Friday, June 30, 2017

The Organ Rehearsal (1888)

Henry Lerolle: The Organ Rehearsal

This is the most important painting by Lerolle, a friend and collector of such artists as Degas, Denis, and Vuillard. Set in the choir loft of the church of Saint-François-Xavier in Paris, it features members of Lerolle’s intimate circle, including his wife (bare-headed) and her sisters, in fashionable matching hats; his brother-in-law, composer Ernest Chausson, plays the organ. The painter himself gazes outward at left. Shown at the Salon of 1885, this picture triumphed the next year in New York, in the first major Impressionism exhibition in America. One critic recalled, "spectators … spoke low before it, as if waiting for … the voice of the singer to be heard." [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Jean-Charles Cazin (1888)

 Jean-Charles Cazin: The End of the Day
Jean-Charles Cazin: The Rainbow

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Émile Friant (1888)

Émile Friant: Idyll on a Bridge (Les Amoureux) 
Émile Friant: Spring
Émile Friant: The Rowers of the Meurthe

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Dream (1888)

Edouard Detaille: The Dream

Detaille, like his friend de Neuville, specialised in military painting, celebrating the "glorious vanquished" of 1870-1871. Yet this large painting, presented at the 1888 Salon, is a direct political statement. The young conscripts manoeuvring, probably in Champaign, are dreaming of future revenge. This was the implicit program of the "brave general" Boulanger, whose popularity was then at a high point. The Boulangistes federated all the discontents and disappointments caused by the first decade of republican rule. Likewise, Detaille's soldiers associate reminiscences of the glorious French past : the victorious soldiers of the Revolution and Empire have the lion's share, but neither are neglected their comrades of the Restoration, whose white flag also carried the day in the Trocadero or Algiers, nor the "brave people" of Reichshoffen, under a hail of bullets, or the survivors of Gravelotte, gloriously vanquished. The Boulangiste stance of the painting was soon forgotten. The modern spectator finds in this great heroic painting a celebration of the army, the "holy ark" of the country.

Detaille was awarded a medal and his painting was bought by the state and presented at the 1889 World Fair. All republicans acclaimed this exaltation of the national army at a time when the Republic was instituting military service for all young citizens (law passed July 15, 1889). [Musée d’Orsay]

Monday, June 19, 2017

Abduction (1888)

Charles Edouard Edmond Delort: Abduction

A pupil of Gleyre and Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Charles Delort debuted at the Salon in 1864. He accompanied Gérôme to Egypt and returned to France via the Maghreb. The scenes of Algerian life inspired many of his artworks. He also enjoyed painting pastiches inspired by the eighteenth century, a vein displayed in the current painting, showing young women about to be sold as slaves to the port of Algiers. In the rear of the scene, the ladies’ husbands are seen as prisoners, still dressed in their costumes of the eighteenth century.

The painting was sold in 1890 with the following description: "Around 1750, noble families of Venice undertook a trip to the Aegean. Their ship was captured by Algerian pirates. Women and girls were sold as slaves. They are grouped on the quay of the port. A rich Mohammedan, wearing gold embroidered red velvet, arm in arm with a eunuch, examines them." [Sotheby’s]

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Women in Prayer (1888)

Alphonse Legros: Women in Prayer

Alphonse Legros has a picture at the Tate Gallery, Women in Prayer, in which he subtly suggests how widely different an exercise prayer might be at different times and under different conditions. Here in this grey and subdued picture he shows how the inner character displays itself. In the faces of the women praying we see ecstasy, awe, anguish, doubt, weariness, formality. In any ordinary congregation during prayer these may be seen with equal vividness. [Illustrations from Art for Pulpit and Platform, James Burns. Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1912, p. 98]

Saturday, June 17, 2017

L'armée de l'Est (1888)

