French Art – Genre Painters And Orientalists

THE term Genre is such an elastic one, that it is difficult to limit its legitimate range, or define its exact signification. Among French genre painters especially, we find work of extreme, almost distracting variety—from the literary and historic painting of Cogniet to the idylls of Henner—from the tableaux de moeurs of Boilly to the modern classicism of Gérôme—from the still life of Vollon to the orientalism of Decamps and Fromentin. The extraordinary command over ways and means, the high level of excellence in the actual workmanship of their profession attained by French artists —thanks to the unrivalled training they receive—increase the difficulty when we come to decide who shall be selected as types where the general standard is so high. Indeed, so wide is the field, that one runs the risk of merely presenting a list of names, in endeavouring to give any idea of the genre painters of Modern France. A certain amount of classification, however, is possible. And I propose to keep as closely as may be to six or seven tolerably defined groups ; though it is well to bear in mind that these groups are necessarily somewhat arbitrary, and that many of the artists they include have distinguished themselves in other branches of painting. But at best this chapter cannot be more than a sketch, and a very imperfect sketch, of so elaborate a subject.

The historic and literary painters, such as Cogniet, J. P. Laurens, Cormon, Maignan, Luminais, Courtois, are interesting. Their pictures are often of considerable merit. as works of art ; and are, besides, worthy of attention as clever archaeological records, such for instance as Cormon’s “Stone Age,” etc.

Still more interesting are the Neo-Greeks or Pompeïans of 1848. If the Romantics had revived and rehabilitated the cult of the middle ages, so this little company of ultra-refined artists revived the cult of paganism. “Literature and paint-” ing were inundated with pastiches.” It was ” a sort of ” effeminate Greece, like enough to that Attica of the rue de ” Breda, discovered by Pradier “. These excellent people, who possessed both talent and good taste, took themselves very seriously. They believed they were inaugurating a real revolution ; that they were the last word of what was modern ; while in fact their revolution was but a masquerade. It was pretty enough while it lasted. But it quickly disappeared, to give place to a much more solid and real revival of classicism. For although for a while the Neo-Greeks had been grouped round M. Gérôme, he was far too strong a master and profound a scholar to tolerate their graceful affectations. M. Gérôme has been the chief apostle of the school of the Modern Classics—those learned artists who seek to bring before us the actual life of everyday Greece and Rome, accurately pourtrayed, from the type of the human beings to the texture as well as the form and colour of their garments. While with M. Renner we get another development of Classic Art. For in his poetic rendering of the human form, we are transported into the Greece of the Poets, far back in the beginnings of time, when man and nature were not troubled by clothes or archeological research—when every wood, every valley had its nymph, and the Gods held high Court on Olympus.

In another group we find subject painters of a sentiment, such as Jules Lefebvre or Bouguereau. In another the masters of still life—Vollon and Desgoffe.

The painters of Moeurs, of everyday life, are always popular. And in the case of many of the painters I have placed under this head they deserve popularity, for they are excellent artists. We find among them the delightful Boilly. Tassaert, the painter of sordid miseries of the poor. Bonvin and his Religieux and Religieuses. Butin and his fisher-folk. Deschamps the painter of Babies. While with Roll and Dagnan-Bouveret we reach two of the strongest of contemporary painters. Of these two artists I shall speak at length. But Dagnan-Bouveret leads us on from mere genre to one of the most interesting developments of nineteenth century art—the school of the Orientalists. From the sixteenth century, when Simon Vouet went to paint the Grand Turk at Constantinople, many French painters have occupied themselves with the East. The true Orientalist school, however, came into being with this century. Many circumstances have combined to turn the attention of France to the East. The Greek War of Independence ; the con-quest of Algeria ; the opening of the Suez Canal ; politics, colonization, science, literature, have all aided this better knowledge, this more vivid interest, creating a demand for greater exactitude of detail and local colour. French artists, stirred by these and other impulses, have eagerly grasped the chance of wider opportunities of study than even Italy can afford. And in the East they have found problems of colour, of line, of light, hitherto undreamt of, into whose solution they have thrown themselves with passion—problems which grow in intensity and interest the further east we go—problems which tell us that in the lands of the sunrise a vast untrodden field still awaits the artist of the future.

In their earnest endeavours to solve above all the mysteries and splendours of light, the Orientalists have done much to redeem genre from the degradation of the mere anecdote. For it must be confessed that the peril of the French genre painter is his extraordinary facility and admirable training. He may so easily be tempted merely to produce the fait divers, the melodrama of the boulevard, the cleverly drawn and painted scene which entertains the public, who does not want to think, but finds its pleasure in such a magnificently painted tour de force as Roybet’s fat flirting cook plucking the turkey. He may—worst of all—treat his noble profession as a mere trade, and say with one highly successful and popular painter that ” l’Art c’est un commerce ”

COGNIET, LÉON (b. Paris, 1794 ; d. 1880),-a pupil of Guérin’s, would almost seem at first sight to belong to the Classics. But as a master of other masters he belongs wholly to the living painting of the end of the nineteenth century ; for it has been truly said, ” Il a fait des peintures, ” mais surtout il a fait des peintres “. His studio was one of the most popular and respected in Paris ; and among his pupils, who loved the man and honoured the master, we find some of the most distinguished artists of the last forty years—Barrias, J. P. Laurens, Gagliardini, Jules Lefebvre, Luminais, and M. Bonnat, whose noble portrait of his old master is one of the glories of the Luxembourg.

