Tag Archives: Museum – National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.

FRENCH ART in the 16th Century.

FEATURE image: Ulysses and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Toledo Museum of Art, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. (113.6 x 123.8 cm).

Jean Perréal (1455-1529), Portrait Louis XII, c. 1514, Windsor collections de S.M. la Reine d’Angleterre.

Jean Perréal’s most important attribution is this portrait of Louis XII who was King of France from 1498 to 1515. Louis XII was married three times – the first annulled; the second leaving the king a widower, and, in his last three months of life, to Mary Tudor (1496-1533), the favorite sister of King Henry VIII of England. Despite these wives, the king had no living sons. The Salic Law prohibited his line to continue on the French throne through his daughters. When Louis died in 1515, his throne eventually passed to his cousin, Francis I.

Jean Perréal (1455-1529), Portrait of a woman, c. 1500, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010059108
Detail of above.

Jean Perréal (c.1455-1530) was Court painter to the Bourbons and later worked for the kings of France starting with Charles VII. Perréal journeyed to Italy several times. In 1514 he went to London to paint Mary Tudor’s portrait and supervise her new dresses as Mary, aged 18 years, sister of the English king, married the 52-year-old King Louis XII of France.

Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510), St. Giles protects a wounded deer for Charles Martel, c. 1500, National Gallery, London, oil on oak, 63.4 × 48.4 cm.
Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510),Virgin with Child, c. 1500, Louvre.
Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510), St. Giles’ Mass, c. 1500, National Gallery, London, oil on oak.

The Master of Saint Giles was a Flemish or Flemish-trained painter who was active in France. He is named after artworks in London attributed to the artist called Scenes from the Legend of St. Giles. As the artist’s identity is obscure, the saint depicted in his artwork is shrouded in legend.

St. Giles is possibly an 8th century hermit in France who became the patron saint of beggars, the handicapped, and blacksmiths which was an important trade in the Middle Ages. In one work, the artist depicts a famous story about St. Giles. Before King Flavius’s hunting party, he protected a deer from their bows and arrows. The king was apologetic and Giles persuaded him to establish a Provençal monastery in which St. Giles served as its first abbot.

Le Rosso (1494-1540), La Fontaine de Jouvence, c 1535, fresco, Chateau de Fontainebleau, Galerie Francois I.

France conducted wars in Italy starting in 1494 that continued into the 16th century. By this pugilistic means, many of the Italian Renaissance’s ideas and practices were brought back to France. It had been just the opposite in the 12th century when French ideas, particularly that of troubadours and chivalry, were brought back to Italy following trade expeditions by merchants.

After fighting ceased, King Francis I invited Italian artists into France, most famously Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) in 1516. Following more war in Spain, Francis I began in earnest a revolution in art in France in 1526. The king made the Château de Fontainebleau one of the most active artistic centers in Europe, attracting many Italian artists such as Le Rosso (1495-1540) and Primaticcio or Primatice (c. 1504-1570). The French Renaissance, under the influence of these Italian masters, synthesized French and Italian art whose style was later described as the School of Fontainebleau.

Le Rosso or Rosso Fiorentino was a friend of Pontormo (1494-1557) and worked under Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530), a founder of Italian Mannerism. He first worked in Florence (1513-1523) and then in Rome (1524-1527). With the sack of Rome in 1527 by German troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), Rosso wandered about Italy for a while. In 1530 he was in Venice and, in that same year, went to France.

Rosso arrived to Fontainebleau and, with Primaticcio, became one of the founders of the Fontainebleau style which had a tremendous influence on French painting. Reputedly a neurotic person, Rosso’s death was accounted a suicide by Vasari though that is unconfirmed. The classic style found in Rosso’s The Fountain of Youth was increasingly replaced by his later emotionally charged style.

https://www.chateaudefontainebleau.fr/en/espace-groupe/visites-scolaires-chateau-de-fontainebleau/les-dossiers-pedagogiques/la-renaissance/

Le Rosso (1494-1540), Pietà, c. 1540, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010061332

Primaticcio (c.1504-1570) was a founder of the Fontainebleau School in France with his fellow Italian artist Le Rosso in the 1530s. Primaticcio was a talented artist of universal range – from painting and interior decoration to sculpture and architecture.

From the mid1520s to 1532 Primiticcio trained in Mantua under Giulio Romano (c. 1499-1546). He was called to France by King Francis I in 1532 where he worked at Fontainebleau with Le Rosso. Between 1540 and 1542 the artist represented the king in Italy on an art buying expedition. In that time when he was away Rosso died, and Primiticcio, upon his return to France, began working with Niccolò dell’Abbate (c. 1509-1571) at Fontainebleau. It was in this period that he produced decorations in the galerie d’Ulysses that have been lost. In 1546, and again in 1563, Primaticcio went to Italy where on one trip he made casts of Michelangelo’s sculpture and in the other met Vasari.

