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National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | French Painting

National Gallery of Australia

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National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | French Painting
National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | French Painting

National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | French Painting

National Gallery of Australia

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Audio guide to works from the NGA exhibition French Paintings from the Musée Fabre, Montpellier, shown at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 7 November 2003 – 15 February 2004

Latest Episodes

Jean Louis DEMARNE, A Ferry and Boats on a Canal [Bac et barques sur un canal] c.1800-1815,

Jean-Louis Demarne’s career was not that of a powerful Academician. He was instead a painter who actively sought out and capitalised on the taste of middle-class collectors. Influenced by the highly finished landscapes and genre scenes of Dutch painters currently in vogue among Parisian collectors, Demarne’s landscapes and genre scenes found an eager audience in France and abroad. A Ferry and Boats on a Canal is an excellent example of Demarne’s picturesque depictions of everyday rural life. It uses the compositional convention of a central vanishing point that became something of a trademark for the painter. The landscape itself is quite generic, it could be Holland, Flanders or Northern France. Demarne is an important example of a commercially-minded artist who generally resisted participation in contemporary politics in favour of the private patronage of the burgeoning middle class.

44 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Jean Louis DEMARNE, A Ferry and Boats on a Canal [Bac et barques sur un canal] c.1800-1815,

Jacques-Louis DAVID, Portrait of Alphonse Leroy [Portrait d’Alphonse Leroy] c.1783

Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait of Alphonse Leroy is widely recognised as among the painter’s greatest portraits. In its sobriety, its scientific attention to surface effects and details, and its effort to produce an image of its sitter as psychologically complex, it forms a direct line to his many later, exceptional depictions of Napoleon Bonaparte. David’s portrait of Leroy says as much about the social identity of the figure of the artist as it does about its subject. In his sparsely furnished study, wearing a turban, and taking notes from his copy of Hippocrates’ The Diseases of Women, the gynaecologist is seen as something of an ascetic genius. So, in turn, is the artist; he is, as the contemporary definition of genius asserted, one gifted with powers of close observation and the ability to imitate nature above those of ordinary men and women.

1 MIN2007 NOV 26
Comments
Jacques-Louis DAVID, Portrait of Alphonse Leroy [Portrait d’Alphonse Leroy] c.1783

Simon VOUET, Allegory of Prudence [Allégorie de la Prudence] c.1645

Simon Vouet’s Allegory of Prudence is one of the Musée Fabre’s most significant paintings. It is remarkable as much for its formal bravado – its contorted arabesque lines, its statuesque forms, its dramatic lighting effects – as for its historical importance. Allegory of Prudence was painted for the recently widowed Queen Regent, Anne of Austria, as part of a large commission to decorate the Palais Royal, Paris (1643–1647). The ambitious Regent – at the time the subject of a series of scandals, including a rumour that she had secretly married the powerful, scrupulous Cardinal Jules Mazarin – is depicted as the figure of Prudence, one of the four Cardinal Virtues from classical and religious texts. The beautiful, virtuous Regent is seen untroubled by the effects of the material world, whether the passage of time personified by the old man at her feet or politics and skulduggery, which she is literally above.

1 MIN2007 NOV 26
Comments
Simon VOUET, Allegory of Prudence [Allégorie de la Prudence] c.1645

Nicolas POUSSIN, Venus and Adonis [Vénus et Adonis] c.1626

Nicolas Poussin is one of France’s greatest painters. Venus and Adonis is an important example of the mythologies he painted in Rome during the 1620s. In Rome, the artistic centre of Europe, Poussin absorbed the lessons of classical antiquity and the Italian masters. Poussin’s innovation was to merge these influences with an often astonishing realism, refined through extended on-site study of nature and the figure. Venus and Adonis presents an idyllic depiction of the ancient world. Seen at sunset, Venus and Adonis share their love in a landscape peopled with cherubim. Both landscape and figures are painted with a free and light touch. In this way, nature weaves all together: the humid haze of the Italian summer evening, the vibrant sun that dances indiscriminately over and warms foliage and bodies, and the lovers. However, scholars have determined that the original painting was cut in two, the left hand side showing a river god in a landscape is now in a private collection. This ...