Cogniet gained the Grand Prix de Rome in 1817. And in reply to questions from Guérin to whom he was tenderly attached, he confesses that what strikes him more than “the ” sculpture of the ancients, the painting of the masters, or ” the physiognomy of the Roman people ” are the beauties of nature not only in Italy but on the way thither. Excel-lent and honest artist ! He never failed in his allegiance to nature ; or tried to impose a hard and fast system on his pupils. Cogniet soon deserted classic subjects to become a painter of history, whether in his well-known ” Tintoret peignant sa fille morte ” (Musée de Bordeaux), or the admirable ” Grenadier de Moscou,” which is like a bit of Béranger in painting. Or the ceiling at the Louvre, ” Bonaparte in Egypt,” which helped to make his fame. Or that really excellent ” Garde Nationale 1793,” at Versailles.

LAURENS, JEAN-PAUL, O. (b. Fourquevaux, Haute-Garonne, 1838),-pupil of Cogniet and Bida, may be taken as the modern type of the historical painter. His pictures are strong and living representations of historic events, rendered with real artistic feeling and a fine sense of colour. His vocation was determined by the visit of a band of travel-ling Italian painters to his native place, where they were engaged on some painting in the cathedral. The young Laurens watched them at their work ; and when they left Fourquevaux he followed them for a time on their wanderings, taking part in their work and their adventures. Then, going to Toulouse, he gained the prize at the École des Beaux Arts of that city, which enabled him to spend three years in Paris with Bida and Cogniet.

His first Salon picture (1864) was the ” Death of Tiberias “. And in 1869 he obtained a medal–painting, drawing, and making lithographs meanwhile to earn a living. His death of the “Duc d’Enghien,” in 1872, was his first decisive success. And since that time his position has been an assured one. He is now President of the Salon, and Officier de la Legion d’Honneur.

Examples—Luxembourg :

L’Excommunication de Robert le Pieux.

Délivrance des Emmurés de Carcassone.

La Mort du duc l’ Enghien, Alençon.

L’Interdit, Le Havre.

Mort de Marceau.

Faust, M. Besonneau, Angers.

MAIGNAN, ALBERT, . (b. Beaumont, Sarthe, 1845),–a pupil of M. Luminais, is a staunch upholder of historical painting, an artist who cares to represent not merely the fact, but the idea behind the fact. His ” Louis IX. and the Leper ” (Angers), his ” Renaud de Bourgogne et les Bourgeois de Belfort ” (Belfort), his “Admiral Carlo Zeno ” (Lille), are well-known in public collections. The Luxembourg possesses a singular picture representing Carpeaux sitting asleep in his chair, while all the figures which the old master had made live in bronze and marble, dance round him and the great Fountain of the Observatory. The ” Hommage à Clovis II.” is an admirable example of his work in the Musée de Rouen. And so is his ” Death of William the Conqueror,” exhibited in 1898 in the Guildhall Exhibition. In his ” Paradis Perdu,” exhibited in the Exhibition of 1889, M. Maignan showed superb force and colour as a water-colour artist.

LUMINAIS, EVARISTE-VITAL (b. Nantes, 1822), was also one of Cogniet’s pupils, a historical painter of much merit.

COURTOIS, GUSTAVE (b. Pusey, Haute-Saone),—a pupil of M. Gérôme, is another painter of historic and literary subjects who has also produced many portraits. His very beautiful work, ” Une Bienheureuse ” (The Sleep of the Blessed Dead), which gained a first gold medal in the Paris Exhibition, 1889, was exhibited at the Guildhall, 1898. So also was his remarkable and daring portrait of Mme. Gautreau, which in its singularities of pose and arrangement recalls some picture of Piero della Francesca. In both his mastery over varying tones of white is of great interest.

CORMON, FERDINAND, O. (b. Paris),—a pupil of Fromentin’s, has chosen a line of work specially his own, devoting himself to the early ages of the human race. In his immense canvas, now appropriately placed above the fine collection of flint implements in the great hall of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, he has depicted the ” Stone Age “. His ” Funeral of a Chief in the Iron Age ” belongs to M. Avice, and was exhibited in the Guildhall Exhibition, 1898. And at the Luxembourg, his ” Cain,” flying across the sandy desert, illustrates Victor Hugo’s lines

” Lorsque avec ses enfants vêtus de peaux de bêtes, ” Échevelé, livide du milieu des tempêtes, ” Caïn se fut enfui de devant Jéhovah…

LEFEBVRE, JULES, C. M. DE L’INST. (b. Tournan, Seine-et-Marne, 1834),—one of Cogniet’s best known pupils, has been called ” the Sully Prudhomme of painting “. His delight is in rendering the human forin in its utmost perfection, by means of such nude figures as the ” Vérité ” of the Luxembourg, the ” Cigale,” ” La Gloire du Matin,” ” Diane surprise,” or ” Le Rêve “. He has also painted many portraits. His pictures have always had a great vogue both on the continent and in America. They are painted with extreme finish and care, and the draftsmanship is beyond reproach.

