THAT France, a great military power, should always have possessed and encouraged a long line of military painters is but natural. With that clearness of vision, as regards all things concerning the history of her national life, which is one of her most remarkable attributes, France has gloried in recording the prowess of her armies in ” painted story “. The special point of interest, however, in the military pictures of the nineteenth century is not merely their excellence as works of art. It is the evidence they afford of the increasing preoccupation among modern artists with actual truthtruth not only of detail but of intention ; of the desire to represent not the mere outside aspect of that truth, but, as with the peasant painters, to give its essence. And in this endeavour they all betray, whether consciously or unconsciously, the growing force of the democratic spirit. The Humanists of the Renaissance have become the individualists of the nineteenth century. And with this respect for the individual, the human creature as such, has become of supreme importance in art as in literature.
Until the nineteenth century, military pictures were purely aristocratic and official. Parrocel, Van der Meulen, ” Martin des Batailles,” produced endless representations of the Wars of Louis XIV. and Louis XV.; some of topographic value ; some curious as historic records ; some interesting as tableaux de moeurs, but one and all official. They have nothing to do with the actualities of war. The pictures of the First Republic and the Empire become of greater moment to the historian. In order to minister to the glory of Napoleon after he became Emperor, all the campaigns of those momentous years of the close of the eighteenth and dawn of the nineteenth centuries, were carefully recorded by such artists as Guillon-Lethière, Lecomte, Bouchot, Carle Vernet, etc. Girodet, Guérin, David, each painted great official pictures of contemporary military events. And these, owing to the exactitude with which portraits and details are treated, are of extreme value as authentic documents.
With the nineteenth century, however, the individual, the actual soldier, his heroism, his suffering, his every-day life, his character, comes into line. Of Baron Gros’ pictures of the events of his own day, I have already spoken : but it is necessary to refer again to them here. For in the ” Peste de Jaffa ” and the ” Battle of Aboukir ” we discover the first indications of realism, the first suggestion of the democratic spirit. By the old official method of Van der Meulen and Martin des Batailles, the interest was concentrated on the King, the General, the Staff, standing in comfortable security. The battle, where men were fighting and dying, was a mere décor de Théatre, with the appropriate smoke and flashes from guns at a discreet distance. By the new method of democratic realism, the sphere of interest is shifted from the Staff to the armyfrom the General to the fighting man, to the rank and file.
To two supreme artists the revolution is chiefly dueCharlet .and Raffet. With Raffet, in his unequalled litho-graphs, we get the epic of war, grandiose and tragic, allied with an almost miraculous exactitude of detailall the tragedy and horror of warfare in a handsbreadth. Charlet on the other hand, gives us the cheery, the amusing, often the grotesque view of the French Soldier. The Gallic flavour, the Gallic character, of the little recruit who calls to the old sergeant who is making such good practice among the enemy, to leave at least one for himof ” Valentin et ses prisonniers ” of the Soldiers of those tremendous caricaturesof those splendid pages of the French Soldier’s lifecomic and pathetic at once. With Charlet it is rarely that the pathetic becomes the tragic. When it does it is overpoweringas in the picture now in the Museum of Lyons” Épisode de la Campagne de Russie “.
At Versailles the evolution of modern military painting may be very fully studied, and on an enormous scale. Many artists who only attained mediocrity in their other works’second-rate followers of the Romantic schoolhave produced good military pictures, far more full of life and truth than their attempts to revive the cult of the Middle Ages. Couder’s ” Lawfeld ” and ” York Town,” Bouchot’s ” Zurich,” Phillipot’s ” Rivoli,” are all admirable pictures in the great Galerie des Bataillesthat vast panorama of the glories of the French arms from the days of Clovis to the first Empire, which Louis Philippe ordered wholesale from the artists of his reign.
Horace Vernet, the favourite, one may almost say the only official painter of the events of Louis Philippe’s reign, does endeavour to be historically accurate ; and we see that he strove for a certain amount of local colour and truth. The conquest of Algeria furnished him with the opportunity of filling room after room with huge, carefully-balanced compositions, good in drawing, dull in colour. In his portraits and in his localities he sought to be exact. But seen by the illumination of later methods, his pictures are in-tolerably tedious. In Bellangé we get the transition between officialism and realism. But it is with Fils and Protais that we find the actual break with tradition, and that they are beginning to paint what they see. It has been wittily said that Protais’ soldiers dream, while those of Pils act and do their duty. But the point is that these artists painted real soldiers ; though they modified these soldiers by their own individual temperaments. And in Pils’ great picture at Versailles of the Battle of the Alma, we see at once that the revolution is an accomplished factthat modern military painting is born. It is a step that leads us on quite naturally, without shock or hesitation, to Aimé Morot’s ” Reichshoffen,” or de Neuville’s ” Champigny “.
The intention and object of military painting of the last thirty years is to show us the intimate side of war. This of course has its perils. In all military pictures since 1870 we have to put loss, or the risk of loss, on one side, against gain on the other. We lose, or we may lose grandeur, in a too exclusive preoccupation with the individual. We run the risk of falling into anecdotethe fait diversmere melodrama. But if we lose or run the risk of losing on the side of grandeur, we gain enormously on that of human interest and of truth. And some modern French military painters have proved that it is possible, while giving the absolute truth of detail, the most intense rendering of the emotional aspect of war, to preserve grandeur of style, and produce a really fine as well as moving work of art.
