Saturday, December 28, 2013

Barye by Bonnat: the art of the posthumous portrait

Léon Bonnat ~ Portrait of Barye with a Wax Model of "Seated Lion" - 50 13/16 x 36 5/8 in.

Portrait of Barye with a Wax Model of "Seated Lion"

William Walters commissioned this portrait through his fellow Barye enthusiast George Lucas. Barye's having died a decade earlier, Bonnat worked from a photograph of the sculptor taken by the respected French photographer Nadar that, along with a wax model of the "Seated Lion," was provided by Lucas.

Léon Bonnat ~ Portrait du sculpteur Barye, 32.5" by 44.5"

Nadar (Gaspard Félix Tournachon), photographer (French, 1820 - 1910)
 Antoine-Louis Barye, 1855 - 1859, Salted paper print
 Image (irregular): 20.8 x 15.7 cm (8 3/16 x 6 3/16 in.) 
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Seeing the quality of the Bonnat Barye's, one wonders what percentage of his portraits are after photographs.

Léon Bonnat Portrait du sculpteur Barye (detail)
or: "Sight-sized" from Life, My Ass!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Christmas: Santa Reading Mail
signed Norman Rockwell, l. l.
oil on canvas, 35 by 27 in.
painted in 1935

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Meissonier inspired by Giorgione?

or: Inspired By(?) #9

Jean Louis Ernest  Meissonier ~ Un Homme de Geurre - 1857 oil on panel  15 3/4 x 11 1/4in.

Giorgione ~ Madonna and Child with Saints Liberale and Francis (The Castelfranco Madonna) 1505

Monday, November 18, 2013

Meissonier by Menzel

the following Sotheby's catalog entry has been slightly edited for this post ~ अर्जुन

GERMAN, 1815-1905

signed, inscribed and dated Adolph Menzel Berl. 1869 l.r.
oil on panel
21 by 29cm., 81/4 by 111/2in.

This intimate snapshot of the painter Ernest Meissonier at work in his summer studio at Poissy, with Mme Meissonier and fellow painter Louis Ricard looking on, is at once a masterful evocation of the age and a symbol of the artistic fraternity that Paris fostered at the time.

Menzel spent the summer of 1867 in Paris with fellow artist and friend Paul Meyerheim and his sister-in-law Elise to attend the Universal Exhibition, at which he received the silver medal for his painting Night Attack at Hochkirch. The vibrant French capital was at its height as the crossroads of the art world, and among the many artists Menzel met there were Alfred Stevens, Jean-Léon Gérôme, and Louis Ricard. As a melting pot of artistic creativity, and with its bustling streets crowded with visitors from around the world, Paris was the inspiration for some of Menzel's most ambitious paintings, including Afternoon in the Tuileries (which, like Meissonier In His Studio, was painted in Berlin from sketches, memory and possibly photographs).

Adolph von Menzel ~ Night Attack at Hochkirch (Frederick the Great at the Battle of Hochkirch) 1856

During the stay Menzel visited Meissonier (1815-91) several times at his house in Poissy. The two men had first met in Berlin in 1862, and over the years built up a close friendship. Knowingly or not, they had much in common: they were exactly the same age and diminutive in stature, and both shared a passion for history painting and a liking for small-format works. Their admiration for one another's work is testified by the present work, and Meissonier is known to have admired Menzel's Address at Leuthen for example.

Adolf Menzel ~ Frederick the Great's Address to his Generals before the Battle of Leuthen (1859-61)

By the time of Menzel's visit in 1867, Meissonier enjoyed enormous standing and wealth due to his historical genre and military pictures. Since 1846 he had owned a beautiful country house in Poissy, complete with a summer studio and stables to house the horses from which he made the animal studies for his paintings. Théophile Gautier wrote of the house that 'some of the rooms themselves are worthy of framing. They are as valuable as the master's paintings, of which they are copies.' (Agnès Dupasquier-Guignard, exh. cat., Lyon, 1993, p. 68). In a photograph from circa 1860-3, Meissonier can be seen leaning against the door of the summer studio, the same one as in the painting. The photo shows the same easel and one of the greyhounds given to him by Alexandre Dumas fils.

Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (leaning against the door of the summer studio) c.1860

In the present oil, Meissonier is seen working on Les Ordonnances (Entrée de l'Abbaye de Poissy) 1869.

Meissonier ~ Les Ordonnances (Entrée De L'Abbaye De Poissy) - 1869

Standing in the background and perusing what may be Meissonier's sketchbook is Ricard (1823-73), a renowned portraitist in his own right whose sitters included George Sand, Eugène Fromentin, and Menzel himself. Meyerheim describes him as 'an epigone, an alchemist, an assayer', and as 'one of the nicest people, and a real virtuoso in the art of conversation'.