1 MIN2007 NOV 26
Comments
Nicolas POUSSIN, Venus and Adonis [Vénus et Adonis] c.1626

Sébastien BOURDON, The Lamentation [Déploration sur le Christ mort] c. 1665-1670

Due largely to the fact that he spent much of his adult life working outside of the country, and because of the very flexible nature of his work, which often shifted dramatically between styles and themes, Sébastien Bourdon’s work has often been ignored in France. Bourdon was, it was thought, a chameleon, whose skill was more in mimicry than innovation. But as the comprehensive exhibition of his work at the Musée Fabre in 2000 demonstrated, Bourdon’s career is now regarded somewhat differently. Painted in the last years of his life, The Lamentation brings forward many of the painter’s fine attributes: dense, clear colours, emphatic modelling of form, and a dynamic composition that crystalises a series of often competing references, including Nicolas Poussin. As Bourdon often instructed his students, great innovation could be achieved by casting one’s interests far and wide.

58 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Sébastien BOURDON, The Lamentation [Déploration sur le Christ mort] c. 1665-1670

Léon BENOUVILLE, The Wrath of Achilles [La colère d'Achille] 1847

Léon-François Bénouville's splendidly modelled figure of Achilles intrudes into the space of the viewer. He literally steps beyond the surface of the canvas. Thus, in the painting's careful attention to the human form and in the precision of its modelling of paint, it fulfils ideally the task of the painted academic figure studies required of Prix de Rome winners. Bénouville's painting of Achilles, a popular subject for nineteenth-century painters, shows the Greek hero at the moment where, after quarrelling with his leader, Agamemnon, he retreats from battle to his tent in a rage. Humiliated, Achilles refuses to continue fighting with the Greeks, who subsequently suffer a series of catastrophic defeats. As Agamemnon's envoys enter Achilles' tent, in the hope of convincing him to return to battle, Achilles springs to his feet, launching into a tirade. With a dramatic realism, Bénouville renders this precise, violent moment.

54 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Léon BENOUVILLE, The Wrath of Achilles [La colère d'Achille] 1847

Achille-Etna MICHALLON, Landscape with Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos [Paysage avec Philoctète dans l’île de Lemnos] 1822

Achille-Etna Michallon was a highly ambitious prodigy, who first exhibited at the Salon at the age of fifteen. Michallon won the inaugural Grand Prix for Historical Landscape in 1817, a prize introduced with him in mind, and one he actively lobbied the recently reformed Académie to institute. Landscape with Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos is an excellent example of Michallon’s historical landscapes, which are characterised by his faithful attention to the dramatic conditions of the elements and panoramic views, and often include isolated figures from antiquity. Michallon’s close attention to nature is apparent, but the landscape is rendered heroic. There is a Romantic passion in his depiction of the elements and of the lonely figure of Philoctetes, forced to eke out a miserable existence in the face of that violence. Thus, Michallon’s landscape suggests both the naturalism of his best student, Camille Corot, and nostalgia for the grandeur and glory of pre-Revolutionary class...

56 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Achille-Etna MICHALLON, Landscape with Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos [Paysage avec Philoctète dans l’île de Lemnos] 1822

Eugène ISABEY, Storm with a Shipwreck [La tempête, naufrage] 1835

Eugène Isabey was a deeply Romantic painter. His work during the 1820s and 1830s is characterised by a concern with the unpredictable nature of the elements, the response of the individual to nature, and a refined, vigorous application of paint that emphasised the artist’s hand. Storm with a Shipwreck is one of Isabey’s key Romantic seascapes. He depicts the sea as an abstract force that has the power to annihilate man and his work – our attention is drawn to the corpse of a sailor and part of the wreck of his ship in the lower corner. The violent sea and clouds and the dark, ominous rocky outcrop suggest a place of absolute danger. In this way, Isabey invokes the sublime, which was so closely associated with the sea: the sea as a space of imminent threat and an incomprehensible infinitude. Isabey’s application of paint matches the subject of work; each is as theatricalised and energetic as the other.