BOUGUEREAU, A. WILLIAM, C.*, M. DE L’INST. (b. La Rochelle, 1825).—Pupil of Picot, M. Bouguereau gained the Grand Prix de Rome (histoire) in 1850. He received a second class medal in 1855 ; and a first class in 1857. He was elected a Member of the Institute in 1876 ; appointed Commander of the Legion of Honour in 1885 ; and received a Médaille d’Honneur in 1878 and in 1885, besides foreign orders. His career therefore has been one of great success since his first Salon picture of 1847—” Egalité (devant l’Ange de la Mort “). His pictures, of an extremely smooth, waxy texture, fine drawing, and academic perfection, have enjoyed great popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, and command high prices. The subjects are semi-religious, such as the ” Vierge-Consolatrice ” of the Luxembourg—or mythologic, as ” L’amour blessé “—or of children under such titles as ” Premier Deuil,” or ” La Soeur ainée “.

Three pictures are in the Luxembourg :—Triomphe du Martyr, 29 ; Vierge-Consolatrice, 30 ; La Jeunesse et l’Amour, 31.

Two children sleeping, Collection of Mr. J. D. Allcroft.

A Peasant ; The first kiss, Sir H. D. Davies, M.P.

Cupid and Psyche, George McCulloch, Esq.

And great numbers have gone to America.

HAMON, JEAN-LOUIS (b. Plouah, Côtes du Nord, 1821 ; d. 1874), was the leader of the little group of the Neo-Greeks-who, if their influence was not profound, certainly formed a charming episode in the Art of the century. Théophile Gautier with his almost unrivalled power of saying the right thing in the right way, describes them thus : ” They recall, ” due proportion preserved, the minor Poets of the Greek ” Anthology ; charming, ingenious, subtle intelligences, who ” do not get beyond the elegy, the little ode, or the epigram ; ” or again engravers of gems who put a bacchanal into the ” bezil of a ring. They have a horror of all that is vulgar or ” showy, and vigour seems almost brutality to them. They ” paint as Sybarites crowned with roses, from an ivory palette, ” in Pompeian studios, where Anacreon, Theocritus, Bion, ” Moschus, André Chénier, to whom they go for inspiration, ” lie on a table of citron wood.”

Hamon, a charming painter of dainty things, has been unduly despised and neglected. If his glass was not a large one, he drank in it. And his ” Comédie Humaine ” now in the Louvre, the delightful little idyll ” Ma soeur n’y est pas,” and a whole series of charming little pictures of Loves caged in hencoops, chained butterflies, “La cantharide esclave,” ” La Saison des papillons,” and such like graceful, poetic, antique inventions, delighted both public and critics for a time. While his last success just before his death—” Triste Rivage,” where the Poets and the Lovers born of their dreams with Love himself to guide them, press forward to welcome Ophelia, just cast upon the shore—was his swan-song, touching a deeper and more enigmatic note than any he had reached before.

GÉRÔIVIE JEAN-LFON, C. M. DE L’INST. (b. Vesoul, 1824).—If for a while the Neo-Greeks grouped themselves about this great painter, it was that in Delaroche’s studio they found themselves under the spell of his strong and vigorous personality. His father, a goldsmith of Vesoul, not only gave his boy the best education he could : but when he saw that young Léon carried off every prize in drawing, he brought him from Paris a box of colours and a picture by Decamps. The copy the lad made of this picture was seen by a friend of Paul Delaroche ; and at his instance young Gérôme was sent off to Paris with a little fortune of £50, to enter the popular master’s studio. Here he stayed for about three years. But during one of his absences at Vesoul, a terrible occurrence, resulting in the death of one of the pupils, caused Delaroche to close his atelier. When Gérôme returned from Vesoul, the master told him to go to Drolling —” I wish for no more pupils. Besides I am going off to ” Rome “. M. Gérôme with the calm determination which has always distinguished him, refused to agree to such a decision. “I do not accept two masters. I shall not go ” to Drolling. If you are going to Rome I shall go too.” And they went. This was in 1844. When they returned to Paris, M. Gérôme entered Gleyre’s studio for a time. But he soon returned to Delaroche, with whom he collaborated in the ” Passage des Alpes par Charlemagne “—at Versailles.

Failing to obtain the Prix de Rome, he sent his first picture to the Salon of 1847. It was the ” Combat de Coqs “. The success was immediate. The young painter, acclaimed by Théophile Gautier as a new master whose advent marked the year, found himself famous. And from that moment his triumphs have followed hard on each other.

