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Modern French Masters

Modern French Masters
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Title: Modern French Masters
Release Date: 2018-11-13
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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MODERN FRENCH MASTERS

MODERN FRENCH
MASTERS

BY
MARIE VAN VORST
WITH PREFACE BY
ALEXANDER HARRISON
PARIS
BRENTANO’S
37 AVENUE DE L’OPERA

AND UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK
1904
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Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
At the Ballantyne Press
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IN GRATEFUL APPRECIATION
OF THE HOSPITALITY
OF

THE PALL MALL MAGAZINE
I INSCRIBE THIS COLLECTION OF ESSAYS WHICH
HAVE ALREADY APPEARED IN ITS PAGES
TO MY FRIEND

GEORGE R. HALKETT

Paris, 1904
90 Rue de Varenne

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PREFACE

The source of art is the fountain of Love: the winged spirits, Painting,Sculpture, and Poetry, spring from it hand in hand. With affectionateleave-takings and cries of joy at their liberation, they soar intospace, the angel of Music out-winging the rest because of more lambentfibre, but she is no more vital nor pulsating than her sisters.

Genius is Love, Talent is the sure perception of essentials combinedwith the power of expression. Talent, coupled with genius, produces theLove-Child that men call a Masterpiece.

The love-child in Art is the most perfect of all human creations,whether the artist lover be conventional or academic, or rebelliousagainst form and schools, or capricious and eccentric. Emerson said:“Write above your door the word, ‘Whim.’ This, Alfred Stevens,Besnard, Dégas, and the great sculptor{viii} Carries would have applauded,and above all—Whistler!

Whether the lover be brutal and aggressive (Courbet and at timesBesnard), shy and distinguished (Puvis de Chavannes), dreamy andcaressing (Corot and Cazin), alert and pulsating (Sargent, Zorn),retiring and retrospective (Millet-Lobre), nobly dominating (like Rodin,who says “il faut planer”)—or varied in impulse—one might saycapricious—like Whistler, Bastien Lepage and Monticeli—the obsessionof the motif will infallibly assert itself in convincing form, thevital impulse of loyal desire will in every case assume masterly shape,and if sequent be great. And as all the world loves a lover, so all theworld sooner or later will love the lover’s work.

It is extremely difficult to justly decide how potent for good or evilupon the individuality of genius is the influence of the so-called“Schools.” The influences of early education and distant ideals oftenimpede true progress. Youth submits naturally to an instruction whichmay or may not be misdirected. Broad cultivation of general, vital, andæsthetic force, and encouragement of impulse, are advantageous, whereasthe domination of the pupil by the master-teacher may be detrimental.{ix}

The valiant and revered old soldier-artist Gérome constantly asserted:Le dessin c’est la probité de l’art.

Puvis de Chavannes would have formulated that Art is the expression oflove, not of military probity! None the less, however, are those wrongwho cavil against the Schools purely from a spirit of adverse criticism.

Great Bastien Lepage, the year before his death, told me that it was hisconstant struggle to overcome bad habits formed in the École des BeauxArts, whilst on the other hand, other temperaments have profitednormally by the codes of the École.

Jules Breton is said to have left the School a failure, and to haveafterwards wrought out his real success in the loneliness of his nativefastnesses.

Besnard, in spite of being Prix de Rome, has had a sufficiently broadgrasp and requisite assertive audacity to benefit by the Schools. Hequickly assimilated such influences as served his purpose, intelligentlydiscarding what might otherwise have hampered him. Besnard’stemperamental confidence, and at times his lack even of reverence, whilepossibly weakening to his inspiration from the point of view of poeticalreserve and distinction assured his freedom and{x} strengthened hisaudacious fecundity. He at times lacks tenderness, but he loves hard!and his are les défauts des grandes qualités.

Puvis de Chavannes, gentle, distinguished, noble and shy, was bothpersonally and professionally the Grand Seigneur of modern art. He isfull of restraint; thoughtful, reserved, a lover of style. There is noaudacity in this painter’s work, which is at times wavering and evenclumsy in expression, nevertheless Puvis de Chavannes is un dieu!

Rodin and Besnard are both masterly, constructive draughtsmen: theformer invariably synthetic in execution and generally so in conception.Besnard reaches his apotheosis in La Fée. In the art of both men thereis marvellous variety—both of motif and treatment. Rodin’s giganticforce is calm and sure; Besnard’s nervous—sometimes even boisterous asthough he were naïvely rebelling against a moment of bashfulness!

If Rodin can be said to possess a fault, it is an occasional dominanceof the grotesque: a probable result of an intense personality, toogreat originality. Besnard’s over-desire is similar; and he is morefrequently garish, over-audacious in his experiments and hisexpression.{xi} A striking contrast to these painters is Cazin. His art istimid, caressing, poetic and tender. He lacks the nobility of aim ofPuvis de Chavannes. He is intimate, domestic, directly in liaison withhis painting.

He treats his art as something dear to his heart, peculiarly personal.He loved to fondle nature in her purring moments; in the soft hours oftwilight, when the spirit of the landscape is moody, fleeting, gentlysad submissive and persuasive.

ALEXANDER HARRISON.

Concarneau, April 1904.