CHARLET, NICHOLAS-TOUSSAINT (b. Paris, 1792 ; d. Paris,. 1845).When Charlet’s father, a Republican Dragoon, died, all the inheritance he could leave his boy was a pair of boots. considerably the worse for wear in the campaigns of the Sambre and Meuse, his leather breeches, and the deduction of nine francs seventy-five centimes for linen and shoes from his pay. But happily there was a valiant mother to look after the child and devote herself to his education. She first. placed him at the school of the Enfants de la Patrie ; then at the Lycée Napoléon. The excellent woman’s means, how-ever, were soon exhausted ; and Charlet, who adored his mother, cut his studies short and took a small post in one of the Mairies in order to help her. He did not keep it for long, on account of his Bonapartist opinions. And in 1814 we find him, as Sergeant-Major in the Garde Nationale, at the Barrière de Clichy.’ The son of the old Dragoon of the Republic fought so fiercely in that vain attempt to drive back the Russians, that he was made captain of his. company. Here, however, his military exploits began and ended. The Empire fell. He laid down his arms ; and turned to his pencil instead of his musket. In those splendid lithographs, in his fine studies and pictures of the actual soldier of the Empire, who he remembered in his father who he had seen and with whom he had fought side by side in those days of Julyhis military ardour found expression. And Gros, Raffet, and Charlet remain the three most important artists of the Napoleonic epoch.
Charlet had two masters. The first was one Le Belan obscure painter of David’s school, of whom the pupil speaks in anything but respectful terms. In 1817, however, he went to Gros ; in whose studio he met Delaroche, Roque-plan, Bonnington, Bellangé, Lami, Barye, etc. Gros soon perceived the talent of his new pupil ; and urged him at first to try for prizes, competitions, prix de Rome, and what not. Meanwhile Charlet was drawing diligently. His drawings delighted Gros, who was often to be found poring over them at his friend Delpech’s, the publisher, who was beginning to show Charlet’s first lithographs. It was now that his ” Grenadier de Waterloo ” appeared. Its success was so immediate that a second stone had to be preparedthe first was soon too worn. But its success was due to its political signification. As works of art Charlet’s productions at first, whether drawings or lithographs, did not sell.
In 1820 the honest Baron Gros advised the young artist to leave the studio. ” Allez, travaillez seul, suivez votre ” impulsion, abandonnez vous à votre caprice, vous n’avez ” rien à apprendre ici.” So away went the valiant, in-dependent, light-hearted Charlet encouraged by the great master’s words, to draw and paint the French army in all its moods ; and though he knew poverty at close quarters in those early days, his gay humour and happy philosophy carried him through every difficulty. Charlet seems never to have forgotten that he was a soldier’s son, and that he had once himself worn the uniform of his country. Looking like some distinguished staff officer, with his handsome face, clean shaven save for the heavy moustache and imperial, his best friends were officers of note, such as Colonel de la Combe his devoted biographer, and M. Alexandre de Rigny, colonel of the 2nd Hussards.
Success came slowly. In 1818 he was so put to it to earn his livelihood that he undertook to decorate a little inn at Meudon. But this led to a meeting of great importance. While he was hard at work painting ducks, rabbits and brioches on the shutters, he was asked to join a cheerful party on the first floor. One of the members met him saying, ” You do not know me, M. Charlet, but I know you, and ” have a great respect for you ; for your lithographs could ” only come from the pencil of a good fellow ; and if you will ” dine with us it will be an honour and a pleasure to us.”
It was Géricault ! And from that day a friendship began, which was only broken by Géricault’s death. In 1820 the friends went to London, where Géricault’s ” Radeau de la Méduse ” was exhibited. And each visitor on payment of his shilling entrance received a lithograph of the picture, the joint work of the two artists. Charlet’s litho-graphs had an undoubted influence on Géricault at this moment ; while Géricault’s fiery genius had an equal effect on his friend. And if his time had not been so absorbed with lithography and his work as Professor of drawing at the École Polytechnique, the number of Charlet’s oil pictures would have been greatly augmented. That he had the true painter’s temperament is shown by his splendid little ” Grenadier de la Garde,” in the Louvre, his “Episode de la Retraite de Russie,” and othersnotably the large paintings at Versailles” Convoi de blessés ” and ” Passage du Rhin A Kehl “. These, says M. Armand Dayot, ” are honourable
specimens of official painting . . . the Épisode de la Retraite ” de Russie is an audacious and powerful work, almost a work ” of genius “. Of this picture Alfred de Musset dared to say in 1836, ” Except Géricault’s Mêduse and Poussin’s ” Déluge, I know no picture which produces such an effect “.
Charlet’s life was one of ceaseless labour. And he summed it up when, with his wife and his two sons beside him, his pencil fell from his hand on the last day of 1845, as he said, ” Good-bye. I am dying, for I can work no longer.”
Le Grenadier de la Garde, Louvre.
Convoi de blessés, Versailles.
Passage du Rhin a Kehl, Versailles.
Soldat de la République, Chantilly.