M. Gérôme has made the Greece of Alcibiades, the Rome of the Caesars, the life of Egypt, besides that of his own country, live for us on his canvas. Whether it is the breathless pause of the ” Pollice Verso ” in the Amphitheatre —or the tragic ” Duel de Pierrot ” in the snow—in his ” Eminence Grise ” coming slowly down the staircase of the Palais-Cardinal—the ” Prisonnier ” being rowed up the Nile —or that extraordinary meeting of East and West, the ” Siamese Ambassadors received by Napoleon III. at Fontainebleau “—one and all show extreme erudition, astonishing facility, care, thought, power. But they also show a deep insight into the time, the place, the characters, which prove M. Gérôme to be more than the mere archaeologist—prove him to be a seeker for truth, a thinker, an artist and a poet.

Like so many modern artists, M. Gérôme is not content with paint and canvas alone. And his ” Gladiators,” his ” Anacreon,” and the ” Tanagra ” of the Luxembourg show him to be a skilful sculptor as well.

Examples :

Combat de Coqs, 1847, Luxembourg.

Réception des Ambassadeurs Siamois,

Versailles. Duel de Pierrot, Chantilly.

Siècle d’Auguste, Musée d’Amiens.

Le Prisonnier, Musée de Nantes.

Cléopâtre et Caesar, O. Mills, Esq., New York.

Louis XIV. et le Grand Condé, Vanderbilt Collection.

L’Éminence Grise, 1876, Mrs. S. D. Warren, Boston.

La Mort de Caesar, M. J. Allard.

Execution of Maréchal Ney, Alex. Henderson, Esq., M.P.

Le Bain Maure, H. J. Turner, Esq.

HENNER, JEAN-JACQUES, O.*, M. DE L’INST. (b. Bernwilier, Alsace, 1829).—In the same year, 1847, that M. Gérôme made his triumphant début with the ” Combat de Coqs,” a young Alsacian, five years his junior, entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts. The boy had been brought up upon the Holbeins of Bale, near by his home. And as his parents watched him drawing his bonshommes, saw him each year carry off the drawing prizes at his school at Altkirch, and heard of young men who had gained the Grand Prix de Rome in far-off Paris and become famous, they determined their Jean-Jacques should be famous too. The father bought old pictures here and there, and hung them up to teach him. And on his deathbed he made his children swear that they would give le petit the chance of becoming a great man. Well did they keep their word. And well did Jean-Jacques Henner deserve their loyal devotion.

In 1858, after some years spent first in Drolling’s, then in Picot’s studio, Henner gained the Prix de Rome with a ” Death of Abel “. It already showed those qualities in the painting of flesh for which the master’s work is so remark-able. In Rome M. Henner at once fell in love with the ” sombre masses of the trees which will henceforth be ” found in nearly all his pictures, and which are like his ” signature “.1 Quietly, steadily he worked. And after his return from Rome, his success began. In 1863 and 1865 he had already gained medals ; the third came in 1866 for his portraits in the Salon of that year. M. Henner’s portraits have always been an important and deeply interesting part of his great work. In them he seeks for more than the outer semblance. He questions, he divines, he tries to seize the inner life, the hidden character of his sitter. Few more intensely expressive portraits have been seen of late years, than his profile of an American lady in deep mourning, which was exhibited in the Salon of 1895.

But the chief glory of M. Henner’s work is in genre. And if with M. Gérôme we see the life of historic Greece and Rome, in M. Henner’s Naïades and Baigneuses we meet the very spirit of the antique which the poets have sung. He believes in the truth : but in that truth which does not banish either the idea or the ideal. And therefore while painting the human forin as few men now paint it, he gives us, whether in his portraits, or in some lovely nude figure, piping on a reed flute in the dusky twilight, in the shadow of the trees, a poem that lives and will live. Examples—Luxembourg :

Suzanne au Bain, 1865 ; Naïade, 1875 ; Dormeuse, 1893.

Biblis changée en Source, 1867, Musée de Dijon.

Portrait de mon Frère, 1883, M. Henner, Bernwiller.

La Source, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.

VOLLON, ANTOINE, O. (b. Lyons, 1833), is the greatest living representative of those painters of still life for whom the French school has long been celebrated. ” La plus ” excellente manière de peindre est celle qui imite mieux et ” qui a le plus de conformité au naturel qu’on représente.” These words of Leonardo da Vinci’s have been M. Vollon’s watchword. And the masters to whom he has gone for counsel, have been, curiously enough, not Chardin, but Leonardo and Velasquez.

As a child he worked as a graver. As an apprentice he was an enameller. But this beautiful art did not satisfy his artistic ambitions. He left the workshop ; and began to paint nature without a master. His first picture, ” Après le Bal,” had a success at Lyons. And this gave him courage to come to Paris, where he sent a ” Portrait of a Man ” to the Salon, which the Jury promptly refused. He then turned to his Natures Mortes. And in 1864 the Salon accepted ” Art et gourmandise,” and an ” Intérieur de Cuisine ” now at Nantes ; and in 1866 the delightful ” Singe à l’Accordéon “. Thus began those Poissons de Mer, Chaudrons, armour, fruits, the gold and silver of his vases and platters, the sparkle of jewels, and all the vigorous, brilliant, living colour and light and air of his so-called ” Natures Mortes,” which have make his name famous in both hemispheres.

