Thursday, August 9, 2012

Random Inspiration: Émile Friant (1863-1932), Part 1

Portrait of a Young Painter (self-portrait) (1877)
52.5 X 41 cm
Cliché Ville de Nancy

Émile Friant is an artist not well-known today.  In his forced obscurity, he is, of course, hardly alone;  many talented artists of the late nineteenth century have been forgotten, especially in the post-Impressionistic era United States, where the bias for an "American Art" caused the omission of many foreign, Academically-trained artists from the nation's official art history education.  But if it is perhaps possible to quantify the level of disservice meted out to these neglected artists, then Friant has suffered more than most, for his fall from recognition into oblivion was much the greater.

Portrait of M. Sidrot (1881)
115.5 X 89.5 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy

Les Buveurs ou Le Travail du lundi (1884)
44.5 X 43 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy

The Landscape Painter in his Studio (1885)
26.5 X 21 cm
private collection

Studio Interior (1884)
90.5 X 62.5 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy

Jeanniot peignant la Ligne de feu (1886)
45 X 29 cm, watercolor
Musée Lorrain, Nancy

Friant was born April 16, 1863 in the commune of Dieuze in the Moselle department of north-eastern France, a region so close to the border with the German Confederation, that most of its inhabitants spoke a German dialect.  The town's major industry was the salt-works, les Salines Royales de Dieuze, which employed Friant's father, and his father before him, both in the position as foreman of the works' blacksmithing† department.  In time, it was likely that the young Émile would have assumed the very same post, had not a benefactor interceded upon the boy's behalf, and changed his destiny, albeit in an unintended way.

Coquelin Senior in the Role of Jean Dacier
33 X 26.5
private collection

La Cuisinière (1887)
30 X 26.5 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy

Portrait of the Artist's Mother (detail)
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy

A Student (1885)
35.5 X 33 cm
private collection

Prominent in the town of Dieuze were Monsieur Joseph Parisot, the local pharmacist and mayor of the village from 1868-1870, and his wife, Marie.  The chemist's wife, Madame Parisot, often employed Marie-Catherine Friant, Émile's mother, as a dressmaker, and the two women formed a close friendship which eventually grew to encompass the entire Friant family.  Monsieur and Madame Parisot, who were childless, were especially fond of the young Émile, and treated him as their adopted son, indulging his curious nature and quite spoiling the young boy.  The Parisots made sure the young Friant was enrolled in school, and even took to overseeing his social activities, forbidding him contact with the "ill-bred little boys of the street,"¹ which in a small factory town, often meant that Friant was isolated from others his age.  When France declared war on the Kingdom of Prussia in July of 1870, the Parisots and the Friants found themselves in a precarious position, as Dieuze was situated near to Prussia's allies in the German States, and the sovereignty of the town and the surrounding area was in contention.  After the French surrender less than a year later, Alsace and the northern Lorraine, of which Dieuze was a part, were ceded to the German Empire, and Monsieur Parisot, disturbed by this outcome, made plans to move his family and the Friants to Nancy, in the section of the Lorraine still under French rule.  Unfortunately, Monsieur Parisot passed away in May of 1872, before the move could be made.  Madame Parisot continued with her husband's plan, however, and moved with Émile to the city;  Friant's parents followed later.  Once again settled, Madame Parisot enrolled Émile at the lycée in Nancy, and under her guidance, the young Friant would soon be on his was to becoming a pharmacist, just like the late Monsiuer Parisot.

The Entrance of the Clowns (1881)
26.5 X 40.5 cm
private collection

Self-Portrait at 15 (1878)
78 X 46 cm
Musées de la Cour d'Or, Metz

Tube of Gouache (1877)
11 X 15.5 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy

† In the article, "Cast Shadows," written by Philip Gilbert Hamerton in the December 1894 issue of Scribner's Magazine, the occupation of Friant's father is listed as "locksmith," but in the more recent book, Émile Friant by Henri Claude (2003), père Friant's occupation is listed as "blacksmith."  I have decided to defer to M. Claude, simply on the logical basis that a 19th century salt-works would likely need a full department of blacksmiths or metal smiths, but not likely need a group of locksmiths.

¹Hamerton, Philip Gilbert, "Cast Shadows," Scribner's Magazine, December 1, 1894, p. 675.


ghpacific said...

Nice review. Apropos of forgotten French heroes, I have been fascinated with the explorer Charles Marie de La Condamine.
Unknown to almost everyone, he was on a mission to determine whether the planet bulged at the equator and subsequently introduced rubber and vaccinations to Europe, but has also passed into history as so many unsung others have done. So it's not just really accomplished artists that quickly pass into obscurity. Merci.

Ariel Gulluni said...

Really thanks Matthew! I love Friant, and some of the painting you share here I had never seen before
they are from a book right?

innisart said...

Hey Ariel- I think all of those images can be found in Claude's book on Friant, though most of those images can also be found elsewhere online. There are some in the Claude monograph, however, that I don't believe can found anywhere else in print.

alex garcia said...

Hi Matthew, I have been looking for a place to purchase Claude's book for months and I can't find it anywhere, and I'm told its out of print. Any ideas where it could possibly be found? Great post by the way! Thanks!

innisart said...

Hi Alex- Used bookstores in France - I haven't seen them for sale outside France. Currently, there is a copy in a book auction in France, but I think the starting bid is around a 150 Euros (there are 3 or 4 different books in the lot). Keep trying AbeBooks and (make sure you check the French site for the former, or indicate that the book is written in French for the latter). Best of luck!

alex garcia said...


Gabriel Mark Lipper said...

Beautiful Paintings Matthew. Thank you for the introduction to yet another impressive painter.

ej ej said...

I had never heard of Friant until seeing the movie "I've Loved You So Long" (starring Kristin Scott Thomas). In the movie, a man takes Kristin to an art museum where he shows her what he says is his favorite painting: the remarkable "Jeune Nanceienne" by Friant. I had to stop the DVD just so I could stare at the two Friant paintings featured in that scene. I had never heard of him. What brilliance he possessed. What wonderful, unforgettable images he created.