Handbook of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts - Part 12

Part 12

The most popular figure paintings of the mid-nineteenth century in France were those of the group of compromisers or semi-cla.s.sicists. Their compositions were the natural successors to the cla.s.sicism of the academicians David and Ingres, modified by a new vogue in France for romantic types and for modern history. One of the important men of this group was Bouguereau. He had much skill in drawing and in composition.

He makes his appeal, however, chiefly through his choice of themes, employing usually either sentimental religious subjects or pretty children.-From the Bequest of Mrs. W. H. Dunwoody.

[The Bath. Jean Leon Gerome, 1824-1903 ]

The Bath. Jean Leon Gerome, 1824-1903

The bright Turkish interior, which Gerome has chosen for his scene, gives it a colorful setting. The walls are covered with rich blue-green tiles.

The brilliant garment thrown over the seat at the right, and the towel hanging above it give the complementary colors. Against this vivid ground are played the cool flesh tones of the seated woman and the sleek, dusky skin of the negro attendant. Further color and exotic interest are given by the gaudy bangles and kerchief of the slave.

Gerome is usually cla.s.sed with Bouguereau among the semi-cla.s.sicists of the XIX century in France. In his work, we find the strong interest in contours, in reposeful composition, and in smooth finish for which the academy stood, while his subjects take us to the romantic Orient and spread before us the pageantry of history.-Gift of Mrs. Frederick B. Wells in memory of her father, Frank H. Peavey.

[The Storming of Tel-el-Kebir. Alphonse de Neuville, 1836-1883]

The Storming of Tel-el-Kebir. Alphonse de Neuville, 1836-1883

This battle scene by the French military painter de Neuville depicts the crucial moment in a hard campaign undertaken to crush a rebellion among the Egyptians. In the gray dawn of September 13, 1882, a British force with bayonets fixed stormed the entrenched natives; and in a few minutes hard fighting decided the supremacy of Great Britain in Egypt.

[Napoleon's Retreat from Russia. Jan V. Chelminski, 1851-]

Napoleon's Retreat from Russia. Jan V. Chelminski, 1851-

The Polish painter Chelminski was contemporary with the military painters working in France, and his work is similar, although his training was that of Munich, not Paris. In Napoleon's Retreat from Russia, he suggests in the tragic sunset lighting of the sky, the frightful demoralization and suffering of Napoleon's army, defeated by boundless steppes and relentless winter.-Gift of James J. Hill.

[The Roe Covert. Gustave Courbet, 1819-1877]

The Roe Covert. Gustave Courbet, 1819-1877

Few great artists have been so little influenced by their great forerunners as Courbet was. A man of strong peasant instincts, of incomparable forcefulness and initiative, he looked at the works of the great romanticists of his time and laughed with a t.i.tantic contempt. He looked at the works of Raphael and Michelangelo and laughed again. Their power and beauty were nothing to Courbet because they were afraid of the unvarnished truth. The Spaniards he admired. He was instinctively the "painter of raw material." Moreover, he was a truculent propagandist, an "individualist with strong elbows."

In his own time, he was a subject of ridicule; but we now know that he was a great painter as well as a blunt pioneer. His great artistry is inescabable when we see in such a painting as The Roe Covert, the bold naturalism of vision, and directness of brushing combined with such a fine power of harmonizing tones, and through all, such a tender feeling for the subject. He is as a young savage might be in his element; he can love Nature without first making romantic literature of her.-Gift of James J.


[Woodland Scene. N. V. Diaz de la Pena, 1809-1879]

Woodland Scene. N. V. Diaz de la Pena, 1809-1879

[River Scene. Charles Francois Daubigny, 1817-1878]

River Scene. Charles Francois Daubigny, 1817-1878

Rousseau, the founder of the Barbizon school, had the landscapes of such XVII century Hollanders as Ruisdael and of the English Constable as precedents. Diaz, one of Rousseau's followers, was fond of painting landscapes dark with sullen skies or forest shade, enlivened with bright spots where human figures are introduced or where the sun penetrates the trees. Daubigny, younger and less romantic, introduces with his freer handling, a yet more modern spirit. These two paintings are part of the memorial gift of Mrs. Frederick B. Wells.