But Vollon is not merely the greatest living painter of still life. He delights himself from time to time with a fine landscape—a picture such as his ” Port Vieux de Marseille,” or the “Route de Roquencourt près Versailles “. Or gives us such a striking study of humanity as the ” Espagnol,” or the grand ” Femme du Pollet à Dieppe,” which held its own as one of the most impressive pictures in the Centennial. Exhibition of 1889.

Examples—Luxembourg :

Curiosités, 1868 ; Poissons de Mer, 1870.

Le Singe à l’Accordéon, 1866 ; Le Chaudron, Musée de Lyons.

Intérieur de Cuisine, Musée de Nantes.

Le Singe du Peintre, Musée de Rouen.

La Femme du Pollet à Dieppe, Mr. Duncan.

DESGOFFE, BLAISE-ALEXANDRE, O. (b. Paris, 1830), is another painter of still life, whose admirable work merits close attention. His favourite subjects are crystal vases, jewels, and the triumphs of the old Goldsmith’s and Armourer’s Art. The Luxembourg possesses three fine examples of his pictures, Nos. 87, 88, 89. There are also, examples at Chantilly.

The Luxembourg also has a ” Coin d’Atelier ” by Dantan (Joseph-Edouard), who paints interiors, especially the interior of studios, with rare facility.

BOILLY, LOUIS-LEOPOLD (b. La Bassée près Lille, 1761 ; cl. Paris, 1845).-First among the painters of moeurs is the delightful Boilly, born at the little town of La Bassée while Boucher was still alive and Greuze and Fragonard were at the height of their fame. His well-known ” Arrivée d’une Diligence,” now in the Louvre, is a curiously exact record of contemporary life in 1803. So also are the small and charming pictures ” Cache-Cache ” and ” La Toilette,” which were seen in May, 1897, in the very remarkable exhibition of Portraits de Femmes et d’Enfants at the Beaux Arts. While in the beautiful little picture of ” Mme. Tallien assise dans un Jardin,” he gives an important and exquisitely finished portrait. There is also an excellent Boilly in the Musée de Rouen and an admirable example at Chantilly.

TASSAERT, NICHOLAS-FRANÇOIS-OCTAVE (b. Paris, 1800;; d. 1874), constituted himself the painter of the sordid miseries of the poor in Paris. Whether such subjects can be reckoned with as high art is a question. Tassaert’s pictures—some of them of a poignant indecency—are nearly always more literary than artistic. They however enjoyed a considerable vogue ; and their chief admirer was Alexandre Dumas. Over thirty examples of Tassaert’s work were sold at the famous sale of the Dumas collection in 1892.

The Luxembourg has a good specimen :

Une Famille Malheureuse. 274.

While Tassaert records the sordid side of extreme poverty.

BONVIN, FRANÇOIS-SAINT, (b. Paris, 1817 d. St. Germain-en-Laye, 1887), will always be known as the kindly painter of the Convent. An artist of high merit, Bonvin’s work was produced in circumstances of such difficulty, that its quality becomes even more surprising. For in order to live he was obliged to take a small post in the Prefecture of Police, becoming later on Inspector of the Cattle Market at Poissy. And yet, in the intervals of official work, thanks to a true artistic temperament and a splendid determination, he found time to produce such admirable works as :

L’École des Frères, M. Lutz.

Les petites orphelines.

L’Ave Maria, Luxembourg.

Les Soeurs de Charité, Musée de Niort.

BUTIN, ULYSSE, * (b. St. Quentin, 1838 ; d. Paris, 1883), the pupil of Picot and Pils, devoted his talent more exclusively to the life of the coast-dwellers of Brittany—the hardy and romantic fisher-folk, whose lives, whose characters, whose ways, and homes, have inspired so many artists of late, both in literature and painting. Ulysse Butin’s fine picture of ” La Pêche,” belonging to M. Charles Ferry, recalls some of our English Sea and Coast painters in its feeling for nature and the life of sea-faring people. His picture in the Luxembourg, ” L’enterrement d’un Marin, à Villerville (Calvados),” gives an admirable idea of his knowledge of the people he painted, and of his artistic capacity.

RENOUF, EMILE, (b. Paris, 1845 ; d. Le Havre, 1894), is another delightful Sea-painter. The Luxembourg possesses his ” Brumes du Matin “. ” Le Pilote,” a well-known picture, is in the Musée de Rouen. And ” La Veuve ” in the Musée de Quimper.

FLAMENG, MARIE-AUGUSTE, (b. Metz, 1843 ; d. Paris, 1894), is another artist who was captivated by the life of the northern coasts. The Luxembourg possesses his charming ” Bateau de Pêche, A Dieppe “. While the Musée de Toul has an ” Embarquement d’huîtres à Cancale,” 1888. But the painters of fisher folk and of Breton peasants are legion. And although many are painters of merit, there is not space to enumerate them all. We must therefore pass on to one of the more important of genre painters.