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CONTENTS

 PAGE
PUVIS DE CHAVANNES1
JEAN CHARLES CAZIN31
RODIN61
PAUL ALBERT BESNARD105
STEINLEN157

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ILLUSTRATIONS

Puvis de Chavannes:
 PAGE
Puvis de Chavannes (From a portrait by Léon Bonnat)4
Rhône et Saône (Lyons)7
Ste. Geneviève Series (Panthéon)11
Ste. Geneviève Series (Panthéon)15
Ste. Geneviève Series (Panthéon)16
Sorbonne Series, No. 119
Sorbonne Series, No. 220
“Le Repos” (Amiens)23
“La Rivière”24
“L’Hiver” (Salon d’Arrivée, Hôtel de Ville, Paris)27
Jean Charles Cazin:
The Windmill35
A Picardy Village39
The Death Chamber of Gambetta43
Moonlight47
The Village Street51
The Holy Family55
The End of the Village57
Rodin:
Rodin64
“Le Frère et la Sœur”67
Intérieur d’Atelier71
Le Désespoir75
La Porte de l’Enfer{xvi}77
St. John the Baptist79
Intérieur d’atelier avec le groupe des “Bourgeois de Calais”83
“Le Penseur”87
Beau Torse89
Le Jardin des Oliviers de l’Homme de Génie91
La Tempête95
Sirènes Chantant97
Buste de Mons. Rodin, par Falguière99
Paul Albert Besnard:
Paul Albert Besnard in his Studio108
Convalescence111
The Sick Woman115
La Femme qui se Chauffe119
Death123
A Portrait in Yellow and Blue127
The Fisherman’s Daughter131
Sunset, Algeria135
Horses tormented by Flies139
Love143
The Flirtation147
A Woman of Biarritz151
Steinlen:
Street Children161
Mother’s Love165
A Steinlen Poster169
Work-Girls173
Dry-Point Etching177
A Steinlen Poster181
A Steinlen Poster185
En Attendant189
A Study193

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PUVIS DE CHAVANNES

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PUVIS DE CHAVANNES

(From a Portrait by Léon Bonnat)

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In the midst of the most stormy period that France has seen for tenyears, in the turbulence of political and national tumult, Puvis deChavannes passed from his country’s life into its history. During theweek that saw the fall of the Brisson Ministry, when Paris was a sea offrantic demonstration and safety assured by military law, he died: hislife a gospel of serenity and peace, his genius and its expressions aglory to his people, an inspiration to present and future Art. At oncehis character stands out with the marvellous distinctness all thingsassume when they first become the past, on the first morrow in which welook back to them as yesterday.

The death of this great frescoist and painter leaves a place unfilled.He has had no equal, no predecessor, and his successor is not easy toname. To produce this original genius, whose grandiose, sublime, yetsimple{6} productions appeal not only to the artist and the critic, but tothe peasant, who stands long and enthralled before the Ste. Geneviève ofthe Panthéon, is the creation of half a century, and due to peculiarcircumstances of time and race. He was a great man as well as a greatpainter; his temperament full of sun and humour, his soul calm and ofcrystalline clearness.

Puvis de Chavannes was born in Lyons in 1824, of an old Bourguignonnefamily, the warmth and glory of Burgundy in his veins; he was ofvigorous physique, of gay and sanguine temperament, attached by a subtlelien to the school which for six centuries has produced great painters,great sculptors and dreamers.

Puvis de Chavannes went to school as a boy at the Lycée of Lyons, laterto the Lycée Henri Quatre in Paris. He was a painter by selection; hadpartially fitted himself for a scientific profession, when after carefulconsideration he deliberately chose the career of a painter. From themoment of his decision he never wavered, but gave to the province of arthe had made his own the absolute devotion of the enthusiast, the fierceunremitting toil of which only great genius is capable. His student lifebegan in the studio of{7}

[Image unavailable.]

RHÔNE ET SAÔNE

(Lyons)

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Couture, and lasted but three months. The methods in the atelier wereuncongenial to him.

“Is that the way you see the model?” he asked of Couture, whoseformula of blanc d’argent, jaune de Naples, vermilion and cobaltproduced on the canvas a very different effect to that which Puvis deChavannes recognised. He left the place and never returned, butcontinued to paint for several years under Henri Schaffer.

There was no school for the unfolding of this spirit, unlike its times,greater than the masters, and lonely. For as it proved for thirty years,the path of Puvis de Chavannes was to be a solitary way. He walked in itwith front serene, and proud stoicism and a savage devotion, lookingneither to the right hand nor to the left, for who should observe orfollow, making unerringly toward the brilliant goal and the immortalfame hidden from those who scoffed at him, and which even his vision butdimly saw.

In 1850 a Pietà was accepted at the Salon; in 1861 “La Paix et laGuerre” received the second medal; one of the decorations was bought bythe State, and the painter, in a glow of enthusiasm over this firstrecognition after eleven years of waiting, presented the{10} other pictureto the Musée at Amiens. These pictures, however, failed to win himgeneral appreciation; he was the object of constant adverse criticismfor thirty years, and it was sufficient for him to complete a work toawaken a perfect hubbub of abuse; he was the sport of the wit and thecartoonist, the artistic joke of the

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