Ulysses and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Toledo Museum of Art, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. (113.6 x 123.8 cm). http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/54742/ulysses-and-penelope?ctx=2f264d6c-812c-4e21-83c3-07cd963ab760&idx=0

The style of the painting is Mannerist which predominated in the 16th century. Mannerists went beyond the depiction of nature to flights of imagination and invention. For a stylistic statement, forms were twisting and elongated giving them greater pliability. Mannerists rejected the High Renaissance’s reliance on strict perspective and symmetry and preferred to construct compressed spaces with shaded tones, harsh colors, and the overall feeling of dreaming while awake.

After battling the Trojans and other subsequent troubled adventures, Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) has returned home to his wife, the faithful Penelope. Into the night, the reunited lovers recount their lives apart from one another. While Penelope counts the number of suitors on her hands who she held at bay, Ulysses cradles her chin in a gesture of tenderness and compassion. The composition is based on one of 58 wall frescos of scenes from Homer’s Odyssey at the palace of Fontainebleau near Paris. Unfortunately, the Gallery of Ulysses, Primaticcio’s masterpiece, was destroyed in 1738 after it had been allowed to decay over 200 years.

A kneeling woman, gathering wheat in sheaves, attributed to Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl020005673
Mascarade de Persépolis, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020005563

A preparatory drawing by Primaticcio in the Louvre for a lost composition of the cycle of L’Histoire d’Alexandre painted in the Room of the Duchess of Etampes in Fontainebleau. It was the masquerade that brought about the fire in Persepolis, an historic event that took place in 330 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Persian Empire following the battle of Guagamela the year before.

It is not disputed in history that after Alexander arrived to the Persian capital city of Persepolis it was looted and burned to the ground, destroying many great cultural treasures. Though recorded by several historians, accounts vary. The first century Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote that while drunk during a large celebration with his companions, attendants and  courtesans, Alexander himself started the fire as the rest joined in. (see – https://www.worldhistory.org/article/214/alexander-the-great–the-burning-of-persepolis/

Niccolò dell’Abbate (c. 1509-1571), The Death of Eurydice, c. 1550s-1560s, oil on canvas, 189.2 × 237.5 cm, National Gallery London.

Niccolò dell’Abbate was from Modena in Italy. He was influenced by the sculptural and optical illusion achieved in the artwork of Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506). He was also influenced by Correggio (1489-1534), a master of chiaroscuro. By 1552 dell’ Abbate was in France helping Primaticcio at Fontainebleau with the royal chateau’s interior decorations though most of his artwork has disappeared. The Death of Eurydice is a fine example of the Mannerist landscape which the artist is responsible for having introduced into France.

Le Maître de Flore (active 1540-1560), Le triomphe de Flore (The Triumph of Flora), private collection (Vicenza).

Le Maître de Flore is a  French painter of the mid16th century Fontainebleau School. The use of the moniker Maître de Flore derives from this and another artwork.

Le Maître de Flore, The Birth of Cupid, after 1550, Oil on wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437006?ft=master+of+flore&offset=0&rpp=40&pos=7

The painting above by the Master of Flore in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is seen as depicting the birth of Cupid, with attendants in the birthing room assisting Venus. The composition, which is animated and decorative, is an example of the School of Fontainebleau, the high art style developed in 16th century France by Italian artists under the sponsorship of the French king.

Attributed to Le Maître de Flore (active 1540-1560), La Charité, c. 1552. Louvre.
https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010065400.
School of Fontainebleau, Diana the Hunter, c. 1550, 75 5/8 x52 3/8 in. Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010064749https://collections.louvre.fr/CGU

Perhaps the most famous artwork to come out of the School of Fontainebleau is an anonymous work in the Louvre entitled Diana the Hunter. With influences of both Le Rosso and dell’ Abbate, Italian masters of the school, it is believed to depict Diana de Poitiers, the legendary French beauty and mistress of Henry II.

School of Fontainebleau, Woman in her Toilet, c, 1550,  Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon.

A recurring theme of the Italian masters and French artists in the 16th century is that of the naked woman, shown half-figure in her bath, or dressing. Some have an allegorical significance, others are combined with a portrait. This particular work which depicts some beauty of the day was so admired that there are known 16th century copies of it in Basel and in Massachusetts.