Menzel's painting is remarkably informal and unposed (a snapshot). He depicts the master utterly absorbed in his work, oblivious to his guests, his hair disheveled, his smock crumpled. The atmosphere is of intense artistic concentration, its essence made more palpable by the small format of the work. For all Menzel and Meissonier had in common, this compositional approach is also at the heart of what separates the two men artistically. For while Meissonier had a greater liking for detail and staged representative compositions (a standing self portrait, exhibited in 1867, depicts him as a dignified venetian gentleman wearing a red velvet overcoat), Menzel was forever experimenting and searching
for inventive forms of expression, like Gustave Courbet whom he had met personally and whose work he admired.

Here, the restless, painterly brushstroke throws the painter's absorption into even greater relief, a symbol of the act of painting which is the picture's subject. Menzel depicts the studio not as an idealized, orderly setting, but as it really was, a working environment with all Meissonier's props and tools of the trade strewn pell-mell around the room. In his choice of viewpoint too, Menzel evokes a hermetically sealed world, the studio taking up almost the whole picture plane with the outdoor brightness seemingly introduced by the elegantly dressed visitors, Mme Meissonier and Ricard.

Meissonier,  Jean-Louis-Ernest (1815-1891) ~ Portrait de l'artiste dans son atelier - 1875

In the background on the seat of the stool can be seen one of the sculpted studies of a horse which Meissonier modeled in the 1860s for his Napoleonic paintings. Menzel had in his possession until his death the small bronze elephant by Barye which Meissonier had given him. The little sculpture appears as a symbol in a drawing done in his old age, entitled End of the Party, depicting the empty studio in the Sigismundstrasse in Berlin. Taking on a life of its own, the animal tries to escape from the picture, overturning a stool as it does so, possibly foreshadowing the painter's death.

It is ironic that the fraternal harmony was shattered by the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war, which suddenly terminated the two men's friendship. Like many of his compatriots, Meissonier cut off all relations with Germany, declaring: 'No German has set foot in my house since the war, nor shall do […]. Menzel and all my other contacts had the honor of coming to my house. I have not seen them since 1871 and I will never see them again.' (M. O. Gréard, Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier. Ses souvenirs - ses entretiens, Paris, 1897, pp. 307-8).

A related pencil drawing of the standing Ricard, presumably made by Menzel on the spot in Meissonier's studio and from which he worked up the figure in the finished painting, was sold at Villa Grisebach, Berlin, on 27 November 1999.

Portrait des Malers Louis Gustave Ricard by Adolf Menzel (30.5cm x 15.4cm)

We are grateful to Dr Ursula Riemann-Reyher for her assistance in cataloguing this work.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bouguereau • 1887/03 and 1887/04

William Adolphe Bouguereau
Allant au bain
oil on canvas
175.3 cm. by 80.6 cm.

étude de tête de femme, ca. 1887

William Adolphe Bouguereau
Frère et soeur
oil on canvas
180.5 cm. by 81.2 cm.

William Adolphe Bouguereau 
Portrait de jeune fille
painted circa 1887
oil on canvas
46.4 cm. by 38.1 cm.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Caveat Emptor

or: Four Not Quite Bouguereau's: The previously mentioned Future Post ~

Or as I like to say, "Fraud!", for what else can it be called. The following four head studies were auctioned by Christie's, not as; attributed to/after/school of/style of/in the manner of, but as Bouguereau's. Lets just say there's a reason Christie's offered them at one of their backwoods auctions, "Tableaux Anciens Et Du Xixeme Siecle", the type which is usually filled with the dregs that couldn't make it in an "Old Master" or "Important 19th Century Art" sale. 

Furthermore ~

from Christie's Lot Text
"Ces études seront citées dans le catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint de William Adolphe Bouguereau réalisé par Damien Bartoli, catalogue actuellement en voie de publication grâce à l'appui de Frédéric Ross, président du musée virtuel ARC sur Internet.
Nous remercions vivement Monsieur Damien Bartoli pour son aide à la description de ces lots."

Incompetence or collusion? (I don't know, I'm just asking.)

note ~ Based on the vignette state of Lot 155, one can assume they were not executed as forgeries, but rather as copies by either a student or assistant in Bouguereau's atelier. (see below, Lot 155)

Lot 154
Etude de tête de femme brune, de profil

After a canvas for which there is no Bartoli/Ross entry, but is referenced under 1896/01: "There is a portrait of the same model, but seen in right profile, in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada".

Lot 154

I believe the Bouguereau was done as reference for 1893/01 Offrande à l'Amour [Offering to Cupid] a painting begun circa 1891.