Episode de la Retraite de Russie, Musée de Lyon.
Général Républicain à la tête de ses troupes, Mme. Moreau-Nélaton.
Waterloo, M. Auguste Cain.
Drawings and Lithographs.
Series of ” Galerie Militaire depuis 1792 “.
Illustrations for Béranger’s ” Chansons,” etc., etc.
Charlet said he had made more than 1500 drawings in sepia, water-colour, pen and ink, and eaux-fortes, besides nearly as many he had torn up dissatisfied, while M. de la Combe has collected 1090 lithographs.
VERNET, HORACE, G.O. (b. Paris, 1789 ; d. Paris, 1863).- Horace Vernet was by right of inheritance a painter. Son of Carle, and grandson of Joseph Vernet, it would have been strange if he had not cared for Art. Like his father he was a man of the world ; and passionately devoted to horses, to arms, and to sport. For a moment it seemed as if his love of things military would have sent him into the army. But before he was twenty his father settled his career for him ; married him to Mlle. Louise Pajol ; and obtained him the post of draftsman to the dépôt de la guerre. His first patrons were the Empress Marie-Louise and King Jérôme. At the Barrière de Clichy, side by side with Charlet,’ he distinguished himself greatly, and received the Legion of Honour. Under the Restoration Horace Vernet was an ardent Bonapartist ; his pictures and lithographs did much to popularise the Napoleonic Legend ; and in 1822 his pictures were refused at the Salon as seditious. He therefore opened an exhibition in his studio, to which all Paris flocked, and the success was immense. Louis-Philippe, as duc d’Orléans, now became his warmest patron. And Charles X., feeling how important it was to attach such a successful artist to his person and his cause, ordered the pictures of ” Bouvines ” and ” Fontenoy,” and a ceiling at the Louvre.
Vernet was now (1828) made Director of the École de Rome.’ And on his return to France, his patron Louis Philippe was upon the throne, and his period of greatest activity and success began. For from his return from Rome in 1834, to the revolution of 1848, with one brief interval, Horace Vernet may be said to be the one military painter of the reign of Louis Philippe. He was now at liberty to devote himself to his favourite subjects ; and began by the great battles of the EmpireJêna, Friedland, Wagram, etc., followed by the siege of Antwerp. Then came the Algerian campaign, of which he became the real historian. His three pictures of the siege of Constantine, exhibited in 1839, roused the greatest enthusiasm ; for they were narrative picturesthe story told by an ingenious and accomplished historian, in whose work ” conscientious in-” formation equals certainty of execution “. The French public desired information about this new and exotic acquisition, where the French army fought with such splendid bravery against a little-known, courageous, and picturesque people. Horace Vernet was able to give them this information in such guise that it was intelligible to the illiterate, and of deepest interest to the learned. In 1842 the African series was interrupted for a moment. Some annoyance caused him to drop his work, leave Paris, and go to Russia. But he only painted a couple of pictures for the Emperor Nicholas. And returning tO France in 1843, he took up the broken thread of his battle pictures, and produced the finest of all his works, the enormous ” Prise de la Smalah d’Abd-el-Kader “. It is gigantic in size21 metres long by 5 highand most happy and skilful in its simplicity of treatment. ” It is a work in which the qualities of the ” painter efface themselves before the impeccable science of a ” draftsman, of an illustrator of genius.” 2 These words sum up at once the greatness and the weakness of Horace Vernet. He was not a painter, he was a narrator.
The revolution of 1848 was a crushing blow to his projects and his hopes. During the Third Empire he produced but little, though Napoleon III. made him grand officier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1862, a few weeks before his death. Gifted with extraordinary facility, he used pencil, brush, and burin with almost equal ease and certainty of hand.
Prise de Constantine. 2021, 2022, 2023.
Prise du fort de St. Jean d’Ulloa. 2024.
Prise de la Smalah d’Abd-el-Kader. 2027.
Etc., etc., etc.
La Barrière de Clichy, Louvre. 956.
Ceiling of Salle 2, Musée Charles X., Louvre. 957, 958.
Portrait, duc d’Orléans, afterwards Louis Philippe, Chantilly.
The Duke of Orleans entering Constantine, and a great number of other pictures, Hertford House.
RAFFET, DÉNIS-AUGUSTE-MARIE (b. Paris, 1804 ; d. Genoa, 1860).After receiving a rough and ready education at a little school in the Quartier, Raffet at the age of fifteen was apprenticed to a turner in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. He stayed here for three years, delighting his employer by the skill with which he used his lathe. But his taste for things military was already declared. From his babyhood his warlike tendencies had manifested themselves. The Fontaine de Birague and the steps of the Eglise de Saint-Paul witnessed heroic deeds of arms, when little Raffetalways chosen as leaderled his liliputian troop into the field armed with broomsticks and such like, to the no small consternation of their peaceful elders in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
Raffet’s artistic faculty was very late in developing. In the weekly reports which the head of the Institution Ballet sent his mother, an ominous black mark always stood against ” progress in drawing “. It was not until he was eighteen that his love of art really awoke. Then, to the consternation of the good turner, he took a sudden disgust to the turning of chair-legs. His worship of the Flagof all that pertained to the glory of the soldierroused in him the vehement desire to become the painter of the soldier. He joyfully left his lathe ; and went off to ask counsel of M. Cabanel, a painter, gilder, and porcelain decorator. This worthy man took the lad into his atelier, where he earned six francs a day ; and besides giving him sound advice on painting, his patron allowed him to attend some of the classes in Suisse’s Academy, then greatly in vogue. Here Raffet learnt to draw from nature, and made friends with de Rudder and Théodore Le Blanc, two of Charlet’s pupils. It was Théodore Le Blanc, then a captain of Engineers, whose death at the siege of Constantine in 1837, Raffet immortalized in one of his most celebrated lithographs.