Jean Cousin the Elder (1490-1560), Saint Mammès coming to surrender to the court of the governor of Cappadocia, around 1541, tapestry, 440 × 450cm, Paris, Louvre Museum.

Jean Cousin was born in Sens and died in Paris. He was a French painter, engraver and sculptor.

St. Mammès was martyred under Emperor Aurelian in Cappadocia around 275. In Asia Minor he was highly revered by early Christians. In the 8th century his relics were taken to France and into Langres cathedral. Around 1540, eight tapestries were produced for the cathedral chancel depicting scenes from the saint’s life. Three of the tapestries survive: two in Langres and one in the Louvre.

In the Louvre tapestry, St. Mammès is accompanied by a lion to visit Aurelian who condemned him to death. In the background building the saint’s execution is already taking place. The tapestry’s elements point to the wave of influence that was the Italian Renaissance: its expansive landscape; its compositional use of perspective; and its classicizing architecture and buildings’ decoration, all of which came together in Francis I’s School of Fontainebleau. The tapestry’s varied and nuanced use of color lend a painterly appearance to the woven artwork.

Pseudo Félix Chrétien (active 1535-37), Three men lower barrels into the cave, Städel Museum Frankfort.

The picture displays a scene at one of the likely nearby hôtels that housed merchants, diplomats and others so to be close by the king. It is evident by Félix Chrétien ‘s artwork that creative activity went far beyond the confines of the royal chateaux. Many painters whose names and works are unknown flourished in 16th century France. Italian Renaissance techniques are used in the painting such as its correctly rendered spatial perspective, realistic figural development, and the typical gestures found in the latest Franco-Italian Mannerist style.

Jean Clouet (1485-1540), François Ier, 1524, Louvre.

Jean Clouet was the Court Painter to King Francis I. While Clouet was an influential artist in the establishment of Renaissance portraiture in France, his only documented painted portrait is that of Francis I’s librarian, Guillaume Budé (1467–1540).

A leading humanist of the sixteenth century, Budé’s fingers hold his page and a quill in the midst of writing. The words on the page in Greek presents an epigram: “While it seems to be good to get what one desires, the greatest good is not to desire what one does not need.”

Jean Clouet, Guillaume Budé, c. 1536, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, oil on wood, 15 5/8 x 13 1/2 in. (39.7 x 34.3 cm).

Jean Clouet, also called Jean Clouet II and Janet, was probably the son of a Flemish painter who was the Court Painter to the Duke of Burgundy. Jean Clouet II made a number of portrait drawings of the Court that survive, most in Chantilly.

Jean Clouet, Portrait of Admiral Bonnivet, c. 1516. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
French Anonymous, Head of a bearded man, capped with a hat, three-quarters to the right. End of 16th century. Louvre.
Francois Clouet (before 1520-1572), Portrait of Pierre Quthe, 1562, Louvre.

François Clouet was the son of Jean Clouet II and succeeded him as Court Painter to the king in 1541. Like his father, he was also called Janet and specialized in portrait drawings, most of which are housed in Chantilly. Francois Clouet’s first signed painting was the 1562 portrait of Pierre Quthe in the Louvre. Its style was influenced by the Florentine artists, particularly Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572).

François Clouet, A Lady in Her Bath, c. 1571, oil on oak, 92.3 × 81.2 cm (36 5/16 × 31 15/16 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The identity of Clouet’s model has long been debated. She may have been Marie Touchet, the mistress of Charles IX, or possibly Diane de Poitiers, the legendary French beauty and mistress of Henry II. The painting is boldly composed as it evokes poses of Venus, the love goddess, found in Italian art but also in its presentation of fecundity such as the nurse suckling a child and a bowl of ripe fruit of the season. The raised curtain is a device used in royal portraiture though here it may be just decorative.

François Clouet, La reine Marguerite enfant, c. 1560, Chantilly.
Workshop of François Clouet, Marie de Gaignon, marquise de Boissy (1524-1565), c. 1550-1565, Louvre.
Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574), Portrait de Marot, c. 1540, Louvre.

Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574) was born in The Hague and worked in Lyons, France for over 30 years starting around 1540. A contemporary and rival of François Clouet (c. 1520-1574), Corneille de Lyon is well documented as a popular leading painter in the French style. As the artist did not sign or date his works, it is virtually impossible to positively identify his artwork. It was only in 1962 that his first work –and nearly all of them are miniature in scale – was positively identified. The nature of his work was described by contemporaries. In 1551 the Venetian ambassador who visited the artist’s studio observed: “We paid a call to an excellent painter who…showed us the whole Court of France, both gentleman and ladies, depicted with the utmost likeness on a great many small panels.”