Why would Bouguereau bother to paint a copy of a head study? Based on this jpeg it is obvious he didn't. The "closed surface" of the flesh, hard edges, dead darks, the caricatured shape of the upper lip, not to mention the color (jpeg color, I know).

W. Bouguereau
Study of a Girl's Head, c. 1890
Oil on canvas 45.7 x 38.1 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Bequest of J.W.L. Forster, 1938

Lot 155
Etude de tête de femme brune, de trois-quarts

This one is worse than Lot 154. What else can I say?

Lot 155

W. Bouguereau
1896/01Portrait de jeune fille [Portrait of a Girl]
Oil on canvas 46.5 x 38cm (18 1/4 x 15in.)
Painted circa 1887
Signed and dated 1896, top left

Painted as a study for 1887/04 Frère et sœur [Brother and Sister], Bouguereau finished, signed and dated it later as a present to a friend or to offer it to a charity sale. It is clear that the copy depicts Bouguereau's original unfinished study*, which indicates that the copyist had access to it while it was still in the Master's studio.

*Parts of the vignetted background can still be seen as it strikes through Bouguereau's finish.

W. Bouguereau
1887/04 Frère et sœur

Lot 156
Etude de tête de femme blonde, de profil

A study for 1900/02 Regina Angelorum. I have never seen the Bouguereau's original study, but based solely on this jpeg, thats not it. Edges, color, surface, the support (which appears to be the same as the horrendous Lot 155) …second rate.

Lot 156

1900/02 Regina Angelorum
Bartoli/Ross catalogue notes: The idea for this painting came much earlier than 1900. Indeed, the project dates back to at least the early 1880's, as is testified by several studies of the girl who modeled for the angels, dating from 1882-1883. Two head studies related to this work were sold at Christie's Paris (June 2004, lots 155 and 156).

W. Bouguereau
1900/02 Regina Angelorum

Lot 157
Etude de tête de femme blonde, de face

Lot 157

Same faults as Lot 156. Painted after a study for 1897/10 L'admiration [Admiration].

W. Bougereau
1897/10 L'admiration

For sake of comparison, an authentic Bouguereau study done for the same painting ~

W. Bouguereau
Étude de tête d'Elize Brugière
inscribed 'Melle Elize Brugière 81 rue de Picpus' (lower left)
oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 15 in. (46 x 38 cm.

It's gaffes like this that makes one question the value of a Christie's Education. ~

Monday, May 20, 2013

William-Adolphe Bouguereau • Moissonneuse

William-Adolphe Bouguereau
(FRENCH, 1825–1905)
signed -W-BOUGUEREAU and dated 1868 (lower right)
oil on canvas
41 7/8 by 33 1/2 in.
106.5 by 85 cm

Monday, May 13, 2013

Eat Your Porridge!

or: All roads lead to David

 each  "~"  =  "who was a student of"

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

William Bouguereau ~ François-Édouard Picot ~ François-André Vincent and also of Jacques-Louis David!

J.C. Leyendecker

J.C. Leyendecker ~ Jean-Joseph Constant dit* Benjamin-Constant ~ Alexandre Cabanel ~ François-Édouard Picot ~ François-André Vincent and also of Jacques-Louis David!

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell ~ George B. Bridgman ~ Jean-Léon Gérôme ~ Hippolyte De La Roche, dit* Paul Delaroche ~ Antoine-Jean Gros, baron Gros ~ Jacques-Louis David!
Norman Rockwell ~ George B. Bridgman ~ Gustave Rodolphe Clarence Boulanger ~ Hippolyte De La Roche, dit* Paul Delaroche ~ Antoine-Jean Gros, baron Gros ~ Jacques-Louis David!

Norman Rockwell ~ Frank Vincent DuMond, aka Du Mond ~ Gustave Rodolphe Clarence Boulanger ~ Hippolyte De La Roche, dit* Paul Delaroche ~ Antoine-Jean Gros, baron Gros ~ Jacques-Louis David!
Norman Rockwell ~ Frank Vincent DuMond, aka Du Mond ~ Jean-Joseph Constant dit* Benjamin-Constant ~ Alexandre Cabanel ~ François-Édouard Picot ~ François-André Vincent and also of Jacques-Louis David!


Friday, May 3, 2013

William-Adolphe Bouguereau • Rêverie sur le seuil

William-Adolphe Bouguereau
(FRENCH, 1825–1905)
Rêverie sur le seuil
signed and dated ‘W. BOUGUEREAU 1893’ (upper right)
oil on canvas
37 x 23 in. (95.8 x 60.3 cm.)