De Rudder introduced Raffet to Charlet, who was de-lighted with his drawings, welcomed him warmly, offered him a place in his studio, and became greatly attached to him. Six months later the young artist entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Here for five years he worked under Charlet, and became so perfect a draftsman that the best authorities declare it is difficult to say which is the work of master or pupil in certain works from 1825 to 1830. But according to M. Armand Dayot, Charlet only lightly re-touched one of Raffet’s drawingsthe ” Waterloo “where with a few touches he toned some of the lights which had been left a little too strong. Raffet, however, perceived that he ran a certain risk of becoming merely the follower of Charlet’s compelling talent. He had mastered all the subtleties and mysteries of lithography. And he turned to Baron Gros, whose battlepieces had inflamed his imagination, for something broader and more vigorous. A few months after he entered Gros’ studio he published an Album, containing the famous ” Waterloo ” and ” La Moskowa
Gros happened to see the former, sold for a franc on the Quays. He exclaimed with admiration, asked the name of the artist, and when told it was a young man named Raffet, a pupil of Baron Gros, denied his existence ! But from that day Gros remembered the name of his brilliant pupil, who, he said had come on a fruitless errand, as he, Gros, could. teach him nothing more than he already knew about battles. Raffet nevertheless worked on steadily in the studio, gaining immense power in drawing. At the same time orders came thick upon him ; and he produced illustrations, vignettes, drawings, and the thirty-three plates for the Musée de la Révolution Française, in which his talent, which had developed so slowly, shows itself complete.
One album of lithographs now succeeded another. In the intensely interesting collection of Raffet’s works, pre-served under the pious care of his son, M. Auguste Raffet, of the Département des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale, the variety of subject and of style is extraordinary. We find a
° vignette outside some popular song, an advertisement for some book or play, next to some lifelike sketch of a soldier, some magnificent lithograph where he has put 10,000 men in to the space of an open octavo, or some caricature, which, while it made the public laugh, cut at the same time like a whip lash. At the end of 1831 Raffet made a hasty journey to Antwerp. He wanted to see his hero, the soldier, at work in earnest. He arrived in time to see the surrender of the Citadel ; and hurried back to Paris with sketch books filled with drawings from life, which were soon transformed into the fine Album of the Siege of Antwerp. This publication completed his reputation. His fame was secure. But he was to do better still. Two of his greatest triumphs were produced in 1833, the placards for the poems Némesis and Napoléon en Egypte. These ” will rank for ever among the ” very purest marvels of lithography “.1
While working almost ceaselessly at his lithographs, Raffet yet found time to paint direct from nature. His oil pictures are rare, and he never exhibited them in the Salon. But such pictures, sketches, and studies as exist show a very brilliant colourist. In water-colour however he did much.
The eccentric and remarkable wanderer and patron of the arts, Prince Anatole Demidoff, was closely attached to Raffet. And with this singular and devoted companion, a series of journeys began which gave Raffet extraordinary opportunities. Such of his original sketch books of these journeys as we have been fortunate enough to see, reveal the man and the artist in a delightful manner. Not only do they show the keen observer, intense enjoyment of. every novelty, an absolutely truthful method of work in tiny studies of uniforms, accoutrements, the special set of a strap, a buckle, an epaulet, a bit of harness : but the vast plains of the Danube and the Crimeamagnificent ceremonials and reviews where thousands of men are engagedare indicated with such marvellous power and subtle knowledge, that the few strokes on the six-inch page of a little sketch book give the effect of grandeur we too often find lacking in a huge picture. With Prince Demidoff, Raffet travelled in Spain, where we get bullfights and bullfighters, Andalusian beauties and dancers. At Gibraltar he was fascinated by the 43rd Highlanders ; and some of his large water-colour and lithograph studies and portraits are of great interest. The journey in 1836 took the Prince and the artist down the Danube, through southern Russia and the Crimea.’ They also visited England and Scotland.
But one of Raffet’s most valuable contributions to con-temporary history is the book of full-length water-colour portraits of ” Diplomates auprés de la Sainte Siège ” at Rome and Portici in 1849. The heads are finished with extreme care and delicacy, and are some of the most lifelike and characteristic portraits of the time. They begin with Pius IX. and Cardinal Antonelli. And the racial differences between the representatives of the different nations are depicted with a sagacity and vivacity which is, as far as I know, unequalled. This book is preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationalea rare feast for the student of modern history.