ROLL, ALFRED-PHILIPPE, O. (b. Paris, 1847).-A Parisian born, pupil of M. M. Gérôme and Bonnat, M. Roll is an artist gifted with such extraordinary facility, that it is difficult to say which may be called his special line of work. And one approaches each fresh picture that he paints with a certain interest and curiosity as to how he will render his subject. ” The artist who continues Courbet among us with ” the greatest brilliancy,” M. Roll disdains ” invention “. He is a painter of the actual. Confident in his power, he attacks subjects of immense difficulty, and carries them through with a triumphant audacity positively startling at times. His well-known and enormous canvas in 1889 of the ” Fête du Centenaire des États Généraux ” is a victory of no mean order over paralyzing difficulties, in the huge crowd of notabilities of the day grouped round poor M. Carnot, in hot sunshine beside the Bassin de Neptune at Versailles.

In the ” Joies de la Vie,” another large decorative canvas for the Hotel de Ville, by unclothing his personages among the roses and flowery grass M. Roll has gained the opportunity he delights in of painting the play of sunshine on flesh, while he takes his picture out of the actuality of to-day–though it cannot be said he has made it either poetic or antique. His ” Europa ” at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 was another example of this. Though she was nude, with her charming little brown bull, she was just as much a woman of to-day as ” Manda Lamétrie, Fermière ” next to her.

The “Grêve des Mineurs,” and ” Le Travail, chantier de Suresnes,” are extremely powerful bits of actuality. In the latter — another huge canvas — M. Roll has shown that panting engines, crossing rails, sweating workmen, can be so treated as to make a fine picture. While in the Strike he has introduced the ugly and tragic touch of human interest in an impressive manner.

The versatile artist is at the height of his fame and popularity. And so distinct is his talent that one may hope to see it develop still further.

Examples—Luxembourg :

En Avant, 1887 ; Manda Lamétrie, Fermière.

Centenaire des États Généraux, Versailles.

Grêve des Mineurs, Musée de Valenciennes.

Fête de Silène, Musée de Gand.

Portrait M. Alphand, La Sorbonne.

DAGNAN – BOUVERET, PASCAL-ADOLPHE-JEAN, O. (b. Paris), is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and important modern artists in France. His powers are so great, his work is so varied, that it is difficult to say whether he can be called a genre painter, an Orientalist, or a mystic. Pupil of M. Gérôme, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1885, and Officier in 1894, M. Dagnan-Bouveret’s career has deservedly been one of immense success.

His first pictures in the Salons of 1875-77 were classic pictures and portraits. In 1878 he obtained a third-class medal. And the next year exhibited his first studies of the ways of his contemporaries, ” Une noce chez un Photo-graph “. In 1882 came ” La Bénédiction” ; with the amusing ” Vaccination” in the next year ; and in 1885 ” Le Pain Bénit,” now in the Luxembourg. All these pictures showed such keen observation, such humorous appreciation of character, such felicity of treatment, that M. Dagnan-Bouveret’s admirers were led to expect far greater things of him. And they were not disappointed. For in 1887 he exhibited his magnificent ” Pardon Breton,” which was the event of the Salon.

But in that same Salon he had a second picture of quite equal significance, which marked a new departure in the artist’s career—the strangely beautiful picture of the Virgin Mary walking under a pergola of vines, the strong sunlight shining through the semi-transparent leaves upon her soft, warm-white draperies. The sensation the picture created was profound. It gave the first indication of the mystic tendencies of the artist, which have since fully developed in his two large compositions : ” The Last Supper,” exhibited at the Goupil Galleries in 1897 ; and the ” Supper at Emmaus,” shown at Messrs. Tooth’s, 1898. But it further showed that M. Dagnan-Bouveret, like so many artists of to-day, had fallen under the spell of the East ; and that henceforth he, like his brother Orientalists, would be profoundly occupied with those questions of line, light, and colour which await their solution in the East.

This has proved to be the case. And his Algerian pictures have placed M. Dagnan-Bouveret in the forefront of the Orientalist school. While as a portrait painter this distinguished and gifted artist ranks high.

Examples—Luxembourg :

Le Pain Bénit, 1885.

Tête de femme Arabe (Ouled Nayl), 1888.

Le Pardon, 1887, M. Engel-Gros.

L’accident, 1880, Walters Collection, Baltimore.

La Vierge, 1885, Pinacothèque, Munich.

The Orientalist school of this century may be said to have begun with Delacroix and Decamps.

DECAMPS, ALEXANDRE-GABRIEL (b. Paris, 1803 ; d. Fontainebleau, 1860), began his visions of the East early. For in 1827 he exhibited a ” Soldier of the Vizir’s Guard,” followed in 1831 by a ” Vue prise dans le Levant,” and ” Cadji-Bey,” chief of police in Smyrna, on his rounds. From this time Decamps continued his noble studies of the East. For in Turkey and Asia Minor he found the light and colour for which his strong and vigorous imagination craved. In some of his French pictures, such for instance as the ” Garde-chasse,” we recognise a forerunner of the peasant painters, and understand Decamps’ admiration and affection for J. F. Millet. But in his eastern pictures, while endeavouring to render truth and local colour, Decamps gives a fierce and savage interpretation of what he sees—” la vision d’un Orient brulé par une lumière implacable “.

Examples :

La Caravane, sketch, Louvre. 205.

Bouledogue et terrier écossais, Louvre. 206.

Turkish children by the fountain ; Rebecca at the well ; and several others, Chantilly.