Working in oil on wood panel, Corneille de Lyon was Peintre et Valet de Chambre du Roi to Henry II (1519-1559) and Charles IX (1550-1574). Corneille likely did paint the entire court. Portraits usually show half-length figures dressed in dark colors against a neutral, somewhat iridescent and greenish background. Groups of such portraits are of uneven quality marking studio artists supervised by the master. The precise drawing of facial features with its smooth planes and enamel-like techniques conveys sitters of placid expression whether their gaze is distant or engaged. Costumes are portrayed with detailed realism yet in a rich, modulated and less definite form.

Painter to the king since 1551, Corneille became a landowner by gift of the king in 1564. In June 1564 one of the artist’s high-born visitors to his home was Catherine de‘ Medici (1519-1589), then regent. Before his death in 1574, the Netherlandish-born Corneille, with his family and household, became Roman Catholics after working in the French Court for nearly 35 years.

https://en.wahooart.com/@@/8Y352R-Corneille-De-Lyon-Portrait-of-Gabrielle-de-Rochechouart
https://www.wga.hu/html_m/c/corneill/rochecho.html

Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574), Portrait of Gabrielle de Rochechouart, c. 1574, Oil on wood, 16.5 x 14 cm, Musée Condé, Chantilly.
Pierre Dumonstier “the Uncle” (c.1545-c.1610), Portrait of an Unknown Man, chalk drawing with watercolor, c. 1580, Musée Jacquemart-André.

Towards the close of the 16th century, there were two families of French artists who were active – namely, the Dumonstiers and the Quesnels.

The Dumonstiers were descendants of one of Le Rosso’s fellow workers at Fontainebleau in the 1530s. Pierre Dumonstier (c.1545-c.1610) was one of three brothers, all of whom were portrait painters. The brothers had close links to the royal house, particularly to Catherine de’ Medici. Pierre produced several drawings, many in color giving them a somewhat painted appearance. Portrait of an Unknown Man is a chalk drawing with watercolor.

In terms of style, what in the beginning of the 16th century produced precise drawing of facial features in portraiture gave way by the end of the century to greater modeling fluency so to achieve intense expression. Portraiture’s overall format, however, remained constant: a face isolated on a neutral background rendered with close analytic attention.

The Quesnel artistic dynasty began with a court painter to James V of Scotland (1513-1542). One of that painter’s sons, François Quesnel (1543-1619), produced many drawings. His painted portrait of Mary Ann Waltham is signed and dated by the artist. Quesnel concentrates on rendering the face with the rest of the body and costume handled perfunctorily. This dichotomy of attention to form was the case in the drawings as well. It may be that the master produced the face in these portraits and left the body and costume to studio assistants.

François Quesnel (1543-1619), Mary Ann Waltham, 1572. 22 x17.5 in., Private, UK.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

La Peinture Française: XVe et XVIe Siècles, Albert Châtelet, Skira, Genève Suisse, 1992.

French Painting: From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, Skira, 1963.

GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE (1848-1894) and the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Impressionist Art Exhibitions in Paris, 1879-1882.

FEATURE image: P.A.-Renoir, A Luncheon at Bougival, 1881, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition – 1882.

Gustave Caillebotte, The Bezique Game (Partie de bésigue), 1880, private collection. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

By John P. Walsh

In the five years between the “balanced and coherent” Third Impressionist Art Exhibition in April 1877 and the penultimate Seventh Impressionist Art Exhibition in March 1882 which included Gustave Caillebotte’s The Bezique Game, significant changes had occurred in the art world.

One major development that was especially impactful for the band of independent and ever-varying avant-garde artists known as the “impressionists” was that, after 1877, the group had fallen apart.

The Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 organized by Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) demonstrated the benefit of a detailed marketing plan within a professional arts organization. Caillebotte’s attempted follow-up to host an impressionist exhibition in 1878, however, failed to get off the ground.

It wasn’t for any lack of his trying. In 1877, Caillebotte could measure success in the Third show by 18-count modern artists under a new brand name, along with 230 works. Show attendance numbers were up from the first and second exhibitions almost four fold. Picture sales were up.

In less than one year, the enterprise devolved to nothing tangible. This was because of a lack of collective coherence among the artists in terms of artistic and business outlook. Seeds of destruction among this klatch of mostly young, avant-garde artists became increasingly evident during the “glorious” 1877 show.

Caillebotte’s genius in the Third Exhibition was to know strengths to promote and problem to ignore. He avoided the veritable train wreck coming from associated artists who were antagonistic creatively by keeping them mostly literally physically apart. 