This journey to Rome at the time of the siege was also productive of a magnificent series of drawings of the French army and the events of the siege. Among them ” Votre réception n’est ni polie ni politique “and the beautiful plate of the engagement under the great Stone Pines of Panfili are of special value. Raffet’s second visit in the spring of 1860, in which to get fresh notes to complete his Album of the siege of Rome, cost the world a great artist.
He contracted feverand died on his way home at Genoa, in February, 1860.
Grenadier de la lere République (oils), Louvre. 761 bis.
Complete collection of Lithographs, Bibliothèque Nationale.
Diplomates, 1849 (water-colour), Bibliothèque Nationale.
Water-Colours of Algerian Campaign, 1841, Chantilly. Canonnier de la République (oils), M. Cain.
Barkhat, a Russian Horse (oils), E. E. Leggatt, Esq. Six sketch books of Journey down the Danube and Crimea, from collection of Prince Demidoff, Miss Lucy Cohen.
The most celebrated of the Lithographs in the Napoleonic series are : ” Moskowa.” ” Bataillon Sacré a Waterloo.” ” Lützen.” ” L’oeil du maître.” ” Attention ! L’Empereur a l’ceil sur nous ! ” ” Serrez vos rangs ! ” ” Ils grognaient et le suivaient toujours.” “La Revue Nocturne.” ” Le Réveil.”
In the Algerian Series : ” Marche sur Constantine.” ” Combat d’Oued Alleg.”
BELLANGE, HIPPOLYTE (b. Paris, 1800 ; d. Paris, 1866). Bellangé entered the École des Beaux Arts in 1818. A pupil of Gros, he represents the transition period between officialism and the intimate and realistic painting of Military pictures. His ” Prise de Mouzaïa ” at Versailles is an admirable example of this transition.
Wagram, 1749 ; Prise de Mouzaïa, 5123 ; Combat d’Anderlecht.
Two pictures, Chantilly.
Fording a Stream ; The Despatch ; Grenadier ; Hertford House.
PROTAIS, PAUL ALEXANDRE (b. Paris, 1826).With the Crimean War, Protais, like Pils, found his opportunity. And he was one of the first to break away from the aristocratic and official view of war, and paint the soldier as he saw him. He has always seen him through a veil of sentiment ; ” the “melancholy soldier,” as M. Bigot says, who seems ” to ” emerge from a reading of René or of Obermann “.
In Versailles we have a good example of his workthe Prise du Mamelon Vert. 1904.
Avant le combat, and Aprés le combat, Chantilly. Pictures in the Museums of Marseilles, Orleans, Toulon, etc.
La Séparation . . . armée de Metz, 1872, Mme. la Baronne James de Rothschild.
PILS, ISIDORE, O, M. DE L’INST. (b. Paris, 1815 ; d. Paris, 1875).Isidore Pils inherited from his father not only a clearly marked artistic sense, but the power of lively and accurate observation. The father, a gallant and cultivated soldier who Oudinot attached to his personel, spent the intervals of actual fighting in making vigorous sketches of all he saw in the campaigns of the First Republic and Empire. His son Isidore’s vocation was manifested early ; and at fifteen the lad entered Lethière’s studio, leaving it two years later for Picot’s. He was preparing to compete for the Prix de Rome in 1836, when the consumptive tendencies he had inherited from his mother first showed themselves. His father was poor. So he had to take refuge in the Hôpital de Saint-Jean–to which he was destined to return more than once.
In 1838, however, he gained the Grand Prix de Rome, and set out for the Villa Médici. But Italy did his delicate health harm instead of good. Racked with fever, interrupted by journeys in search of relief to Ischia, Naples and the mountains, his work suffered. Nor did Italy suit his talent. All his life through his career was blighted by constant illness. But with a gentle and half-sorrowful obstinacy Pils strove to overcome all obstacles, and to discover the true path to follow. He had hitherto tried religious commonplaces. In 1848 his ” Rouget de l’Isle ” was inspired by the spirit of the times. Then he began like his father to observe what was going on about him, and to paint what he saw. The ” Death of a Sister of Charity ” and ” Prière à l’Hospice ” were scenes he had witnessed in his long, sad sojournings at the Hôpital Saint-Jean. Then a ” Distribution de soupe ” by soldiers to the poor in the Gardens of the Luxembourg, revealed to him his true vocation. He became a modern painter, a military painter. And the Crimean War soon confirmed his popularity with the ” Débarquement en Crimée,” and the fine ” Bataille de l’Alma,” for which he was awarded a First medal.
Unluckily an official order from Government for the ” Réception des Chefs Arabes ” interrupted him in his new-found line of work. He spent two years in Algeria making studies for it. But constantly illonce at the point of death at Fort Napoléonplunged without preparation into the new and strange life, light, colour and types of the East, Pils was as one lost. He had neither physical strength or artistic vigour and agility to stand such a shock, necessitating a completely fresh point of view. The great theatrical picture proved a failure, which sorely discouraged the poor painter of the ” Alma “. And his studies of Kabylles are far superior to it.
During the Siege of Paris he produced some remarkable water-colours, full of his old vigour. For he had returned to his soldiers who he loved and understood, his soldiers who had brought him his real success. In oils he always found difficulties. And when as Professor at the École des Beaux Arts, and Membre de l’Institut, he was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the grand staircase of the Opera House, he failed again. Hopelessly discouraged, worn out with ill health, he died a few months later, crying in his last delirium to his pupils to work, work always ” d’après nature, d’après nature,” and calling on the name of Géricault, the hero of his youth.