Scourging of Christ, M. Chauchard.

The Ape and the Tortoise, M. Durand-Ruel.

Arabs resting ; Police Patrol, Smyrna ; and many others, Hertford House.

Decamps was soon followed by

MARILHAT, PROSPER (b. Vertaizon, Puy-de-Dome, 1811 ; d. Paris, 1847), who took a more gentle and classic view of Syria and Egypt. He kept closer to reality than Decamps, painting subjects which suited his taste ” almost like portraits “. His drawing was careful, his colour soft and warm, his light strong ; and everything, though exact, was rendered with real poetic feeling.

We find in the Louvre his —-

Ruines de la Mosquée du Khalife Hakem, au Caire.

Four pictures, Chantilly.

Troupeau de buffles au bord du Nil, M. H. Garnier,

Le Café Turc, Mme. Moreau-Nelaton.

Benisoef on the Nile ; The Erechtheion ; Banks of the Nile, Hertford House.

Soon beside these two early Orientalists, the great master, Delacroix takes his place—” le vrai maître moderne, le ” souverain traducteur de la grâce et de la force Arabe et de ” la magie du paysage Africain,” as Fromentin said of him. While Decamps had taken Turkey and Asia Minor, and Marilhat Syria and Egypt, Delacroix went to Morocco for his setting. And he was the first to give the true sensation of the East in his splendid visions of colour and light and movement. Then came the delightful painter and writer,

FROMENTIN, EUGENE, O. (b. La Rochelle, 1820 ; d. 1870).—One of the most attractive personalities of the middle of the century, with the twofold gifts of writer and painter, Eugène Fromentin was an artist to the core. And whether on canvas or in his books, it is always the poet who speaks. A pupil of Cabat the landscape painter, Fromentin at twenty-five was in full possession of his talent. In 1847, after spending four years in Algeria, he exhibited his “Gorges de la Chiffa,” which made a deep impression. It struck a fresh chord among the Orientalists. A colourist and a poet, Fromentin rendered all the novel and seductive charm of local truth combined with exquisite harmony and purity in the three silvery notes of the Sahel–white, blue, and green. And about the same time his Été dans le Sahara was published, Mme. Georges Sand being one of the first to perceive its unusual merit, finding in it ” le juste et le vrai mariés avec ” le grand et le fort “.

Fromentin desired to give, with the most absolute truth of local character, a calin and poetic vision of the East—of the Arab Encampment—of the Hawking party in the hot, early sunshine—of the Arab women on the Nile bank. And to preserve a certain lofty breadth in his Art, which he considered in peril—as indeed it was and is—from ” curiosity ” and the taste for anecdote. Le genre a détruit la grande ” peinture et dénaturé le paysage même “.

Examples— Louvre :

Chasse au Faucon, la curée. 305.

Le Campement Arabe. 306.

Femmes Arabes au borde du Nil. 307.

Arabes chassant au faucon, Chantilly.

Many in America.

Arabs Watering Horses, 130 ; Crossing a ford, 141,, Vanderbilt Collection.

Belly and Guillaumet followed Eugène Fromentin in the close study of the East, and in their determination to solve the problems of light in its direct and indirect effects.

BELLY, LÉON (b. St. Omer, 1827 ; d. 1877), ” in his ” ` Femmes Fellahs au bord du Nil,’ and in his `Caravane ” ` de pélerins ‘ under the red-hot desert sun, had given such ” an exact sensation of the East, that it seemed impossible to ” surpass it, when Guillaumet . . . brought a formula which ” might pass for a definitive one “.

GUILLAUMET, GUSTAVE ACHILLE (b. Paris., 1840; d. Paris, 1887), is represented in the Luxembourg by three fine pictures —” Laghouat, Sahara Algérien ” ; ” La Séguia, près de Biskra ” ; and ” Le Désert “.

LEROY, PAUL ALEXANDRE ALFRED (b. Paris, 1860),-a young Orientalist who bids fair to be a leader, is also represented in the Luxembourg by a very remarkable landscape, ” L’Oasis d’El Kântara ” ; one of the most admirable of modern renderings of the colour, light, and heat of the East.

CONSTANT, BENJAMIN, 0.*, M. DE L’INST. (b. Paris), is one of the most important and best known modern artists who has been captivated by the picturesque splendours of eastern subjects. In his great compositions, however, he is not so much occupied with the local truth as with the magnificence and picturesqueness of the setting. In 1872 his salon picture—the third he had exhibited—was a ” Samson et Dalila “. The next year he showed a ” Femme de Riff “. And from that date we have had a series of subjects with Morocco, Tangiers, and Seville for their setting, such as the fourteenth century ” Lendemain d’une Victoire à l’Alhambra ” ; or the thirteenth century ” Passetemps d’un Kalife,” at Seville ; ” Les derniers rebelles ” ; ” Les Favorites de l’Emir,” or ” Les Femmes de l’Harem “. In all of these pictures an extraordinary command over colour, drawing, and skilful disposition is seen. But M. Benjamin Constant does not wholly confine himself to these eastern subject pictures. He is one of the popular portrait painters of the day, delighting to render the robes of the Star of India, or the jewels and soft, shining, silken draperies of beautiful women.

