Saturday, December 19, 2009

THE PLEIN-AIR MOVEMENT




Jules Bastien-Lepage
From paulparis.exblog.jp


Portrait de l'artiste, 1880
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
From renzodionigi's photostream at flickr


Roger Billcliffe, in his book "The Glasgow Boys", explained Bastien-Lepage's influence on the Glasgow Boys, a group of (initially) non-establishment painter, whose main work (of this school) appeared in the period 1875-95. Other artists of the time were similarly influenced:
What was common to both French and Dutch painters was a tendency to place their figures on the frontal plane of the canvas, making them dominate the composition and causing them often to be silhouetted against a receding landscape or a low horizon. Nowhere was this particular device to be used so effectively as in the work of a young French painter called Jules Bastien-Lepage.
Where Millet was concerned with the general, a synthesis of rural life, Bastien-Lepage applied himself to the particular. Millet's paintings reflected the life of rural France but Bastien-Lepage chose one particular task, performed by one particular person at a specific moment and recreated it on his canvas.
His models stand on the frame of his paintings, almost ready to walk out of them. They are placed against a landscape background which Bastien-Lepage painted from a standing position as he believed it to be crucial in our understanding of the relationship of figures to their surroundings. His grasp of aerial perspective was much criticised but he defended it vehemently....
In many of his paintings the figure defines the size of the canvas by filling it completely; in a similar way the landscape around the figure is defined by the size of the brushstrokes used to depict it. Detailed marks are used to render the foreground grasses or stones; broader, square brushes model the middle distance; and a series of softer, less definite strokes indicate the far distance. Perspective, therefore, is indicated by a change of handling rather than by any pictorial indication of recession. The central figure of these paintings ... cuts across all these changes in brushstroke and they are therefore emphasised by a vertical reference point to the foreground which can be charted by the handling of the figure. Other similar reference points are often introduced by the use of vertical features having their origin at the bottom of the picture, and therefore the frontal plane of the composition. Such features included trees and tall grasses....
(Bastien-Lepage: Forgotten Influential by Donald Pittenger at BLOWHARDS)
Jules Bastien-Lepage (November 1, 1848 – December 10, 1884), French painter, was born in the village of Damvillers, Meuse and spent his childhood there. Bastien's father grew grapes in a vineyard to support the family. His grandfather also lived in the village; his garden had fruit trees of apple, pear, and peach up against the high walls. Bastien took an early liking to drawing, and his parents fostered his creativity by buying prints of paintings for him to copy.
Jules Bastien-Lepage (pronounced zhewl bahss tyan le pahzh) first studied at Verdun, and prompted by a love of art went in 1867 to Paris, where he was admitted to the École des Beaux-arts, working under Cabanel. After exhibiting in the Salons of 1870 and 1872 works which attracted no attention, in 1874 he made his mark with his Song of Spring, a study of rural life, representing a peasant girl sitting on a knoll looking down on a village. His Portrait of my Grandfather, exhibited in the same year, was not less remarkable for its artless simplicity and received a third-class medal.
When the Franco-Prussian war broke out, Bastien fought when men were needed for the troops. Bastien was a man by this time, medium height and stout. After the war, he returned home to paint the villagers. In 1873 he painted his grandfather in the garden, and this painting later became a favorite for many art lovers for its true-to-life qualities. In 1873 he was also commissioned to paint the Prince of Wales.
This success was confirmed in 1875 by the First Communion, a picture of a little girl minutely worked up as to color, and a Portrait of M. Hayern. In 1875 he took the second Prix de Rome with his Angels appearing to the Shepherds, exhibited again in 1878. His next endeavour to win the Grand Prix de Rome in 1876 with Priam at the Feet of Achilles was again unsuccessful (it is in the Lille gallery), and the painter determined to return to country life. To the Salon of 1877 he sent a full-length Portrait of Lady L. and My Parents; and in 1878 a Portrait of M. Theuriet and The Hayfield. The last picture, now in the Luxembourg, is regarded as a typical work from its stamp of realistic truth.
(From Wikipedia)


Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt
Oil on canvas, 1879
Private collection
This image is courtesy of the Brian Shapiro at ARC


When Bastien-Lepage paints “the Divine Sarah” both are hitting their stride. Sarah, for her part, was already a sensation in France and she had made her début at the London Gaiety Theater that year. For Bastien-Lepage to paint her would seem almost expected by audiences. He was one of a very select painters who where vying for top honors at the Solon. Four years previously ('75) he won the second place of the Prix de Rome. Years that followed brought him continued attention and expectations so that by the time Sarah sat for him, it seemed so appropriate--
The painting won him the cross of the Legion of Honour.
(Natasha Wallace at JSS Gallery)