Rouget de l’Isle chantant pour la première fois la Marseillaise, Louvre. 702.
Passage de l’Alma, Versailles. 5014.
La prière à l’Hospice, Ville de Toulouse.
Water-colours of Soldiers, Chantilly.
DETAILLE, EDOUARD, ., M. DE L’INST. (b. Paris, 1848). Monsieur Detaille, a Parisian born and bred, was educated at the Lycée Bonaparte. At College his exercise books were covered with drawings. But he is a most determined worker. And this passion for drawing did not prevent his gaining a solid education, and his diploma of Bachelier ès lettres at seventeen. This once accomplished, his family allowed him to follow his irresistible vocation ; and he entered Meissonier’s studio in November, 1865. Here he spent two years ; and a close affection and regard sprang up between master and pupil. At first the way was not easy. The future master had to unlearn all he knewto give up the chic for serious study. But as M. Claretie says, ” résolu, ” très énergique, avec sa fine nature de Parisien qui semble ” doublé d’Anglais,” M. Detaille by sheer determination was able to sever himself for awhile from what he delighted in, and give himself wholly to absolute study of the very rudiments of his art, until the day when Meissonier said, ” It is well, ” now you can walk alone ” ! By means of endless studies of every kindhorses, soldiers, people of every type (every one of them from the life), landscapes, dead game, studies from the nudeM. Detaille gained that amazing certainty of hand and eye which we find in his best pictures or in his smallest drawing.
His first picture was not a military subject. It was the Studio of his Master, in the Salon of 1867. The winter of 1867-68 he spent in the south of France, where he painted his ” Cuirassiers ferrant leurs chevaux sur la route d’Antibes ” and his ” Halte de Tambours,” which so delighted his ” model ” that he bought it on the spot for 800 francs, according to M. Claretie, selling it later for a big price to Princesse Mathilde. In 1869 Théophile Gautier began to praise the young artist highly for the attitudes, truth and spirit of his grenadiers” Le Repos pendant la Manoeuvre “. And in the same year he showed several charming Directoire and Empire pictures, both in oils and water-colours. His first great success, however, was in the Salon of 1870” Combat entre les Cosaques et les gardes d’honneur “. It is so extraordinarily living in its truth of detail, that it has been said one could swear the painter must have been there and seen it all. M. Detaille however was soon to see War in earnest, and leave his Directoire and the Wars of Napoleon for the horrible realities that he witnessed and took part in.
In August, 1870, he left his studio and half-drawn picture, and enlisted in the 8th battalion of the Garde Mobile de la Seine. He was first encamped at Saint-Maur ; then sent to Villejuif. In the battle of Chatillon, M. Detaille was in the barricaded house. Then he was moved to Pantin, and fought at Bondy. And in November . General Appert made him his secretary. This gave the young artist more liberty ; and enabled him to see nearly all the events of the siege, following Charlet’s well-known precept, ” Il faut tout croquer ” sous le feu “. The one which struck him most, was the fierce battle of December 2 on the Marne, which he saw at close quarters. He recorded it in a terrible drawing from memorya rank of Saxons struck down by a mitrailleuse.
In the Salon of 1872 M. Detaille exhibited his famous ” Vainqueurs “the Prussians leaving a house in the out-skirts of Paris. This was a great success, and the young painter was given the Legion of Honour. He followed it in 1873 with ” En Retraite ” ; in 1874 with the ” Cuirassiers de Morsbronn ” ; and in 1875 with the delightful ” Régiment qui passe ” on the Boulevard.
It is needless to follow the highly successful and distinguished artist step by step. But his association with Alphonse de Neuville, his friend and rival, merits notice as an interesting and instructive episode in the histories of the two greatest modern artists of the soldier. The two artistsof whom Meissonier said with a touch of almost paternal affection, ” ils ont bien du talent, ces jeunes gens “travelled together in the summer of 1874 to Sedan, and visited the battlefields of Metz, Forbach and Froeschwiller. They worked together in the superb Panorama of Champigny in such complete sympathy, that it requires an expert to say where the work of one begins and the other ends. But nevertheless a very distinct difference exists between their work as artists. M. Detaille does not seek for that drama in his pictures which gives so poignant a significance to every-thing de Neuville painted. He contents himself with the utmost exactitude he can attain. And in that attainment he is unsurpassed among modern artists. But while his pictures interest, they do not stir the heart and excite the patriotic ardour and imagination of the spectator as those of de Neuville ; who, while he gives the absolute truth of detail, gives a glimpse of the hidden truth, the spirit of heroic endeavour and endurance, even in disaster.
M. Detaille’s career has been one of brilliant success. The Panorama of Champigny was followed in 1883 by one of Rézonville, exhibited in Vienna that year. His best known work of 1897 is the fine equestrian portrait picture of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Connaught, T.R.H.’s Diamond-Jubilee gift to The Queen. M. Detaille is a well-known and always welcome guest in England. And his pictures and drawings are immensely popular both in Europe and America.
Le Rêve, 1888. Luxembourg.
