Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Édouard Joseph Dantan (1848 - 1897)

Édouard Joseph Dantan is another of those fantastic academically-trained artists of the nineteenth century who, unfortunately, has fallen into relative obscurity.  If it were not for another blogger who posted an image of A Casting From Life (1887), I'm not sure I would have ever learned of Dantan.  After seeing that particular painting, I decided to do some research on my own to see if I could locate more artwork by this talented Frenchman.  (I would like to credit the person who posted the image in their blog, but unfortunately, I can't remember who it was.  If you know, or are the person who posted the image, please let me know!).

On August 28, 1848, in Paris, France, Édouard Dantan was born into a well-respected artistic lineage.  Édouard's grandfather Antoine-Joseph-Laurent Dantan was a well-known sculptor in wood; his uncle, Jean-Pierre Dantan, was also a sculptor, known for his satirical caricatures in clay and bronze; and his father, Antoine-Laurent Dantan, was a famous sculptor in marble, winning the Prix de Rome in 1828.  Despite the strong influence of sculpture in his life (and which would always play a major role in his art), Édouard chose painting as his artistic outlet. 


Dantan's formal training began March 27, 1865, when he was accepted into the studio of Isadore Pils at the École des Beaux-Arts.  Édouard was only sixteen.  By 1867, his progress was so meteoric, he was already receiving government commissions, despite having not yet made his Salon debut, which he would do two years later with the classical piece, "Episode in the Destruction of Pompeii."  In October 1870, Dantan volunteered in the French army during the Franco-Prussian War (July 18, 1870 - May 10, 1871), temporarily suspending his training, but upon his return to the École, continued his study under Pils.  Dantan won his first two Salon medals in 1874 with the paintings "Hercule aux Pieds d'Omphale" and "Moine Scupltant un Christ en Bois," the latter of which introduced the theme of "the sculptor at work," which would win him much popularity throughout his career.  Upon the death of Pils in 1875, Dantan entered the atelier of the German-born artist, Henri Lehmann, with whom he remained until 1877, when he finally ended his long apprenticeship at the École. 

Although Dantan also exhibited portraits, landscapes, and still-lifes, it was his depictions of sculpture studios which brought him his most acclaim.  One such painting, "Coin d'Atelier," showing his father, Dantan the Elder, carving a bas-relief, won Dantan his third Salon medal in 1880 and was subsequently purchased by the State for the Luxembourg Museum.  Another, "Un Moulage sur Nature (A Casting from Life)" sold for 15,000 francs after its exhibit at the Salon of 1887, and spurred Dantan into making many copies for sale to both fellow Frenchman, and collectors abroad.  This theme, grown from his intimate knowledge of life in the sculptor's studio, was visited time and again by Dantan during his painting career, and it is probably his association with sculpting which ironically has allowed his paintings to survive with any fame to this day.

Tragically, Édouard Dantan's career was cut short on July 7, 1897, when one of the horses attached to his carriage bolted, throwing Dantan to the ground, killing him.  He was buried in Saint-Cloud on the thirteenth of that same month.

I am only familiar with one book on the artist, Édouard Dantan 1848-1897:  Des ateliers parisiens aux marines normandes by Sophie de Juvigny.  Published in 2002, it is still available, but was only released with text in French.  When you can find it in the United States, it is generally very expensive.  Sellers in France, including Amazon.fr and PriceMinister will not ship to the USA or England, so if you'd like to purchase the book, it might be easier to have it shipped to you via European friends or family.  Occasionally, it comes up for sale in Canada, which is where I purchased my copy.

(I apologize for any possible inaccuracies in this post, and I intend to edit the information as those errors become apparent.  Unfortunately, my French is very limited, so I can only glean so much information from de Juvigny's monograph on Dantan.   I was only able to find one, short biography in English online, and a copy of Dantan's obituary from the NY Times, but both are suspect, as I found information in the Dantan book contradicting the information presented in those sources, and I tend to side with the French art historian on this subject.)


