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.)

High Resolution Art Scans

The Blue Veil  -  Edmund Tarbell

In case you haven't visited before, there are many great photostreams posted at the Flickr website.  Some of the best samples of art, and some of the best resolution scans, have been posted by Flickr member, "freeparking."  He has done a wonderful service by compiling such great images, and it is definitely worth taking the time to look through all of these great paintings.

Sample Album Page

Friday, December 5, 2008

Studio Tools: Mahl stick Stand

This little tool is almost more of a novelty than a really useful studio item, nevertheless it does come in handy now and then.  It is a mahl stick stand made from a floor flange, a piece of 1/2" pipe threaded on both ends, a bushing, and a step-down coupling.  All of these pieces of black pipe are available at a large hardware store like Home Depot, and I did nothing more than screw the sections together by hand.  It has enough heft to it, that when you place it on the floor, you can insert a collapsable mahlstick in it vertically, and the stand will hold it without concern of the contraption falling over (unless you walk straight into it).

Typical Collapsable Mahl Stick

When I was taking classes in New York City, I would carry this stand in with me.  I always hated it when my mahl stick would slide away from my taboret and clatter to the floor.  The crash of the stick to the linoleum often made a lot of noise during a quiet pose, made the model jump, and wasted my time as I had to walk around the easel to retrieve it.  This gadget, which I based on something similar to what Tony Ryder uses, eliminated that problem.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Last Chance to See...

St. Cecilia - John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse's painting, St. Cecilia, has recently been sold to an "unknown Russian buyer," and will enter into his private collection.  The painting, which holds the record for the highest auction result for a 19th Century, non-Impressionist work, was purchased by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation in 2000 for £ 6.6 million, or roughly, $10,000,000 USD.  This new sale to a Russian buyer reflects the current trend in art purchases as more and more 19th Century masterworks are transferring into the private hands of discerning Russian collectors.

Recent developments in Russia and in other Republics of the former Soviet Union have created an influx of extreme wealth.  Forbes magazine reports that the number of billionaires in Russia alone has climbed to 110 this year, from 36 in 2004.  These newly rich are protecting their assets while at the same time celebrating their country's long established love of the arts through the creation of these private collections.

The former Soviet Union, perhaps because of the Communist Regime and the subsequent "distance" it held from the rest of the world, did not experience the art trends of the 20th Century to the same degree as did the countries of the Western world.  Outside of  large urban centers like Moscow, the tastes remained more conservative, and realist art, such as that produced by the Academics of the late 1800's, was still awarded high regard.  Now that these new millionaires (and billionaires) have the money to purchase luxury items, it is natural that they are collecting paintings from this artistic era.

The Golden Mountain - Mian Situ

I wonder if next we will see Chinese collectors following the same trend.  China too, because of their self-imposed isolation under Communist rule, saw little of the Modern art movements.  Their art schools froze after the Russian Itinerant artists moved east and began training the Chinese in the European academic manner.  Many artists that we prize today in America, like Mian Situ, received their training at schools where the People's Republic fostered 19th Century Western techniques.  Though China has their own rich cultural heritage, with their increasing wealth, it may be possible that they too acquire as many of these paintings which appeal more to their sensibilities than they have to collectors in the West.

Paintings which suffered ill regard under Western museum directors, and which have been de-acquisitioned in order to clear space for more Modern pieces, are likely to disappear from our shores.  Even during the recent resurgence of interest in Realism, the major attention here still goes to contemporary artists like Damien Hirst whose "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living"  (aka A Dead Shark... really) sold at auction for $12 million in 2005.  Meanwhile, museums like the Minneapolis Institute of Art, hides, then sells off an iconic Bouguereau painting like Bohémienne.  In the blink of an eye, much of the work from this wonderful period of art could be lost to us, as it is spread about the private galleries of those who truly appreciate its artistry, and can now finally afford to collect it.  

Bohémienne - WA Bouguereau

I do not deny these new collector's rights to purchase these works.  I do envy them their ability to do so, that is granted.  I am just saddened that these paintings are not better appreciated here, so that I wouldn't have to fear their disappearance from public view.