Alphonse Chigot: L'armée de l'Est

In November, 1870, Gambetta and his entourage decided to conduct a diversionary offensive in eastern France, to threaten the communications of Germans on their back and trying to loosen the grip blocking Paris. The action was centered on the fortress of Belfort, still held by Colonel Denfert. They sent him a portion of the Army of the Loire which along with Lyon troops took the name Army of the East and brought together 120,000 men under the command of General Bourbaki (1816-1897). But the operation had to be quick and secret was fanned by an article Monitor. It definitely failed at the Battle of Héricourt from 15 to 17 January 1871 and cost the lives of several thousand soldiers. Encircled by the German army led by Manteuffel (1809-1885), the troops of Bourbaki still lost 15,000 men in a series of battles around Pontarlier, while the armistice was already signed. The 92,000 survivors took refuge in Switzerland, by the passage of Verrieres, and they were disarmed on 1 February. 

On this huge canvas, a synthetic composition with a limited color range, snow-covered land occupies most of the surface, hiding any topographical landmark. Chigot isolates two characters who support each other. Eugene Montrosier in the 1888 Salon discussed the content of this painting and its reception: "As soon as you touch the military genre, one almost falls into sentimentality. This is what Mr. Chigot prevents, recalling a painful memory of the Eastern Army, which after glorious exploits took refuge in Switzerland. The scene is dismal. In a plain covered with snow, the sun is eerily yellow, at right. A decorated Dominican supports the march of a wounded Turkish [Algerian] sharpshooter, and carries the soldier’s gun, ready to use it to save the black child of Muhammad." [L’Histoire par L’Image]

Friday, June 16, 2017

Portrait of Monsieur Alphand (1888)

Alfred Roll: Portrait of Monsieur Alphand

Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand (1817-1891) was a French engineer of the Corps of Bridges and Roads. Under Napoléon III, Alphand participated in the renovation of Paris directed by Baron Haussmann between 1852 and 1870, in the company of another engineer Eugène Belgrand and the landscape architect Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps. After the retirement of Baron Haussmann, his successor, Léon Say, entrusted to Alphand the position of Director of Public Works of Paris. Under this title, Alphand continued Haussmann's works. [Wikipedia]

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gathered Around a Musical Score (1888)

Albert Aublet: Gathered Around a Musical Score

The painting shows Jules Massenet rehearsing Manon with American soprano Sibyl Sanderson in Pierre Loti's drawing room (Pierre Loti seems to be shown either by the piano or on the stairs). [Wikipedia]

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Wolf of Gubbio (1887)

Luc-Olivier Merson: The Wolf of Gubbio

The wolf of Gubbio was a wolf that, according to the Fioretti di San Francesco, terrorized the Umbrian city of Gubbio until it was tamed by St. Francis of Assisi acting on behalf of God.

During the period around 1220 when Francis was living in Gubbio, a fierce wolf appeared in the country and began attacking livestock. Soon the wolf graduated to direct assaults on humans, and not long after began to dine upon them exclusively. It was known for lingering outside of the city gates in wait for anyone foolish enough to venture beyond them alone. No weapon was capable of inflicting injury upon the wolf, and all who attempted to destroy it were devoured. Eventually mere sight of the animal caused the entire city to raise alarm and the public refused to go outside the walls for any reason. It was at this point, when Gubbio was under siege, that Francis announced he was going to take leave and meet the wolf. He was advised against this more than once but, irrespective of the warnings, made the sign of the Cross and went beyond the gates with a small group of followers in tow. When he neared the lair of the wolf, the crowd held back at a safe distance, but remained close enough to witness what transpired.

