In the West, the 19th century witnessed major social and technological upheavals, spurred in large by the Industrial Revolution and correlating trends: urbanisation, frequently poor working and living conditions, and territorial expansion by emerging global superpowers. In this period, artistic patronage shifted increasingly towards the capitalist bourgeoisie and national academies, with a rising profile for art dealers and critics. The hub of Western artistic activity was Paris, and the French Academy and Salon represented the establishment, favouring Neoclassicism at the beginning of the century and later Romanticism.
Social and political commentary appeared in the history paintings of Théodore Géricault and Francisco Goya as well as the Social Realist works of Gustave Courbet and Honoré Daumier. Broad defiance of the Salon system swelled in the second half of the century with provocative works by the likes of Édouard Manet, the new styles of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, and the birth of the concepts of modernism and the avant-garde. Japan’s opening to global trade and the subsequent arrival of Japanese objects in Europe were a significant influence. At the same time, photography emerged as a means of documenting social realities and an art form accessible to non-elites. Architecture was characterised by the use of new industrial materials and techniques, on the the one hand, and the revival of Classical and Gothic styles, on the other. In design and decorative arts, the Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Nouveau both responded to industrialisation and mass production through their emphasis on handmade craft and organic forms.
This month we take a look at some wonderful 19th Century artworks currently available at Trinity House Paintings.
Degas is known to be one of the most important and influential Impressionist painters. Celebrated for his ability to capture fleeting moments and human relationships like no other, his work stands as a document to the dramatic artistic shifts of the period. Degas’ work incorporates many of the ideologies of French Modernism such as time, colour, honesty and reality.
This work is one of the last portraits Degas created, and presents a private moment in Madame and Monsieur Louis Rouart’s relationship. Degas’ closeness to the couple is evident in their comfort in him depicting such an informal moment. Central to the composition is Christine, an indication of her open and outgoing nature which complements her more reserved husband. Turning her head wistfully to engage with her husband, it is Louis who positions his body towards her, a sign of his devotion and the intimate moment they are sharing. One is given a tangible understanding of the couple through the smile that plays upon Christine’s lips and the more withdrawn expression of her husband. This is a new portrait style for a married couple, revealing an insight into a very real relationship, instead of a formulaic structured portrait sitting.
Degas depicted the couple on many occasions, with differing versions in this piece being in important collections such as the Pola Museum, Japan. Of the eight pastel sketches in the series, three are fully finished works, each developing towards the couple being placed in an outdoor setting, which scholars have suggested is a park at La Queue-en-Brie. The large scale of this work increases its importance and is rare for Degas. Unlike many of his other sketches, this portrait is on a singular sheet of paper instead of multiple pieces attached together, indicating that its entire composition was considered carefully before its production.
Henri Manguin was a painter concerned with simple expression and sensuous surface as demonstrated so beautifully in this piece. During his career he increasingly focused on the depiction of female nudes in rich and sumptuous environments. In 1899 he married Jeanne who went on to become his favourite model for the next forty years.
Petite Odalisque ou Nu à la Nature Morte is a depiction of his wife, placed against a colourful and elaborately patterned room filled with rich tapestries. The fleshy tones of her curvaceous body contrast against the luxurious white sheets that she reclines upon. Her body is painted with a natural ease and suggestive sensuousness, concentrating on the idea of woman as muse, relaxed and pensive with a sure sense of colour.
Boudin was largely self-taught and showed a preference for working directly from nature. The majority of his paintings are small landscapes of the harbours and beaches of the coast of northern France (as in this example which is set on the beach at Trouville). In about 1856 Boudin met Claude-Oscar Monet and introduced him to outdoor painting. The two worked together in the later 1860s.
The painting shows groups of holiday makers taking the air at the beach. Eugene Boudin worked a great deal on the Normandy coast, especially at the fashionable resorts of Trouville and Deauville. Eugène dedicated himself entirely to observing a new fashion, beach tourism on the Normandy coast. The French side of the channel coastline, initially frequented in the first half of the 19th century for its health-giving qualities, after 1850 became the resort of the French and English high society. Always painting in the open air, Boudin caught moments as they happened, revealing a society of crinolines and frock coats, with the Normandy beaches as glittering as any Paris salon.
This beautiful painting is one of such works, depicting the ‘Quai de Bourbon’ in the fourth arrondissment of Paris. The quay itself was built in 1614 by the Bourbon family and today remains a beautiful Parisian landmark, on the right bank of the River Seine.
The use of yellow hues throughout this scene create a sense of the warm evening light found just after sunset in the Parisian capital, whilst at the same time it contrasts against the dark trees and figures, creating a romantic atmosphere that Loir was much admired for. Works such as this boosted Loir’s career and his reputation even further, so much so that in 1879 he was awarded the Bronze medal from as Exposant Fidèle des Artistes Français in Paris. A little methodical perhaps, Loir concentrated exclusively on painting views of Paris, at the time the centre of the world. In these works, Loir caught and expressed the many faces of the city of lights, at different times of the day. His craftsmanship and attention to detail led to his election as the official painter of the Boulevards of Paris.