Photograph of Sarah Bernhardt
Place: Paris, France
Photographer: Henri Manuel
jpg: University of Pennsylvania Library
From JSS Gallery


Photograph of Sarah Bernhardt
Place: Paris, France
Photographer: Bert, A.
jpg: University of Pennsylvania Library
From JSS Gallery



Photograph of Sarah Bernhardt
Place: Paris, France
Photographer: Henri Manuel
jpg: University of Pennsylvania Library
From JSS Gallery


Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), French actress who became more than just world renown -- but a phonomina that was extraordinary and sublime. Her beautiful voice, the grace of her movement, and her fiery personality made Sarah one of the most famous actresses of her day -- arguably the most famous actresses of the entire 19th century. She had a pale face with frizzy red hair and processed a voice that was so strong and beautiful -- of bell-like clarity with exquisite diction -- that she set the standard for the finest French speech and was acclaimed everywhere as "the Divine Sarah". Her real name was Henriette-Rosine Bernard.
(Natasha Wallace at JSS Gallery)


Joan of Arc
Oil on canvas, 1879
100 in x 110 in
Metropolitan Museum of Art (Manhattan, New York)
From ARC


With the loss of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), the national heroine from Lorraine, Joan of Arc, acquired new symbolic importance among the French. A succession of sculpted and painted images of the medieval teenaged martyr appeared in the Salons of the 1870s and 1880s. At the 1880 Salon, Bastien-Lepage, himself a native of Lorraine, exhibited this painting, which represents the moment of Joan of Arc's divine revelation in her parents' garden. His depiction of the saints whose voices she heard elicited a mixed reaction from Salon critics, many of whom found the presence of the saints at odds with the naturalism of the artist's style.
(Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History)


Young peasant woman c.1882
oil on canvas
not signed, not dated
Gift of Joseph Brown, Melbourne 1978
From NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA


Although fully attributed to Jules Bastien-Lepage in the Joseph Brown catalogue Spring Exhibition 1977: Recent Acquisitions, there is a degree of uncertainty as to the identity of the artist responsible for Young peasant woman. The painting, which is unfinished and neither signed nor dated, is here cautiously attributed to Bastien-Lepage, but the possibility that it is by another hand cannot be discounted. A close circle of followers gathered around this influential painter in the 1880s, painting similar subjects in a similar style.
The positioning of the young woman in an expansive countryside is characteristic of Bastien-Lepage, as is the choice of a high vantage point which locates the figure against the landscape. The village in the background cannot be identified but is similar to the view which appears in a number of works painted by Bastien-Lepage on the outskirts of his home in Damvillers, especially the view in the background of "Pas mèche" (Nothing doing) 1881-82. As noted by Kenneth McConkey, however, 'the handling of the buildings in the background is rather smudgy and less-defined than one would expect from a Beaux-Arts trained painter, such as Bastien'. McConkey concedes that a number of features of the painting are consistent with Bastien-Lepage's mode of conception and believes the work sufficiently close to warrant consideration. Lacking signature or date - 'Something one would expect in a painting of this size, albeit unfinished' - he reserves judgement, however, until other works portraying a similar model appear.
The model depicted in "Young peasant woman" has features similar to Adèle Roberts, a cousin of the artist, who appears as the central figure in paintings "Les foines" (The Hayfield) 1878, "Saison d'Octobre: récolte des pommes de terre" (October: Potato harvest) 1879, and in other works from 1878 to 1884. Adèle Roberts and the Young peasant woman share the same strong jawline, angular cheekbones, small mouth and dark hair pulled back from the face.
Regardless of the author, the painting appears to date from the early 1880s. The woman's clothes can be broadly dated to the 1880s, though rural costume tends to be conservative and less affected by changes in fashion, and therefore harder to date with precision. The canvas itself bears the rubber-stamped imprint 'Foinet', used to mark the canvases which this firm provided between 1880 and 1898. A date in the early 1880s seems most probable, being both the time of Bastien-Lepage's mature, most confident style, and also the period when his art inspired many imitators.
(Adaptation from Michael Lloyd and Michael Desmond, European and American paintings and sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery, 1992, by Christine Dixon at NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA)


Les Foins
The Hayfield
Oil on canvas, 1878
Musee d'Orsay (Paris, France)
From ARC


Les Foins
The Hayfield
Orsay Museum
From WORLDVISITGUIDE


Saison d'Octobre: Récolte des pommes de terre
October: Potato harvest
Oil on canvas, 1879
National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia)
From ARC