The Impressionists had two major factions. One was led by classically-trained Edgar Degas (1834-1917) with his realist urban figure drawing. The other was the nonacademic, “broken-brush” innovators or strict impressionists such as Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) who explored the effects of light.

For the duration of the Third Impressionist exhibition, all of Degas’s 25 beach and ballet works hung in a room of their own. 

220px-Edgar_Degas_(1834-1917)
 EDGAR DEGAS (1834 – 1917).
cm_1860
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926).
7601_m_gustave_caillebotte___french_artist
GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE (1848-1894).

As a business seeks popular and financial success, a caveat towards that objective for the third and upcoming 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th impressionist art shows was “the terrible Monsieur Degas.”

Although Degas had an argumentative personality, major reasons for Degas’s dispute with Caillebotte’s impresionist show were not Degas’ making. After 1877, the battle line which ensued between Degas and his group of trained artists and Monet and his nonacademic group affected every next impressionist show up to the 8th and last one in 1886.

The catalyst for the Impressionists’ artistic divisions was their different understandings of what became another major development to affect the art world and all contemporary artists.

Throughout the 1860s, the Salon continued to be anti-democratic. By the late 1870s, there was a clear trend towards a more liberalized Salon. In 1881, the French government took itself out of the Salon. Even before that, in 1878, the year of the scrapped 4th Impressionist show, the government allowed strict or “broken brush” Impressionists like Monet and Renoir to participate in their “Exhibition of Living Artists.”

Édouard Dantan, Un Coin du Salon en 1880 (A Corner of the Salon in 1880), 1880, oil on canvas, 97.2 x 130.2 cm (38.2 x 51.2 in.). Private collection.

Biggest art show in Paris.

Whatever its drawbacks, the Salon remained the biggest art show in Paris.

While Caillebotte’s Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 attracted 15,000 visitors in its one month run—a remarkable statistic—the Salon attracted 23,000 visitors per day.

The Salon displayed around 23x more art than the Impressionist show and attracted 50x more visitors. Opportunities for sales and new clients at one of these nineteenth-century warehouse events was immense.

In 1878, after years of fighting for greater participation in the Salon— the Salon des Refusés took place in 1863—innovative Impressionists were finally allowed to freely hang their artwork in an annual show that for hundreds of years had been the institurional enclave of the Paris art world’s elite.

Yet, In terms of the 4th impressionist art show, the bourgeois Degas devised an ingeniously small-minded idea that he presented ennobled by some principle.

Despite this historic opening of the Salon to young avant-garde artists—Monet and Renoir were in their late 30’s, Degas in his mid 40’s—the older and financially secure artist insisted that all impressionists must make a choice.

Either exhibit in the Salon or with the Impressionists.

Degas’s ultimatum was crafted to pressure the “broken brush” impressionists such as Renoir, Monet, Sisley and Cézanne to break ranks to the Salon—and likely improve their sales and reputations in a rapidly changing art market—and leave the impressionist art organization to Degas and his followers.

Degas’s wedge actually worked. By 1880, the “broken brush” impressionists were purged from the Impressionist exhibitions by their own choice to exhibit in the Salon. Though they saw no conflict with the Impressionist art organization per se that broken brush artists helped found, Degas’s ultimatum had been permitted to stand for the 4th, 5th, and 6th impressionist art shows and helped secure these Impressionist shows of 1879, 1880, and 1881 under the leadership of Degas.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919).
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919).
Paul Cézanne (French 1839-1906) and Camille Pissarro (French, 1830-1903).
Paul Cézanne (French 1839-1906) and Camille Pissarro (French, 1830-1903).
Alfred Sisley (British, born France, 1839-1899).
Alfred Sisley (British, born France, 1839-1899).

The 4th, 5th, and 6th exhibitions featured Degas and his favorite artists. It was in these Degas-led shows that the public had their first in-depth look at Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), among others.

Not all of the Impressionists’ original members and strict impressionists decided to exhibit in the Salon. Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) chose to stay in the independent art group and continued doing so for the eight shows. (Morisot had a baby during the 4th and didn’t participate).

Gustave Caillebotte had invested his talent, reputation and resources into the independents since 1876 and continued to organize and exhibit with them in 1879 and 1880. Before the 6th show in 1881, Caillebotte himself finally broke with the Degas regime in a dispute nominally over a advertising issue.

As the calendar proclaimed a new decade, new opportunities for Impressionist exhibitions began percolating in Caillebotte’s head as he painted The Bezique Game (1880) within the shifting artistic environment.