St. Cecilia, which was available for museum loans through the Webber Foundation, was last on display at Moscow's State Tretyakov Gallery in May of this year, where undoubtedly, it was seen by its new owner.  It will still be included in the upcoming Waterhouse retrospective, but after that, it is uncertain.  I for one plan to see it while I still have the opportunity.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Color Palettes: Philip Alexius de László (1869-1937)

"Has any one painter ever before painted so many interesting and historical personages?" - asked Lord Selborne about portrait painter, Philip de László. 

Hungarian artist, Philip Alexius de László, born Laub Fülöp Elek on April 30, 1869, was one of the most prolific and successful portraitists of the 19th and 20th centuries.  Although not as widely known today as John Singer Sargent, it was actually de László who replaced Sargent as the painter of Society when Sargent retired from portraiture in 1907.  During his illustrious career, de László painted royalty and aristocracy from the kings and queens of Europe to the Pope, from world-renowned musicians to military heroes, from Indian chiefs to the President of the United States of America.

After studying art at the National Academy of Arts in Hungary, the Royal Bavarian Academy of Art in Munich, and finally the Académie Julian in Paris, de László received his first important portrait  commission in 1894 when the Royal Family of Bulgaria sat for him.  From there, he went on to paint Emperor Franz Joseph in 1899, followed by several members of the German Imperial Family in 1900.  His fame increasing, de László travelled to Rome in the spring of 1900 to paint Pope Leo XIII.  This commission, along with the subsequent Grand Gold Medal Award for this painting at the Paris International Exhibition, garnered for de László's world-wide acclaim.

In 1903, de László, with his wife, Lucy, left Budapest for Vienna, where they lived a few years before eventually settling in London in 1907.  De László's fortunate timing of arrival in England coincided with Sargent's announcement that he would no longer be painting portraits.  A show, containing fifty of de László's recently completed portraits announced his arrival in London, and the critics, though somewhat mixed in their reviews, brought attention to the artist and helped cement his reputation in England.  Those seeking portraits, and turned away by Sargent, quickly flocked to this new artist who came to Britain with all the proper credentials of a successful Society portraitist.  From the King downwards, the commissions quickly poured in.

By the time of his death in 1937, Philip de László had achieved international fame as a portraitist.  He "held twenty-two orders and seventeen medals of merit bestowed upon him by royal and presidential sitters throughout the western world."1  The awards for which he was most proud, however, were when King Edward VII appointed him Member of the Royal Victorian Order in 1909, and when he was elected President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1930.  Despite this success and renown, de László was largely forgotten by the time World War II ended, and is nearly unknown today.

The de László Archive Trust has recently been established by a descendant of the artist in order to return Philip Alexius de László to his rightful position of accolade.  Already, two great books on the artist have been put into print with the aid of the trust, and they have created a website which aims at gathering a catalogue raisonné of de László's work, and making it available as a research center about the artist's life.

In 1934, de László collaborated on a book explaining his painting technique.  His colors as listed in the book, are as follows:

  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Rose Doré
  • Rose Madder
  • Zinc White
  • Cadmium Yellow Pale
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep
  • Chrome Orange
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Sienna
I was able to find an old copy of the book, Painting a Portrait by Alfred Lys Baldry, through an online bookseller, but it is available for free at several sites on the web including the World of Portrait Painting, and at the de László Archive itself.  The book is rather simple in its presentation, but does have a hand-painted insert showing de László's colors, which is interesting.

The two recent books on de László were both published by Paul Holberton Publishing, London.  de László in Holland is still available at PHP, but A Brush With Grandeur is out of print, and harder to locate.  Both are wonderful books.

If you visit The de László Archive Trust site, make sure to view the section presenting Missing Paintings.  The images are small, and are mostly black and white reproductions from magazines, but they show de László's control of value, and his ability to pose the model, particularly the female sitter.  It is so very sad that so many beautiful paintings like these may be lost to the world forever.

1  From the biography of Philip Alexius de László as presented by The de László Archive Trust website.