43 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Eugène ISABEY, Storm with a Shipwreck [La tempête, naufrage] 1835

Paul GUIGOU, Provençal Landscape [Paysage provençal] 1869

Paul Guigou regularly painted the scenery of Provence in southern France, the region of his birth. This small landscape is typical of his work and captures the crisp light of the region, with its strong jewel-like colours. The painting’s raised point of view gives a sense of the emptiness of Provence. The composition is dominated by the expanse of the land and the sky, while the near perfect reflections on the river as it winds its way under the rustic stone bridge provide another focal point. Guigou came from a wealthy family and developed an early interest in landscape painting. He started his working life as a notary’s clerk but dedicated himself to painting full-time in 1862. In Paris he was friendly with many of the Impressionist group, including Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet. Even so, Guigou remained true to his own vision and went unnoticed at the Salon until after his death.

46 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Paul GUIGOU, Provençal Landscape [Paysage provençal] 1869

Edgar DEGAS, A Nanny in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris [La nourrice du jardin du Luxembourg] c.1875

In this important painting, Edgar Degas represents the city in a theatrical way. His nanny and young child sit on a stage, with Paris’ Luxembourg Garden dotted with strollers – those flashes of pink, ochre, black and white – as a backdrop. The painting marks the changing architectural and social conditions of Parisian life, as the city’s network of old streets and alleys was cleared to make room for the wide, sweeping boulevards (for which the city is now famous) and a series of central points of focus. The city became, as the strollers indicate, a space of leisure and spectacle: of looking and of being seen. But as with his images of laundresses, prostitutes and ballet dancers, Degas’s painting also pays attention to the contemporary conditions of women’s labour. The nursing industry underwent a boom in Paris in the 1870s, and was regulated in 1874 with a series of financial and sanitary restrictions. The nanny – already the subject of intense scrutiny within the space of th...

1 MIN2007 NOV 26
Comments
Edgar DEGAS, A Nanny in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris [La nourrice du jardin du Luxembourg] c.1875

Latest Episodes

Jean Louis DEMARNE, A Ferry and Boats on a Canal [Bac et barques sur un canal] c.1800-1815,

Jean-Louis Demarne’s career was not that of a powerful Academician. He was instead a painter who actively sought out and capitalised on the taste of middle-class collectors. Influenced by the highly finished landscapes and genre scenes of Dutch painters currently in vogue among Parisian collectors, Demarne’s landscapes and genre scenes found an eager audience in France and abroad. A Ferry and Boats on a Canal is an excellent example of Demarne’s picturesque depictions of everyday rural life. It uses the compositional convention of a central vanishing point that became something of a trademark for the painter. The landscape itself is quite generic, it could be Holland, Flanders or Northern France. Demarne is an important example of a commercially-minded artist who generally resisted participation in contemporary politics in favour of the private patronage of the burgeoning middle class.

44 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Jean Louis DEMARNE, A Ferry and Boats on a Canal [Bac et barques sur un canal] c.1800-1815,

Jacques-Louis DAVID, Portrait of Alphonse Leroy [Portrait d’Alphonse Leroy] c.1783

Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait of Alphonse Leroy is widely recognised as among the painter’s greatest portraits. In its sobriety, its scientific attention to surface effects and details, and its effort to produce an image of its sitter as psychologically complex, it forms a direct line to his many later, exceptional depictions of Napoleon Bonaparte. David’s portrait of Leroy says as much about the social identity of the figure of the artist as it does about its subject. In his sparsely furnished study, wearing a turban, and taking notes from his copy of Hippocrates’ The Diseases of Women, the gynaecologist is seen as something of an ascetic genius. So, in turn, is the artist; he is, as the contemporary definition of genius asserted, one gifted with powers of close observation and the ability to imitate nature above those of ordinary men and women.