[Landscape with Cattle. Constant Troyon, 1810-1865]

Landscape with Cattle. Constant Troyon, 1810-1865

[Fording the River. Constant Troyon, 1810-1865]

Fording the River. Constant Troyon, 1810-1865

Troyon, a member of the Barbizon group, was fascinated by the pastoral aspect of cattle in landscapes. While Ruisdael was the princ.i.p.al example for Rousseau and Diaz, it was to Cuyp, the Dutch cattle painter, that Troyon went for inspiration. These two paintings are part of the bequest of Mrs. W. H. Dunwoody.

[The Beach at Trouville. Eugene Boudin, 1824-1898]

The Beach at Trouville. Eugene Boudin, 1824-1898

Historically, Boudin is important as a link between the Men of 1830 and the Impressionists-more specifically, between Corot and Monet. If the public and the conservatives of the Academy ignored him, his art was understood and admired by his greatest confreres. "King of the skies,"

Corot called him. Courbet, after watching him paint a canvas, exclaimed, "Truly you are one of the seraphim, for you alone understand the heavens!"

Monet, in a letter to him in 1889, wrote "in recognition of the advice which has made me what I am." The modest Boudin in turn gives much credit to Corot, Courbet and Jongkind for his own insight into the subtle truths of atmosphere.

Born at Honfleur, the son of a steamboat pilot, Boudin was a cabin-boy until the age of fourteen. In spare moments, he began to make sketches which revealed talent. Later he was able to devote more time to painting, although even beyond the age of fifty there were periods when he was obliged to turn day-laborer to keep himself alive. The greater part of his paintings represent scenes in Norman and Breton harbors showing quais and jetties with the bare masts of square-riggers fretted against gray skies. Some time after 1868 Isabey persuaded him to paint the fashionable watering places, and it was several years later that our Beach at Trouville must have been produced. Yet in reality his subject was always sky and atmosphere. The charm of his water, the depth and reach of his skies, with that marvelous subtlety of silvery grays, and violet grays, and leaden grays, his habit of painting always "en plein-air," his way of using the brush, these things must indeed have influenced the younger Monet, and Monet's canvases dated around 1870 show a clear parallelism.

[Geranium. Albert Andre, 1869-]

Geranium. Albert Andre, 1869-

Albert Andre is known especially for his charming flower pieces. These show the artist as a master of technique, gifted with a peculiar sensitiveness to value relations and an unusual color sense. He is particularly happy in securing an agreeable texture. He is a realist in intention, but combines truth of representation with beauty of design. In the Geranium, the emphasis is rather more upon decoration of the rectangular surface of the canvas than upon the representation of tri-dimensional form. The clear note of the salmon pink blossoms against the accompaniment of the carefully distinguished grays and the Venetian red in leaves, wall, and draperies is finely felt. Andre holds a distinguished position among painters of the contemporary French school.

[The Conversion. Gabriel Max, 1840-]

The Conversion. Gabriel Max, 1840-

The Conversion is an excellent example of the work of Gabriel Max, one of the well-known painters of Germany in the XIX century. It represents a scene apparently laid in the catacombs of Rome early in the Christian era.

A woman seated on some stone steps is trying to persuade three men standing opposite her to embrace the new religion to which she has already become a convert. It is a good piece of psychological ill.u.s.tration. The woman's figure is painted much in the style of Bouguereau, but there is a deeper sincerity in her face, her mouth betraying the neurotic sensitiveness not uncommon among religious mystics. The group of three men is well painted and fine in color. The two nearer men seem to have been completely won over by the gentle teachings, while the young man at the right, though much moved, still resists conversion. The strong interest in the literary or ill.u.s.trative aspect of the subject is characteristic of this period of painting in Germany.-Given in memory of Mrs. Thomas Lowry by Mrs. Gustav Schwyzer, Mrs. Percy Hagerman and Horace Lowry.

[The Scouts. Adolph Schreyer, 1828-1899]

The Scouts. Adolph Schreyer, 1828-1899

The exotic quality of this painting of Arab hors.e.m.e.n appeals quickly to one's love of travel and romance-the great extent of the untamed surroundings, the quivering refinement of the horses, the bizarre barbarity of the costumes and accoutrements, the fascination of these fierce handsome Arab faces, the rich color of the whole! Schreyer was the German reflection of the French Orientalist-romanticists, Delacroix and Decamps, although his less fiery spirit is perhaps closer to his refined contemporary Fromentin.-Given in memory of Mrs. Thomas Lowry.

[Mountain Village. Paul Crodel, 1862-]

Mountain Village. Paul Crodel, 1862-

This little village is painted with a love of sunlight and color, breathes a mountain quality in the sharp, clear atmosphere.