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]