Pas Meche
Nothing Doing
Oil on canvas, 1882
Private collection
From ARC


LANDSCAPE WITH A VILLAGE
ENVIRONS OF DAMVILLERS C. 1882-1883
Oil on canvas
Signed lower left: Jules Bastien-Lepage
Provenance: Gallery Pro Arte, Bevais, Switzerland
M. Marcel Bergeon, purchased from the above, 1968
From SCHILLERA & BODO


The above work is accompanied by an explanatory essay by Dr. Gabriel Weisberg:
The present work is a rare example of pure landscape painting from one of the most celebrated and influential artists of the last quarter of the 19th-century. At the time of his death at the young age of 36 in 1884, Bastien-Lepage was avidly collected in Europe and America, and exerted tremendous influence on an international group of followers from France, Germany, England, America and beyond, who took up his Naturalist approach to painting and made it one of the dominant movements at the Paris Salons of the 1880s and 1890s. A few distinct qualities typified the Naturalist approach that Bastien-Lepage developed and spearheaded: a direct and non-sentimental approach to genre subjects drawn from Naturalist authors such as Zola, combined with the interest in natural light and modern painting techniques adopted from the Impressionists. In a departure from traditional methods of painting, Bastien-Lepage employed plein-air painting, photography, and the use of outdoor, glass studios to achieve a heightened sense of reality, of psychology, and of light and atmosphere in his paintings.
(SCHILLERA & BODO)


Snow Effect, Damvillers, 1882
The California Palace of the Legion of Honor
From WORLDVISITGUIDE


Snow Effect, Damvillers
The California Palace of the Legion of Honor
From WORLDVISITGUIDE


From the mid-1870s, Bastien-Lepage focused his subjects on life in his native Damvillers in the Meuse region of north-eastern France. In works such as Les Foins (1880, Musée d’Orsay), Saison d’octobre, récolte des pommes de terre (1879, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), Pas mèche (1882, National Gallery of Scotland), and L’Amour au village (1883, Pushkin Museum, Moscow), the distinct landscape of the Meuse plays a significant role in the regionalist character of Bastien-Lepage’s work. The rolling hills, broad patches of open fields, and red-roofed structures appear in numerous works, giving his peasant subjects a distinct and identifiable setting.
(SCHILLERA & BODO)
In addition to making the specificity of locale a running theme in his work, Bastien-Lepage’s working methods, which explored the visual qualities of light and atmosphere, further heightened the reality and modernity of his paintings. In the present work, the gardens in the foreground depicted in broad slashes of varying greens and earth tones. Changes in the play of light and shadow on the various crops, or on dry earth or open grass are depicted, while the precise visual interpretation of the landscape plays a secondary role. Atmosphere also gains a significance, as it blurs the range of color and strong light in the distant hills and village. This focus on the visual qualities and effects of light reveals a modern approach to painting that should not be underestimated.
(SCHILLERA & BODO)
Bastien made a call to painters to go back to nature. He established "the cult of ‘nature as she is'". Bastien wanted painting to return to the depiction of nature as it is without preconception so that the art world could heal. He looked to the painters of the 1400s, who reflected nature's truth. He was against anything academic and decadent that changed truth's simplicity to some "mere expression of cleverness and skill". His love of nature often brought him to paint out in the fields or in the village square.
Bastien admired those who worked the land, and he eagerly captured the character and individuality of the worker. He tossed aside the beliefs of the time that the scene should be transformed into something beautiful and gentle, which to Bastien was a false representation. He made clear and specific observations abut life from a view that most painters did not take, and this made his work very unique. A number of painters after him took up this philosophy in what is called the plein-air movement.
Jules Bastien-Lepage was described as a man of honesty and sincerity. He was very assertive and positive. He showed a great enthusiasm for other art, especially Van Eyck's alterpiece at the Ghent cathedral. Bastien was very modest about his own work and his success. He has a deep love of nature. He had many friends and colleagues who loved him. It seems, however, that his strongest quality was that he was always determined to paint and live in his own way. He had great strength for his own beliefs despite the outcomes of those beliefs, as was demonstrated in his loss at the Prix de Rome. As Weir wrote, "he dared to dare".
He passed away in Paris on December, 1884. After his death, a special exhibition of more than 200 of his pictures was formed at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1889 some of his best work was shown at the Paris Exposition. Although his work was honored, during his lifetime his art sold poorly.
(By J. Alden Weir in Modern French Masters (J. C. Van Dyke, ed.), published in 1979 by Century Co., New York at fyreflyjar.net)


1 comment:

LeslieAllenArt said...

Really appreciated this wonderful collection of images and information from many sources. Thank you.