Sortie de la Garnison de Huningen, 20 Août, 1815, 1892. Luxembourg.
” Haut les Têtes,” Grenadiers à cheval A Eylau. Chantilly.
Cosaques de l’Ataman. Emperor of Russia.
Bivouac des tirailleurs de la famille impériale. Emperor of Russia.
Portraits of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught. H.M. The Queen.
En Reconnaissance, Champigny. M. M. Boussod and Valadon.
NEUVILLE, ALPHONSE DE, * (b. Saint Orner, 1835 ; d. Paris, 1887).” Un peintre de race, émouvant, personnel et ” vrai.” Alphonse de Neuville’s family, rich and well connected, destined him for some brilliant official post. Their dismay therefore was great when, after obtaining his baccalauréat at sixteen, he announced that he would do nothing but follow the profession of arms : and after much opposition he entered the preparatory Naval School of L’Orient. While there his true vocation revealed itself. M. Duhousset, the professor of drawing and an excellent and enlightened man, soon perceived de Neuville’s talent. Believing that he had the making of a real artist, he devoted himself to developing his pupil’s powers ; and at the end of the perparatory year Duhousset prophesied, ” Remember, whatever you do, you
will never be anything else than a painter “. On his return home de Neuville found that his family had changed its mind, and forbade him to enter the Naval School. To this he submitted without much reluctance ; for this year had convinced him that Art rather than Arms was to be his mistress. And he consented to go to Paris and study law, which would give him a respite, and time to study drawing.
In Paris he joined the most popular law classes, and never attended them ! All his time was spent in drawing soldiers at the École Militaire, or the Champ-de-Mars. At the end of three years he managed to get through his examination somehow, to the delight of his relations, who saw him on the steps of a fine official career. But de Neuville then made the frightful announcement that he was going to be an artist. The family were horrified. A year’s determined opposition ensued. He remained quite calm. A painter or nothing, was the ultimatum of this “enfant terrible “. At last his father gave way before such determination ; and took him to Paris to see if he had any prospect of success.
The beginning was not encouraging. First they went to Bellangé. He was in a bad humour, and advised the young man to ” go back to the country ” and get some good post that would enable him to live comfortably, unknown, but peaceful. Then to Yvon. He was civillooked at the sketches, and said there was nothing serious in them. ” Go
back to the country.” Picot, to whom de Neuville went by himself a few days later, was contemptuousand told him to work in charcoal, as he was unworthy to paint. After his third study de Neuville left ; took a little studio ; and in the winter of 1858-59 he painted the ” Batterie St. Gervais ” (Sébastopol). This he thought it right to show to Picot, who was amazed at the qualities he saw in his despised pupil. It was exhibited in the Salon of 1859 and gained a third medal. Delacroix now was extremely kind to the young artist, who spent hours alone with him, getting precious counsel.
In 1861 his ” Chasseurs de la Garde ” in the trenches gained a second class medal ; and he was now recognised as an artist who must be considered. But his pictures, in spite of much praise, did not sell. So he took to illustrations. M. de St. Victor says that ” no artist but Gustave Doré had so ” rapid a hand or so fertile a power of improvisation “. His drawings in the Tour du Monde alone would fill five or six volumes, besides Guizot’s Histoire de France, etc., etc.
In 1864 a very important picture, ” Attaque des rues de Magenta,” was bought by the State for his native town, St. Omer. And in 1866 the ” Sentinelle de Zouaves ” is de-scribed as ” a work of a more intimate character, which ” already suggested his later manner “. In the ” Chasseurs de la Tchernaïa ” of 1868-69, the modern tendencies are more pronounced. It is the trooper himself who interests this modern master. The battle now is relegated to the back-ground. The soldier, his ways, his looks, his character, takes the front place.
When the War broke out de Neuville served first as an auxiliary engineer officer, and then as orderly officer on the staff of Général Callier. He thus witnessed all the fighting on the north of Paris during the siege. His ” Bivouac devant le Bourget ” began his new series, in 1872. And from henceforth he imposed on himself the poignant rôle of historian of the War of 1870. In 1873 came his greatesttriumphthe well-known ” Dernières Cartouches à Balan “and the ” Combat sur la voie ferrée “. To show how he worked, the history of the ” Dernières Cartouches ” is of deep interest. He went to Balan with one of the officers who had been present, and sketched all the action on the spot from his descriptions. Hastening back to Paris he spent a month in heaping materials togetherclothes, arms, etc., etc. Then he shut himself up, and no one saw him. But for several days the neighbours were startled by strange sounds breakages, blows of a hatchet, reports of fire-arms. The first visitor who penetrates to the studio starts back in alarm. The walls are full of bullet holes, the furniture broken, doors off their hinges cleft with the hatchet, windows hanging from their frames, curtains tornand in dense smoke de Neuville, with his eyes flaming, is painting the little Moblot of the ” Dernières Cartouches “. Several years later, when he had moved to his fine studio in the rue Legendre, close to Meissonier’s palace on the boulevard Malsherbes, and next door to his devoted friend Detaille, he said the old atelier was still in the same statehe could not bear to give it up. ” Il m’a porté bonheur. C’est là que ” j’ai fait aussi le Combat sur la voie ferrée, et Villersexel. ” Il me rappelle mes premiers succés. De temps en temps ” j’y vais faire un petite pèlerinage.”