Examples :

Les Derniers Rebelles, Luxembourg.

Lord Dufferin, portrait.

Lady Helen Vincent, portrait.

Passetemps d’un Kalife, â Séville, Comtesse de Casa Miranda (Mme. Christine Nillson).

REGNAULT, ALEXANDRE-GEORGES-HENRI (b. Paris, 1843 ; d. Buzenval, 1871).—Son of the celebrated chymist and physicist, M. H. Victor Regnault, Henri’s childhood was passed in an atmosphere of extreme cultivation—on one hand the strong character and profound scientific attainment of his father ; on the other the love of art and literature of his charming mother.

At twenty-three, after a brilliant passage through the atelier of Cabanel and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Henri Regnault gained the Prix de Rome, with his ” Thetis “. While his fellow competitors were working anxiously, Regnault amused himself, singing like a bird while he dashed in his Thetis just at the last moment—modifying the original sketch considerably as he painted it. Already he had attained that marvellous impetuosity of execution which corresponded to the impetuous and ardent enthusiasm of his nature. As if he had some prescience of how short his career was to be, Regnault’s existence was a breathless one for those five remaining years. In Italy he ” travels, ” Observes, listens, rides on horseback, spurs on his whole existence, breathes in Art at every pore “. And though he was the most daring colourist of the day, he yet could appreciate the most delicate nuances of the great masters. But in Fortuny’s studio in Rome he gained his first vision of the East. From that moment the East impassioned this ardent nature. And in 1868 he went to Spain. There Velasquez fairly intoxicated him. And as he was obliged as Pensionnaire de Rome to send in some copy, he chose that most marvellous Velasquez, ” Les Lances “. But more opportunities were to come. The Revolution of 1868 broke out ; and Madrid was turned into a camp—a camp dazzling with colour and picturesque incidents and effects. All was an enchantment to the young artist. And after seeing Prim’s triumphal entry in October, he set to work instantly with his usual enthusiasm, to paint ” the chief in uniform of a ” revolution in rags “. Prim however was not flattered. He refused the picture ; and thus it happily found its way to the Louvre.

But Regnault was still a student ; and was obliged to tear himself away from Madrid and return to Rome. It pleased him less than before, and he hastily painted his envoi of Judith, and hurried back to Spain. The war being over he went straight to Andalusia. Alicante charmed and amazed him. But once at Grenada—once. in the Alhambra—nothing else seemed to exist. The enthusiasm of his letters before this vision becomes positively lyric. For months he lingered, painting his ” divine mistress, the Alhambra “. Yet after awhile he desired even more. He knew Fortuny had received his revelation of light in Morocco. So to Morocco he must go. And at Tangiers he found the light he sought for.

In an immense studio which he built, he proposed to paint a picture which should be his last envoi de Rome, and which amid the splendours of the Alhambra should symbolize the magnificence of Moorish civilization. But before beginning it he painted his ” Sentinelle marocaine,” the ” Sortie du Pacha,” the ” Exécution sans jugement,” and finished the famous ” Salomé ” of the Salon of 1870. These done he wrote to his father about his gigantic work, asking him to send the very best canvas, 7 met. 50 in height by 5’50 wide, adding details as to colours, fish glue, gilder’s plaster. ” Then forward with the big brushes, the ladders, and to the ” assault ! If they don’t give me the medal of honour for this campaign, I don’t know what they can want ! ”

Alas ! another sort of campaign was before the artist. War was declared. The news grew worse and worse, till Regnault could bear it no longer. All visions of the Moors, the Alhambra, Art, and glory were thrown aside for the defence of his country in her hour of need. And through the siege of Paris in the artists’ battalion, he rarely touched brush or pencil, save for a few pencil portraits of friends, or three remarkable water-colours.

On January 18, 1871, he refused an offer of promotion, ending a fine, stoïcal letter to his captain with these words : ” You have in me a good soldier ; do not lose him by ” turning him into a poor officer “. Next day came the battle of Montretout. All day they fought. And when the retreat was sounded at Buzenval, Regnault, sad and angry, said to Clairin, his friend and brother-artist, ” I will be with ” you in a moment ! I want to fire a last cartridge ! ” He turned back towards the enemy. A ball struck him full in the forehead, and he fell dead.

In the inner court of the École des Beaux Arts, one of the most beautiful monuments of modern times, erected by his fellow-artists, keeps Regnault’s memory green—as M. Chapu’s enchanting Jeunesse kneels palin branch in hand, before his bust.

What he dreamt of doing, what he had already accomplished, was seen at the posthumous exhibition of his works and unfinished sketches in 1872, an amazing record for the artist of twenty-seven. Gifted with such a temperament, so original as a thinker, so magnificent and daring as a draughts-man, so superb as a colourist—one can but believe that Henri Regnault might have risen to the highest attainment of the artist, when life had revealed the idea behind mere colour and form.

Examples—Louvre :

Portrait équestre de Juan Prim.

Exécution sous les Rois Maures a Grenade.

Portrait de la Comtesse de Barck.

Alhambra, 1869, water-colour, Luxembourg.