PAINTING IN FRANCE.

In the early part of the eighteenth century Joseph Marie Vien (1716-1809) returned to the classic style of painting, and created a feeling against the pretty manner which had been the chief feature of French pictures for some time. His pictures are very numerous in the churches and galleries of Paris. He was not a great painter, but he marks a change in the spirit of French painting. Vien was the teacher of Jacques Louis David (1748-1825), who was considered the first painter in modern art at the close of the eighteenth century. He was so devoted to the classic style that he took the remains of ancient art as models for the figures in his pictures. His groups are like groups of statues, and his flesh looks like marble, it is so hard and lifeless. During the time of the first Napoleon this style was carried to excess in everything connected with the arts. David was such a favorite with the emperor that after the return of the Bourbons he was banished, and his family were not allowed to bury him in France. He lived in Brussels, and executed many of his best pictures there.

Fig 68 Fig. 68.—The Sabine Women. David.

Antoine Jean Gros (1771-1835) was a great admirer of David, and first attracted attention in 1801 by a picture of “Bonaparte on the Bridge of Arcola.” After this Gros painted many such works, and principally represented military events. Many of his pictures are very coarse. The “Plague at Jaffa” and the “Field of Eylau” are of this type, and the first is disgusting. Among his best works is “Francis I. and Charles V. visiting the Tombs at St. Denis.” But although he received many honors, and was made a baron by Charles X., he could not bear the criticism which was made upon his pictures, and finally drowned himself in the Seine near Meudon.

Paul Delaroche (1797-1856) was born at Paris, and studied under Baron Gros. He became a celebrated artist and was made a member of the Institute of France, a Professor in l’École des Beaux-Arts, and an officer of the Legion of Honor. His principal works represent scenes of important historical interest, and he so arranged them that they appeal to one’s sympathies with great power. Among these pictures are the “Condemnation of Marie Antoinette,” the “Death of the Duke of Guise,” “Cromwell Contemplating the Remains of Charles I.,” and other similar historical incidents. His design was according to academical rules; but he was not entirely conventional, and in some of his religious pictures there was much expression and deep feeling.

Fig 69 Fig. 69.—Death of the Duke of Guise. Delaroche.

His largest and most famous work is the “Hemicycle,” in l’École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. He was occupied with this painting during three years; it contains seventy-five figures of life size. The arts of different countries and ages are represented in it by portraits of the artists of the times and nations typified. Thus it is very interesting when considered merely as a great collection of portraits. Delaroche married the daughter of Horace Vernet, and it is said that the figure which stands for Gothic Architecture is a portrait of her. The Hemicycle is richly colored, and has a great deal of fine painting in it; but from its very nature it has no dramatic power, and does not arouse any deep sentiment in one who studies it. Delaroche was paid only about fifteen thousand dollars for this great labor, and refused to have any further reward.

Perhaps none of his works are more powerful than the “Death of the Duke of Guise.” You will easily recall the circumstances of his assassination: the painter has so represented it that one really forgets that it is a picture, and can only remember the horror of the crime. The corpse of the duke is on one side of the immense chamber, near the bed; the assassins are in a terrified group on the other side, and with them the cowardly king, who was absolutely afraid of the dead body of his victim. The picture is a remarkable instance of the power that may be given to what is sometimes called historical-genre art. This picture was sold in 1853 for ten thousand five hundred dollars (Fig. 69).

Jean Louis Géricault (1791-1824). He was born at Rouen, and studied first under Guérin and then in Rome. He was the first master of any power who entirely dismissed the influence of the art of David with its marble flesh and statuesque effect. The one great work by which he is known is the “Wreck of the Medusa,” which is in the Louvre, and which may be said to mark the advent of the modern French school.