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844 –1926) in later years.
Mary Cassatt (American, 1844 –1926) in later years.
Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883).
Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883).
Berthe Morisot (French, 1841-1895) in 1875.
Berthe Morisot (French, 1841-1895) in 1875.

Card games

The game of Bezique is a 64-card game for two players and curiously French. In the game two singles players sit across the net to compete to 1000 points. The rest are score keepers or observers. As the game carries on, card “tricks” pile up on the table.

Some art critics viewing Caillebotte’s contemporary subject of a popular game identified the painting as a “legible and tightly ordered” image out of the long-held pictorial tradition of card playing. Yet idiomatic clichés related to card playing such as “playing one’s cards right” or “holding one’s cards close to the chest” may be read into the painting. It is one of the canvasses painted by impressionist artists during this time that relate to the Impressionist group’s recent and ongoing exhibition experiences.

Nineteenth-century art critics usually grouped together the artwork of Caillebotte and Degas, Neither artist was among the “strict” impressionists such as of Monet and Renoir. Several critics wondered aloud in the newspaper why Caillebotte would even have dealings with those “broken-brush” daubers now at the Salon with Édouard Manet.

4th (1879):

Competition between Degas’s partisans and the mostly younger strict impressionists such as Claude Monet, Renoir, and others, resulted in a schism in 1879. In addition to himself, Degas recruited talented newcomers such as Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931), and Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917) for the 4th.

Edgar Degas, Chevaux de course (Jockeys before the Race), 1869-1872, oil, essence, pastel on paper, 107 x 73 cm, 42 1/8 x 28 3/4 in., The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.
Gustave Caillebotte, The Skiffs, 1877, oil on canvas, 88.9 x 116.2 cm (35 x 45 3/4 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.
Mary Cassatt, Femme dans une loge (Woman in a Loge), 1879, oil on canvas, 80.3 x 58.4 cm (31 5/8 x 23 in.), Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.
Edgar Degas, Miss Lola, au Cirque Fernando, 1879, oil on canvas, 117 x 77.5 cm ( 46 x 30 1/2 in.), National Gallery, London. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.
Claude Monet, Jardin à Sainte-Adresse (Garden at Sainte-Adresse), 1867, oil on canvas, 38 5/8 x 51 1/8 in. (98.1 X 129.9 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.
Jean-Louis Forain, Café Interior, c.1879, gouache on paper, 12 7/8 x 10 in. (32.8 x 25.5 cm). The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.
Federico Zandomeneghi, Portrait of M. Diego Martelli, 1879, oil of canvas, 28 3/8 x 36 1/4 in. (72 x 92 cm), Galleria D’Arte Moderna, Florence. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.

The Third Impressionist Art Exhibition held in April 1877 is known as “Caillebotte’s Exhibition.” It is the highlight of the eight Impressionist exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. While scholars agree that the Third Impressionist Exhibition was in every sense “glorious,” the show’s euphoria was short lived. Two weeks after the show closed, as hope for picture sales grew high, there was a Constitutional crisis in the French government. The political turmoil resulted in a consolidation of Republican power defeating Royalists which led to a national economic recession. The Impressionist group, conceived and carefully built to unity by Gustave Caillebotte, resorted to squabbling as the artists jostled to survive in receding good times.

Gustave Caillebotte’s efforts for a fourth impressionist exhibition in 1878 were stymied and the next 3 exhibitions would be under Degas’s rule. In 1879 Degas exclude the “broken brish” artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Alfred Sisley. In 1880, Degas cast out Claude Monet. The destructive outcome of these intramural politics was not lost on Caillebotte. 

Caillebotte built the group’s brand in the Third Impressionist Art Exhibition in 1877 largely on  “broken brush” impressionists nwho were excluded from Degas’s shows. Caillebotte, however, worked with Edgar Degas and his artistic coterie in 1879, 1880 and 1881. Oy was before the opening of the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in 1881 that Caillebotte finally departed the Degas-led organization. Caillebotte cited differences on an advertising issue.

Yet Caillebotte’s nonparticipation with the Impressionists was short lived.

The 32-year-old Caillebotte looked to a retro-style vision for an Impressionist Art Exhibition in 1882. His emerging partner was 51-year-old Impressionist art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922).

5th (1880):

The Fifth exhibition lost Monet to the Salon which per Degas’s ultimatum excluded the figurehead through which the term “impressionism” received its label in 1874 from exhibiting with the group of independents in 1880. Other broken or free brush painters such as Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot did continue to exhibit in the 5th show. Ironically, critics responded to the truncated, Degas-led show, by wondering out loud what made this Impressionist show any different than a recently liberated Salon. While Morisot and American Mary Cassatt’s artwork received especial attention and praise in the 5th show, the month-long April 1880 show also introduced important newcomers to its Paris audience such as Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and Jean-François Raffaëlli (1850-1924).