Mike M said...

We were just discussing his work in class 2 weeks ago at PAFA, my teacher Scott Noel was showing the first painting on the blog and talking about how Dantan was basically a forgotten artist.

I'd love to get ahold of that book.

jeff f said...

Thanks for this post.
I know the work but he is one of those painters who have slipped through the cracks.

The paintings of the sculptors studios is fantastic and you can see how this artist mastered cast rendering.

Great Stuff, and Happy Holidays!

Seckman said...

Great blog. I will visit regularly and am adding a link to it on mine. Thanks.

Tina Steele Lindsey Art said...

Wonderful reading your blog.

adebanji said...

Amazing discovery! Great post, thanks for this post!

Paul Dorsey said...

Matthew, very nice write-up, but if Sophie de Juvigny's book is your main source, she's at odds at least with the fact that Dantan's father and uncle are buried in the same plot in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, not in St Cloud. Their parents are there too, and I'd be surprised if Edouard isn't also.

Wikipedia says with considerable understatement, "The brothers are sometimes confused in reference sources." That goes for Edouard too! Trying to track the facts online is quite tricky.

innisart said...

Hey Paul- I used several sources, mostly online, and also Mme. de Juvigny's book. When I came across information online that was contradictory to another source, I tended to just drop it altogether, unless de Juvigny weighed in on the matter. Because of the depth of her research, I will side with Sophie on most matters.

Having said that, in looking back over some of the information I have written down, I cannot find the source for my claim that Édouard was buried near his father. However, I did find online confirmation that the brothers Antoine Laurent and Jean-Pierre Dantan are both buried in Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, as you indicated. I will make the appropriate changes to the post to reflect this information.

In de Juvigny's book there is a photo from Édouard's funeral procession in St. Cloud, from the collection of the Musée Municipal de Saint-Cloud. Unless the procession travelled into Paris from St. Cloud (which is possible, I guess), I will assume he is buried in that town. (the actual caption below the photograph is "Enterrement d'Édouard Dantan à Saint-Cloud," which refers specifically to a "burial" though the picture is not actually from graveside.).

Antoine Laurent Dantan did die in St. Cloud in 1878, and perhaps that is where the misinterpretation occurred.

Jean-Pierre died in Baden-Baden in 1869.

Édouard's grandparents, who died in 1823 and 1842, were buried in Père-Lachaise, but in the 13th division. The brothers tomb was built in the more prestigious 4th division on the main axis of the cemetery, and I'm guessing when they secured the plot, they had their parents' bodies moved to the new location. Only those four are described as being in the tomb, though there appears to be a fifth medallion on the tomb, perhaps representing a lost child. The brothers designed their own grave marker.

Timothy Callister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bellevue said...

Edouard Dantan's masterpieces are currently exhibited at Manoir de Villers, Saint Pierre de Manneville, Rouen area in Normandy. The exhibition focuses on artists contemporaries of impressionists and lasts until November 2010.

Katie Liddiard said...


James said...

Perhaps the inspiring blogger was http://galleryar.blogspot.com/

innisart said...

@James I doubt it; the images were taken from my post! I recognize the file names.

Roger Burnett said...

Dear Matthew,

I came across your excellent blog as I was searching for an image of Edouard Dantan's Casting from Life - my image had gone astray between one computer and another. It's just possible that you may have stumbled across the painting on the forerunner of my sculpturestudio blog. Before the days of blog I was doing an on-line diary.

I've mentioned the painting again and credited your research, on my recent tumblr site titled: Painting & Sculpting the Nude.

Regards, Roger

eee said...

I just came from an exibition of Dantan in Saint cloud museum. There is the entire book of his creations : "livre de raison" and a lot of more on the web site

Enjoy it http://webmuseo.com/ws/musee-des-avelines/app/file/download/JPG-basse-def-sans-PV.pdf?key=fecbefztvc6hdzg8bds3cui00hmatd336