1 MIN2007 NOV 26
Comments
Jacques-Louis DAVID, Portrait of Alphonse Leroy [Portrait d’Alphonse Leroy] c.1783

Simon VOUET, Allegory of Prudence [Allégorie de la Prudence] c.1645

Simon Vouet’s Allegory of Prudence is one of the Musée Fabre’s most significant paintings. It is remarkable as much for its formal bravado – its contorted arabesque lines, its statuesque forms, its dramatic lighting effects – as for its historical importance. Allegory of Prudence was painted for the recently widowed Queen Regent, Anne of Austria, as part of a large commission to decorate the Palais Royal, Paris (1643–1647). The ambitious Regent – at the time the subject of a series of scandals, including a rumour that she had secretly married the powerful, scrupulous Cardinal Jules Mazarin – is depicted as the figure of Prudence, one of the four Cardinal Virtues from classical and religious texts. The beautiful, virtuous Regent is seen untroubled by the effects of the material world, whether the passage of time personified by the old man at her feet or politics and skulduggery, which she is literally above.

1 MIN2007 NOV 26
Comments
Simon VOUET, Allegory of Prudence [Allégorie de la Prudence] c.1645

Nicolas POUSSIN, Venus and Adonis [Vénus et Adonis] c.1626

Nicolas Poussin is one of France’s greatest painters. Venus and Adonis is an important example of the mythologies he painted in Rome during the 1620s. In Rome, the artistic centre of Europe, Poussin absorbed the lessons of classical antiquity and the Italian masters. Poussin’s innovation was to merge these influences with an often astonishing realism, refined through extended on-site study of nature and the figure. Venus and Adonis presents an idyllic depiction of the ancient world. Seen at sunset, Venus and Adonis share their love in a landscape peopled with cherubim. Both landscape and figures are painted with a free and light touch. In this way, nature weaves all together: the humid haze of the Italian summer evening, the vibrant sun that dances indiscriminately over and warms foliage and bodies, and the lovers. However, scholars have determined that the original painting was cut in two, the left hand side showing a river god in a landscape is now in a private collection. This ...

1 MIN2007 NOV 26
Comments
Nicolas POUSSIN, Venus and Adonis [Vénus et Adonis] c.1626

Sébastien BOURDON, The Lamentation [Déploration sur le Christ mort] c. 1665-1670

Due largely to the fact that he spent much of his adult life working outside of the country, and because of the very flexible nature of his work, which often shifted dramatically between styles and themes, Sébastien Bourdon’s work has often been ignored in France. Bourdon was, it was thought, a chameleon, whose skill was more in mimicry than innovation. But as the comprehensive exhibition of his work at the Musée Fabre in 2000 demonstrated, Bourdon’s career is now regarded somewhat differently. Painted in the last years of his life, The Lamentation brings forward many of the painter’s fine attributes: dense, clear colours, emphatic modelling of form, and a dynamic composition that crystalises a series of often competing references, including Nicolas Poussin. As Bourdon often instructed his students, great innovation could be achieved by casting one’s interests far and wide.

58 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Sébastien BOURDON, The Lamentation [Déploration sur le Christ mort] c. 1665-1670

Léon BENOUVILLE, The Wrath of Achilles [La colère d'Achille] 1847

Léon-François Bénouville's splendidly modelled figure of Achilles intrudes into the space of the viewer. He literally steps beyond the surface of the canvas. Thus, in the painting's careful attention to the human form and in the precision of its modelling of paint, it fulfils ideally the task of the painted academic figure studies required of Prix de Rome winners. Bénouville's painting of Achilles, a popular subject for nineteenth-century painters, shows the Greek hero at the moment where, after quarrelling with his leader, Agamemnon, he retreats from battle to his tent in a rage. Humiliated, Achilles refuses to continue fighting with the Greeks, who subsequently suffer a series of catastrophic defeats. As Agamemnon's envoys enter Achilles' tent, in the hope of convincing him to return to battle, Achilles springs to his feet, launching into a tirade. With a dramatic realism, Bénouville renders this precise, violent moment.