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916), La dame en blanc Ithe woman in white), oil on canvas, 180×100 cm. Musée de Cambrai.
Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916), Sur la terrasse à Sèvres, 1880, oil on canvas, 88 x 155 cm, Petit Palais, Geneva.
Félix Henri Bracquemond (1833-1914), Edmond de Goncourt, charcoal on canvas (original), 1880. Louvre. (This is a slightly later 1882 engraving.)
Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), Interior (Woman at the Window), 1880, 116×89 cm, private.
Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), Still Life, 1879, oil on canvas, 50×60 cm, private.
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), Portrait of Madame J. , c. 1880, oil on canvas, 80.6×64.6 cm, The Peabody Institute, Baltimore MD.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Toilette, c. 1879, 21×15.9 cm. Private New York.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), The Dance Examination, pastel and charcoal on paper, 63.4×48.2 cm, Denver Art Museum
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), The Dance Lesson, oil on canvas, 38×86.3 cm, Private Virginia.
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), The Market Gardens of Vaugirard, c. 1879, oil on canvas, 65×100 cm, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton MA.
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), Summer (Young Woman By the Window), oil on canvas, 76×61 cm, Musée Fabre, Montpellier.
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), Woman at Her Toilette, c. 1875, 60.3×80.4 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), portrait (Young Woman Dressed for the Ball), oil on canvas, 71×54 cm, Musée d’Orsay.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), The Woodcutter, 1879, oil on canvas, 89×116.2 cm, Holmes à Court Gallery Australia.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Autumn Path through the Woods, oil on canvas, 81×65 cm, Private Paris.
Jean-François Raffaëlli (1850-1924), Mayor and Town Counselor, oil on canvas, 53.5×73 cm, Private New York.
Henri Rouart (1833-1912), Melun (Terrace on the Banks of the Seine), oil on canvas, 46.5×65.5 cm, Musée d’Orsay.
Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917), Mother and Daughter, 1879, oil on canvas, 62×52 cm, Private Italy.

6th (1881):

Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot continued their impact as the most progressive impressionists according to critics during the 6th Impressionist show in 1881. Morisot’s Nurse and Baby was startlingly abstract to viewers of the 1881 show. Zandomeneghi’s Place d’Anvers quietly inspired artists to explore anew early Renaissance Italian mural painting. Raffaëlli, displaying over 30 works in the 6th show, made a huge impact for his realist, socially aware artwork. The 6th show’s centerpiece was Degas’ statuette of the ballet student in a fabric tutu that put impressionism in 3D and affected modern sculpture going forward. Gustave Caillebotte who had participated in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th impressionist exhibitions (and would the 7th) as well as organized the 3rd, 4th, and 5th (and would the 7th), bowed out of participating at all in the 6th show.

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), The Garden (Lydia Crocheting in the Garden at Marly), oil on canvas, 66×94 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), The Cup of Tea, 1879, oil on canvas, 92.4×65.4 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Cabaret, c. 1877, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., (Formerly, Corcoran Gallery of Art).
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), The Little 14-Year-Old Dancer, wax statuette, c.1881, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Room in a Brothel, monotype in black ink on laid paper, 21×15.9cm, The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, formerly the Stanford University Museum of Art
Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931), Loge d’actrice, 1880, watercolor with gouache, 28×23 cm, private Paris.
J.-B. Armand Guillaumin (1841-1927), Quai de la Rapée, oil on canvas,50×79 cm, Private Paris.
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), Nurse and Baby, 1880, oil on canvas, 50.2 x 61 cm, Private New York.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Thatched Cottages at Val Hermé, 54×64.7 cm, private.
Jean-François Raffaëlli (1850-1924), Les déclassés (Les buveurs d’abstinthe), oil on canvas, 110.2×110.2 cm, Private.
Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917), La place d’anvers, 1880, oil on canvas, 100×135 cm, Galleria d’arte moderna Ricci Oddi Piacenza.

The Seventh Impressionist Art Exhibition: Caillebotte and Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922)

The changing art market in the 1870s had taken a financial toll on the art dealer’s modern art business. Durand-Ruel re-tooled his dealership to focus not on large-scale group shows but small shows of individual artists. Overall the French economy had sunk into hard times and big shows cost more money. Following the disastrous Hôtel Drouot auction in 1875—which Durand-Ruel believed was an attempt by his critics to discredit him as an art dealer—the well-stocked Impressionist art dealer reluctantly agreed to go forward with Caillebotte’s exhibition plan for 1882. Caillebotte convinced the dealer that the Seventh show would earn a small profit.

