domingo, 21 de mayo de 2017


Christa Zaat

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Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (French painter) 1852 - 1929
The Petit Savoyard Eating in Front of an Entrance to a House, 1877
oil on canvas
16 1/4 x22 in. (41.9 x 55.8 cm.)
signed P.A.J. Dagnan-B, inscribed Paris and dated 1877. (lower right)
private collection

Catalogue Note
Toward the end of 1877 it became apparent to Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret, that to secure his future as a painter trained at the École des Beaux-Arts, he had to move beyond themes based on classical history and the occasional portraits of family and friends. Training at the École des Beaux-Arts, where Dagnan-Bouveret's teacher, Jean-Léon Gérôme, stressed themes from history or the Orient painted with a microscopic attention to detail, often photographic in effect, redefined the nature of creativity. The tradition of genre painting, which was already well established in the nineteenth century, was also taking on added new dimensions as academically trained painters turned their attention to the real world, to ways in which the Academy could respond to the pressures and the added dimension of revealing aspects of modern life. These interests were to help mold Dagnan-Bouveret's career as a painter for, by the middle of the 1880s, he emerged as the key figure in academic naturalism—a way of painting that made genre scenes appear lifelike. He had responded to the ways in which painters integrated the use of photography as one way to help make their paintings seem more faithful to reality, and thus more relevant to a Salon going public, now aware of the possibilities offered by the new medium.

The Petit Savoyard Eating in Front of an Entrance to a House, is a transitional painting in the oeuvre of the artist, before he became a true Naturalist painter with works such as his imposing Chevaux à l'Abreuvoir (Horses at the Watering Trough) (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Chambéry, France), Salon of 1885. Completed in 1877, and never shown at the Paris Salon, the present painting reflects several aspects of the shift in Dagnan-Bouveret's style as well as a broadening of the type of theme that could be painted, including a heightened interest in scenes of daily life and in the poorer sections of society.
Selecting a theme that had a long tradition in popular imagery and which other painters had depicted in earlier times, Dagnan-Bouveret focused on a single young boy, a traveling musician wandering the streets of a city with his musical instrument. Dagnan-Bouveret's youth recalls the tradition of street performers, many from the Savoie region of the country, who made their way to Paris in order to find a way to exist as they played their instrument to entertain the public who might provide the means for their subsistence. Although Dagnan-Bouveret, was not the first artist to use this theme, he selected an unusual moment. The young boy, dressed in an oversized blue coat, scuffed shoes and a large hat, has stopped in a passageway to have his meager lunch: an apple and a piece of bread, perhaps a gift from an appreciative listener and kind soul. In order to emphasize the precarious position of the young boy, Dagnan-Bouveret chose to set the scene in an alleyway with traces of snow. The chill of the day casts a spell over the young boy suggesting that his clothes will not be warm enough for the winter, and that his survival is at the mercy of the few centimes or francs he might receive for his music.

With this small painting, more than likely completed for a private collector, Dagnan-Bouveret was about to expand his horizons as a painter. For the Salon of 1879, he submitted Une Noce chez le photographe (Wedding at the Photographer's Studio) (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon) and, in 1880, L'Accident (The Accident) (The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore). These larger paintings likewise completed in a very detailed manner, but less finely finished surface, brought Dagnan-Bouveret considerable attention; he won a first-class medal at the 1880 Salon. While these paintings focused on scenes with many more protagonists than the lonely Petit Savoyard, it was this painting that announced the new attention that Dagnan-Bouveret was giving to genre scenes. This work and the many others that followed it, helped pave the way toward Dagnan-Bouveret's eventual recognition as one of the most significant contemporary scene painters of the era. The charm of the work comes from the focus on the young boy, his look of expectancy, and the lovely still life created by combining the instrument—the Orgue de Barbarie (Barrel-Organ), the newspaper that held the boy's meal, and the apple and bread he holds in his hands. As an artist who was eventually honored with a seat at the prestigious Institut de France, Dagnan-Bouveret's full commitment to genre painting was a key moment in his evolution as an artist.

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