The wolf, having seen the group approach, rushed at Francis with its jaws open. Again Francis made the sign of the Cross and commanded the wolf to cease its attacks in the name of God, at which point the wolf trotted up to him docilely and lay at his feet, putting its head in his hands. The Fioretti then describes word-for-word his dealings with the wolf:

"Brother wolf, thou hast done much evil in this land, destroying and killing the creatures of God without his permission; yea, not animals only hast thou destroyed, but thou hast even dared to devour men, made after the image of God; for which thing thou art worthy of being hanged like a robber and a murderer. All men cry out against thee, the dogs pursue thee, and all the inhabitants of this city are thy enemies; but I will make peace between them and thee, O brother wolf, if so be thou no more offend them, and they shall forgive thee all thy past offences, and neither men nor dogs shall pursue thee any more."

The wolf bowed its head and submitted to Francis, completely at his mercy.

"As thou art willing to make this peace, I promise thee that thou shalt be fed every day by the inhabitants of this land so long as thou shalt live among them; thou shalt no longer suffer hunger, as it is hunger which has made thee do so much evil; but if I obtain all this for thee, thou must promise, on thy side, never again to attack any animal or any human being; dost thou make this promise?"

In agreement, the wolf placed one of its forepaws in Francis' outstretched hand, and the oath was made. Francis then commanded the wolf to return with him to Gubbio. At this sight, the men who had followed him through the walls were utterly astonished and they spread the news; soon the whole city knew of the miracle. The townsfolk gathered in the city marketplace to await Francis and his companion, and were shocked to see the ferocious wolf behaving as though his pet. When Francis reached the marketplace, he offered the assembled crowd an impromptu sermon with the tame wolf at his feet. He is quoted as saying: "How much we ought to dread the jaws of hell, if the jaws of so small an animal as a wolf can make a whole city tremble through fear?" With the sermon ended, Francis renewed his pact with the wolf publicly, assuring it that the people of Gubbio would feed it from their very doors if it ceased its depredations. Once more the wolf placed its paw in Francis' hand. [Wikipedia]

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Haymakers (1887)

Léon Augustin Lhermitte: The Haymakers

This enormous painting by the French artist Léon Lhermitte shows a family of peasants resting during haymaking. The work probably has a symbolic element too, evoking youth, maturity and old age. The old man at the front holds a scythe, a traditional symbol of approaching death. This kind of symbolism and the emphasis on the romantic, idyllic side of peasant life made works of this type extremely popular in the late nineteenth century. The Haymakers won the Grand Prix at the 1889 World Exhibition in Paris.

Lhermitte became a famous painter of rural life. According to Vincent van Gogh, the French artist’s secret was ‘that he knows the figure in general – namely the sturdy, severe workman’s figure – through and through, and takes his subjects from the heart of the people.’ [Van Gogh Museum]

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Moulin de la Galette (1887)

Paul-François Quinsac: Moulin de la Galette
The Moulin de la Galette is a windmill and associated businesses situated near the top of the district of Montmartre in Paris. Since the 17th century the windmill has been known for more than just its milling capabilities. Nineteenth-century owners and millers, the Debray family, made a brown bread, galette, which became popular and thus the name of the windmill and its businesses, which have included a famous guinguette and restaurant. In the 19th century, Le Moulin de la Galette represented diversion for Parisians seeking entertainment, a glass of wine and bread made from flour ground by the windmill. Artists such as Renoir, van Gogh, and Pissarro have immortalized Le Moulin de la Galette. [Wikipedia]

Monday, June 5, 2017

Saturday, June 3, 2017

La Valaisane (ca. 1887)

Jules Salles-Wagner: La Valaisane

Jules Salles-Wagner was born in the south of France in 1814. He enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Nimes where he won a prix de peinture in 1839. A pupil of Paul Delaroche in Paris, he regularly exhibtied at the Salon des Artistes Francais. from 1859.

The charming subject of this painting is reminiscent of William Bouguereau in the way the artist finds beauty in everyday subjects.

It is a fine example of Salles-Wagner's ability to render feminine beauty and emotional expression in the French academic tradition. La Valaisane stands out as a particularly well-painted work which displays maternal love and compassion with the mother tenderly observing her baby who lies on her knees. [Bonham’s]