54 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Léon BENOUVILLE, The Wrath of Achilles [La colère d'Achille] 1847

Achille-Etna MICHALLON, Landscape with Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos [Paysage avec Philoctète dans l’île de Lemnos] 1822

Achille-Etna Michallon was a highly ambitious prodigy, who first exhibited at the Salon at the age of fifteen. Michallon won the inaugural Grand Prix for Historical Landscape in 1817, a prize introduced with him in mind, and one he actively lobbied the recently reformed Académie to institute. Landscape with Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos is an excellent example of Michallon’s historical landscapes, which are characterised by his faithful attention to the dramatic conditions of the elements and panoramic views, and often include isolated figures from antiquity. Michallon’s close attention to nature is apparent, but the landscape is rendered heroic. There is a Romantic passion in his depiction of the elements and of the lonely figure of Philoctetes, forced to eke out a miserable existence in the face of that violence. Thus, Michallon’s landscape suggests both the naturalism of his best student, Camille Corot, and nostalgia for the grandeur and glory of pre-Revolutionary class...

56 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Achille-Etna MICHALLON, Landscape with Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos [Paysage avec Philoctète dans l’île de Lemnos] 1822

Eugène ISABEY, Storm with a Shipwreck [La tempête, naufrage] 1835

Eugène Isabey was a deeply Romantic painter. His work during the 1820s and 1830s is characterised by a concern with the unpredictable nature of the elements, the response of the individual to nature, and a refined, vigorous application of paint that emphasised the artist’s hand. Storm with a Shipwreck is one of Isabey’s key Romantic seascapes. He depicts the sea as an abstract force that has the power to annihilate man and his work – our attention is drawn to the corpse of a sailor and part of the wreck of his ship in the lower corner. The violent sea and clouds and the dark, ominous rocky outcrop suggest a place of absolute danger. In this way, Isabey invokes the sublime, which was so closely associated with the sea: the sea as a space of imminent threat and an incomprehensible infinitude. Isabey’s application of paint matches the subject of work; each is as theatricalised and energetic as the other.

43 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Eugène ISABEY, Storm with a Shipwreck [La tempête, naufrage] 1835

Paul GUIGOU, Provençal Landscape [Paysage provençal] 1869

Paul Guigou regularly painted the scenery of Provence in southern France, the region of his birth. This small landscape is typical of his work and captures the crisp light of the region, with its strong jewel-like colours. The painting’s raised point of view gives a sense of the emptiness of Provence. The composition is dominated by the expanse of the land and the sky, while the near perfect reflections on the river as it winds its way under the rustic stone bridge provide another focal point. Guigou came from a wealthy family and developed an early interest in landscape painting. He started his working life as a notary’s clerk but dedicated himself to painting full-time in 1862. In Paris he was friendly with many of the Impressionist group, including Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet. Even so, Guigou remained true to his own vision and went unnoticed at the Salon until after his death.

46 s2007 NOV 26
Comments
Paul GUIGOU, Provençal Landscape [Paysage provençal] 1869

Edgar DEGAS, A Nanny in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris [La nourrice du jardin du Luxembourg] c.1875

In this important painting, Edgar Degas represents the city in a theatrical way. His nanny and young child sit on a stage, with Paris’ Luxembourg Garden dotted with strollers – those flashes of pink, ochre, black and white – as a backdrop. The painting marks the changing architectural and social conditions of Parisian life, as the city’s network of old streets and alleys was cleared to make room for the wide, sweeping boulevards (for which the city is now famous) and a series of central points of focus. The city became, as the strollers indicate, a space of leisure and spectacle: of looking and of being seen. But as with his images of laundresses, prostitutes and ballet dancers, Degas’s painting also pays attention to the contemporary conditions of women’s labour. The nursing industry underwent a boom in Paris in the 1870s, and was regulated in 1874 with a series of financial and sanitary restrictions. The nanny – already the subject of intense scrutiny within the space of th...

1 MIN2007 NOV 26
Comments
Edgar DEGAS, A Nanny in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris [La nourrice du jardin du Luxembourg] c.1875
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