L'image]

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Gambling Den (1883)

Jean-Eugène Buland: The Gambling Den

Jean Eugene Buland's Le Tripot is an excellent example of the transition that saw him move away from his early Symbolism work to a much more realistic portrayal of scenes from everyday life. "Le Tripot" (translated as "The Gambling Den" or "The Dive") provides an unblinking look at gamblers from all walks of life huddled around a gambling table, with most only possessing a few chips or coins in front of them. Everyone seems equally resigned to an unhappy end in the smoke-filled room, with an almost palpable sense of surrender and melancholy pervading each and every person. [Art Renewal Center]

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Scene de Hammam (1883)

Edouard Debat-Ponsan: Le Massage. Scene de Hammam

This scene of hammam [a Moroccan steam room, similar to a Turkish bath] illustrates the great orientalist vogue of the nineteenth century. Debat-Ponsan executed this painting just one year after a journey he had made in the East, as is shown by the precision of certain details of his composition. The moment of the massage, here evoked, is a stage of the body care practiced in this type of place. A bather, depicted as a white woman, is lying on a march of gray marble; A black woman half dressed and wearing a sort of turban pulls on her left arm. As in the scenes of the hammam of Gérome, Debat-Ponsan insists on the contrast between the body of the black model which appears tense, rough and muscular, evoking the daily labor, and that of the swimmer with the gentle pattern, the milky skin and To the languid position. It must not be forgotten that this exotic scene is only a clever excuse to paint an erotic nude in all impunity where the white woman assumes an idealized character. [Musée des Augustins]