Adventures in art history: Seductive Paris, Part Two

November 9, 2016 at 6:42 pm (Art, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Smithsonian Associates World Art History Certificate Program)

French naturalism was a direct outgrowth of the realist movement in art. The distinction between the two is rather subtle;  ergo, I’ll direct you to the relevant entry in the Visual Arts Encyclopedia.

Ms Billman cited Jules Bastien-Lepage as one of the main exponents of naturalism. I was thrilled to hear that name, as I knew what was about to appear on the screen. And sure enough:

Joan of Arc, 1875

Joan of Arc, 1875

I first saw this painting on my initial visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was eight years old. I already knew the extraordinary story of the Maid of Orleans. Seeing her brought to life in this way before my eyes – I was stunned.

It turns out that this work is somewhat of an anomaly in Bastien-Lepage’s oeuvre. As an artist in the realist/naturalist mode, he produced relatively little in the way of “history painting” or religious subjects. Here are several of his other paintings:

Pas Meche (Nothing Doing) 1882

Pas Meche (Nothing Doing) 1882

 

October 1878

October 1878

I’ve always wondered why Bastien-Lepage’s works were so rarely encountered elsewhere. I now know that this was due to the sad fact of his early death. According to the French language site “LES SECONDES AU TEMPS DES PEINTRES XIXEME” he died of stomach cancer at the age of 36.

Ms Billman provided a fascinating detail concerning the Joan of Arc painting. It seems that Joan never claimed to have actually seen the saints who spoke to her – only to have heard them. Hence their appearance behind her as she gazes, transfixed, into the middle distance.

I’ve never ceased to be fascinated by Joan’s story. Books about her appear  fairly regularly. I can recommend Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured by Kathryn Harrison (2014). joanarc

 

 

 

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