I have already mentioned the close friendship existing between de Neuville and M. Detaille, who he called ” la sagesse de Nations ” ; for the latter always arranged all de-tails in their many journeys. It lasted unbroken to the end of de Neuville’s brilliant but all too short career. For in 1887 he died, after months of terrible illness.
Le Bourget, sketch, 1873 ; Attaque par le feu d’une maison barricadée à Villersexel, sketch, 1875 ; Le Parlementaire, 1884, repetition.
Combat sur la voie ferrée, Chantilly.
Les dernières Cartouches, 1873, M. C. J. Lefèvre. Bivouac devant le Bourget, Musée de Dijon.
Batterie St. Gervais (Sebastopol), Musée de St. Omer. Champigny, Versailles.
Le Bourget, 1878, Vanderbilt Collection, New York.
Une Surprise aux environs de Metz, 1875, and Capture difficile, John Nicholas Brown, Esq.
MEISSONIER, JEAN-LOUIS-ERNEST, G.O. M. DE L’INST. (b. Lyons, 1815 ; d. Paris, 1891), stands on the borderland as it were between genre and military painting. Though the greater number of his well-known works belong to the former group, yet some of his most important belong to the latter. Therefore, as one of the chief historiographers of the Napoleonic epoque, I shall class him for convenience sake among the military painters. The master is as well-known in England and America as in France.
About 1830 he came to Paris, and found his way to Cogniet’s studio. But his talent was already formed. In this period of violent dissensions, of theories upheld almost at the point of the sword between the two rival camps of Classics and Romantics, Meissonier, a mere lad, was strong enough and original enough to stand alone, to be himself. The Dutch masters were utterly neglected, almost unknown in those days, in France. To them Ernest Meissonier turned. And in the Salon of 1834 he exhibited a little picture, “Bourgeois flamands ” ; to be followed in 1836 by the ” Joueurs d’échecs,” and ” Le petit Messager “. This fetched the sum of 100 francs then ; for the poor boy from Lyons was glad enough to sell his petits bonshommes at such a price, and the young artist’s débuts were difficult. But in 1840 he gained a third class medal ; in 1841 a second class with his well-known ” Partie d’Échecs “; and in 1843 a first class, with ” Un peintre dans son atelier “. Meissonier was now a made man. His small and exquisitely finished pictures became more and more popular. Dutch subjectsthe Bravi of the Italian RenaissanceFrance of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuriesfollowed each other in rapid succession. And the petits bonshommes were no longer sold for 100 or even 1000 francs.
It was in 1861, however, that a commission from the Emperor turned his talent into a fresh line of thought and worka picture of Solférino. The picture did not please the Tuileries ; so it was turned over to the State budget, and is now in the Luxembourg. But admirable as it is in itself, it is of yet more importance as having turned Meissonier from pure genre to military history. Once started in the new line, he threw himself into it with the utmost vigour.
He soon however quitted contemporary history for the more picturesque and more dramatic episodes and costumes of the Wars of Napoleon I. And now come the magnificent series which have made his name for ever famous” 1805,” ” 1807,” ” 1814,” ” Le Guide,” ” Le portrait du Sergent,” ” Moreau et son état Major,” ” Védette,” ” L’ordonnance,” etc., etc. All the episodes and events of the everyday life, of the glory and disasters, of those memorable campaigns.
Every line, every touch, was the result of the most careful, exact study. To paint the Napoleon of ” 1814,” pale and tragic, M. Meissonier had an absolutely exact copy of the famous Redingote grise made by his tailor. And dressed in this, and mounting a wooden horse in the studio saddled exactly like the Emperor’s, M. Claretie says the artist spent hours upon hours in almost tropical heat, studying every turn of the folds and creases that the coat would take on the horse’s back, the light on the boots, and each minute detail, which was drawn over and over again with that unerring hand.
Such drawings and studies as those now placed in the Luxembourg are of the very deepest interest and importance, and repay the most careful attention. Three are the gift of M. Charles Meissonier, the painter’s sonalso an artist. The others were bought by the State at the Meissonier sale in 1893.
Examples in the Luxembourg :
Napoleon III. A Solférino, 205 ; Napoleon III. entouré de son état Major, 206 ; L’attente, 207 ; Le Chant, sketch, 208 ; Etude de paysage, 209 ; Blanchisseuses A Antibes, 210 ; Portrait, Alexandre Dumas.
” 1805,” Cuirassiers de 1805 avant le combat ; Védette sous Louis XV. ; Amateurs de Tableaux, Chantilly.
” 1814 ” and many others, M. Chauchard.
Le Guide, M. Prosper Crabbe.
Fifteen pictures, Hertford House.
Friedland, ” 1807 ” (oils), Central Museum, New York. Friedland, ” 1807 ” (gouache), John Balli, Esq., London.
A Noble Venetian (portrait of Artist), M. E. Gambart, Nice.
Causerie, John M. Keiller, Esq.
Gentleman of Louis XIII., Sir James Joicey, M.P. ” 1814,” sketch, Mrs. Guthrie.