Soleil Couchant, 1902

by Hippolyte-Camille Delpy


DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 16.00 x 28.00 in./ 40.64 x 71.12 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed lower right
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

Catalogue No: 4443 Categories: ,

Soleil Couchant (Sunset) is a late work from the impressive oeuvre of Hippolyte- Camille Delpy (1842 – 1910); a respected French painter whose name has become synonymous with the Impressionist and Barbizon movements. The painting shows an idyllic French sunset above a lake, surrounded by trees. The lake’s grassy beach sweeps across the foreground, and in the middle-distance, the hunched figures of two washer-women are presented as an integral part of the landscape, rather than as its subject.


Private Collection, United Kingdom

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Delpy was born in Joigny, in northern France, the son of a wealthy, self-made pharmacist. His father had aspirations for the boy to join the family business, but from a very young age, he had an aptitude and love for painting. The young Delpy spent time with his uncle, a lithographer, who introduced him to the well-known artist Charles-François Daubigny. Delpy became Daubigny’s student, and at the age of 16 decided to move to Paris and pursue a career as an artist. During the summers of the late 1850s, Delpy travelled with Daubigny and his son, Karl (also a painter) on their studio-boat, ‘Le Botin.’ Through Daubigny, Delpy met the acclaimed Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, from whom he took great encouragement and inspiration. In his early career, Delpy was known for his sombre use of colour and truth to reality in his work.


In 1869, Delpy first had his paintings displayed at the Paris salon, and this marked a turning point in his success. He met Pissaro, Cezanne and Monet, with whom he became firm friends. It was from spending time with the famous French modernists, and particularly his exposure to Impressionism, that would influence the unique style that Delpy is known for to this day. He spent a lot of time at Ville d’Avray, Corot’s favourite country site, and Auvers, the home of Daubigny. Through these experiences, Delpy began to blend the subject matter that he had adopted from his teacher, with the brighter colours and looser brushstrokes that are characteristic of the Impressionist artists, and thereby created distinctive new interpretations of the scenes that had been favoured by the Barbizon school.


In 1876, Delpy organised a sale of his work at the Paris auction house, Hotel Drouot.  It was almost unprecedented for artists to organise sales of this kind at the time, but it was very successful. The sale was announced favourably in several newspapers and all 45 of the paintings on offer sold. In the same year, Delpy moved with his family to Bois-le-Roi, near the Fontainebleau Forest, which was the favoured setting for artists of the Barbizon school. In 1884, Delpy received a Salon medal, and in 1889, travelled to America as part of a commissioned team of painters to make the panorama of the Battle of Manassus (American Civil War) in Washington DC. This ‘cyclorama’ was held in a purpose-built, circular building near the Washington Memorial, and was a sensation when it was opened to the public. In the same year, Delpy was given honourable mention at the Exposition Universelle, in Paris.


Delpy continued to enjoy great success for the remainder of his life and continued to build upon his large oeuvre; which now stands at about 2,000 paintings. In 1908 a retrospective of his work was shown at the fashionable Grafton Galleries in London. He died in 1910.  Delpy’s work continues to be exhibited around the world, and his work is still handled by leading art dealers and auction houses all over.


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