Thursday, September 14, 2017
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Monday, September 11, 2017
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
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]
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Monday, September 4, 2017
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Saturday, September 2, 2017
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
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]
Monday, August 28, 2017
Sunday, August 27, 2017
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]
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Friday, August 25, 2017
Thursday, August 24, 2017
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
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]
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Monday, August 21, 2017
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
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Friday, August 18, 2017
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Monday, August 14, 2017
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Friday, August 11, 2017
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Jacques Emile Blanche: Portrait of Donna Olga Caracciolo dei Duchi di Castelluccio
Maria Beatrice Olga Alberta Caracciolo (born in London 8 August 1871) was the daughter of the Duchess of Castelluccio, and rumored to be the natural daughter of Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII, a onetime lover of the Duchess. Olga, given the name Alberta in honor of the Prince who was also her godfather, was the only daughter and heiress to her father’s title of Duke of Castelluccio. Circumstantial evidence and the many favors later shown her and her second husband, the brilliant society photographer Baron Adolphe de Meyer, by the King (whose goddaughter she was), were thought by some to support the rumors regarding her paternity, which were never disproved.
Olga first married at Naples 11 May 1892 an Italian nobleman, Nobile Marino Brancaccio, younger son of Carlo Brancaccio, Prince of Triggiano and Duke of Lustra, but this marriage ended in divorce (7 June 1899) and she remarried to Adolphe de Meyer. Her beauty and elegance inspired not only Blanche, but also Whistler, Boldini, Sickert, Sargent, Conder, and Helleu to paint or draw her. The artist, reminiscing about Olga in his memoirs, wrote: she “has such a wealth of dresses, fans, and jewelry as befitted one who put in an appearance at all important social functions. When Olga enters the Orchestra stalls, the opera glasses of everyone were focused on her, the most elegant woman in the audience, the most thoroughbred of cosmopolitan society: Here is the Baroness de Meyer, they whisper spellbound.”
Jacques Emile Blanche, ten years her senior, first met Olga in Dieppe where his parents had a house and where Olga’s mother, the Duchess, had taken refuge from society in a villa presented to her by the Prince of Wales. Bianca Sampajo (who died in 1891) had married Gennaro Caracciolo-Pisquizi, Duke of Castelluccio, in Paris in 1869 but separated soon after the birth of their daughter two years later. Dieppe, at the time, was a fashionable seaside resort inhabited by a large English colony and the incognito visits of the Prince of Wales to the Duchess and his goddaughter only fuelled rumors and gossip. The villa, described by Blanche as the “Villa of Mystery,” was viewed with a mix of envy and disapproval by those excluded from the Prince’s circle. Olga herself was said by Blanche to be the model for Proust’s Odette (although the author more likely referred to her mother), in À la recherche du temps perdu; Blanche himself was the original of the painter Elstir. Blanche describes how he “painted her in a dress of rose cambric, upright, impassive, a sort of infanta in the style of Velazquez, already wearing the longer skirts in which girls who were to come out used to be dressed.” [Matthiesen Gallery]
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Monday, August 7, 2017
Henri Lucien Doucet: After The Ball
Henri Lucien Doucet was born on 23rd August 1856 in Paris. He studied under Boulanger and Lefebvre. He painted in oils and pastels and his subjects varied from historical scenes and portraits but he is best known for his genre scenes. He debuted at The Paris Salon in 1877 at the tender age of 21.
He went on to have a successful career that won him many plaudits and awards. These included ‘Le Grand Prix de Rome’ in 1880 and most notably a Gold Medal at l’Exposition Universelle de Paris in 1889. The paintings that Doucet submitted to the 1877 Salon caused something of a minor scandal - most notably those painted from the time he spent at the Villa Medici. He sent a painting entitled Berenice to Rome. The institute there refused to exhibit the painting at l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts because of “its impudent suggestion”. A confrontational figure, Doucet quarrelled with many of his contemporaries, most memorably with Cabat, who was at the time director of the French Academy in Rome. Cabat had taken exception to the daring composition and timbre of his painting entitled Harem. This elevated Doucet to something of a cause celebre.
In his first canvases Doucet showed the great debt he owed to Bastien-Lepage but on his return to France he had lost much of his emotional fervour and zeal. He became a more mundane and reserved painter often working in pastels. The painting After the Ball shows all the daring that had so upset Cabat 100 years previously. There is a tension that exists between the two figures that must, to a conservative Victorian public, have seemed most improper. After the Ball is a fine example of Doucet’s early work. [Williams & Son]
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Friday, August 4, 2017
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Monday, July 31, 2017
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Friday, July 28, 2017
Paul Désiré Trouillebert: Relèvement du chemin de fer de ceinture,
Station du Bel Air et rue Montempoivre
The modern city was the artistic muse of the French Impressionists and their contemporaries. The Barbizon School trained Paul Désiré Trouillebert was among the artists who found inspiration in Paris' industrial surroundings. In the present painting, Trouillebert takes as his subject the Bel Air train station then undergoing renovations. Such a scene, which would have been an inconceivable subject for artists earlier in the century, offered Trouillebert a means of exploring the avant-garde theme of urban industrialization. Trouillebert adds a touch of softness to what could otherwise be a cold portrait of modernity by including a mother and child holding hands in the foreground and rendering his composition in pastel colors. [Christie’s]