P.A.-Renoir, A Luncheon at Bougival, 1881, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition – 1882.

Caillebotte’s main hook was to re-integrate the excluded “broken brush” or “strict” impressionists including Renoir and Claude Monet. Degas and his faction of artists including Mary Cassatt stayed away from the Seventh Impressionist exhibition though Paul Gauguin was represented. Also missing was the artist of Aix, Paul Cézanne, who was experimenting with volumes in the south of France. Cézanne would not be seen in a Paris art show until 1895 when a huge body of his work was featured in a landmark retrospective exhibition at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery.

Caillebotte’s first move was to secure the popular Renoir for the upcoming March 1882 show. Renoir sent 24 new works, including his iconic large-format A Luncheon at Bougival (Un déjeuner à Bougival). Durand-Ruel insisted on a standardized presentation, including simple white frames for every work. In addition to Monet and Renoir, the seventh show hailed a triumphant return for Alfred Sisley. Camille Pissarro displayed several paintings of peasant girls. His tiny pseudo-pointillist brushstrokes overlaid with occasional dabs of thicker paint, built up an uneven surface that integrated the figure and background which worked to visually mimic the textures of the sitter’s wool clothing.

Caillebotte, “Rising Road (Chemin Montant).” 1881. The Seventh Impressionist Art Exhibition-1882.

Caillebotte sent 17 works to the show. The Bezique Game (Partie de bésigue) painted in 1880, was joined by Rising Road (Chemin Montant) painted in 1881. This latter work’s path hardly rises—a feature that contributed to the canvas’s mystery. The question was asked whether it was a reprise of the “enhanced perspective” that aggravated critics in 1876 when they saw it in The Floor Scrapers.

Rising Road is painted with a free handling of colors in the loose brushwork style of Monet and Renoir whose closer re-acquaintance Caillebotte made. One critic poked fun at the painting’s mysterious pair as viewers wondered with him who is “the conjugal couple…seen from the back” ? Their identities and location are uncertain although speculation has put Caillebotte in the painting with his lifelong companion Charlotte Berthier.

Rising Road (Chemin Montant) has had only two owners since 1881. It sold in 2003 for nearly $7 million ($6,727,500) at Christie’s in New York City,

7th (1882):

Gustave Caillebotte and Impressionist art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel organized the exhibition which marked the triumphant return of the broken-brush or strict Impressionists, such as Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In many ways it was Renoir’s wide-ranging artwork that was the star of the 7th show.

Gustave Caillebotte, Balcon (Balcony), 1880, oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 24 in. (68 x 61 cm). Private Collection, Paris. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.
Paul Gauguin, A la Fenêtre, nature morte (At the Window, Still Life),1881, oil on canvas, 7.5 x 10.625 in (19 x 27 cm), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.
Jean-Baptiste-Armand Guillaumin (1841-1927), Paysage (fin octobre) (Landscape, End of October), c, 1876, oil on canvas, 17 7/8 x 48 1/8 in. (180 x 123 cm), Nasjonalgallereit, Oslo. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.
Claude Monet (1840-1926), Soleil couchant, sur la Seine, effet d’hiver (Sunset on the Seine, Winter Effect), 1880, oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 59 7/8 (100 x 152 cm), Musée du Petit Palais, Paris. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.
Camille Pissarro, Jeune paysanne prenant son café, (Young Peasant Woman Drinking Her Coffee), 1881, oil on canvas, 65.3 × 54.8 cm (25 11/16 × 21 9/16 in.), The Art Institute of Chicago. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jongleuses au Cirque Fernando, (Jugglers/acrobats at the Cirque Fernando), 1879, oil on canvas, 131.2 × 99.2 cm (51 ½ × 39 1/16 in.), The Art Institute of Chicago. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.
Alfred Sisley, Saint-Mammès, temps gris (Saint-Mammès, Cloudy Weather), c. 1880, oil on canvas, 21 5/8 x 29 1/8 in. (54.8 x 74 cm), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.
Claude Monet, Bouquet de soliels (Bouquet of Sunflowers), c. 1880, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 32 in. (101 x 81.3 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

Sources: 
Charles Moffett, The New Painting, 1986.
Anne Distel, Urban Impressionist, 1995.
Ross King, The Judgment of Paris: The Decade that Gave Us Impressionism, 2006.
John Milner, The Studios of Paris, 1990.
Alfred Werner, Degas Pastels, 1998.
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