Chapter 9 Text

XChapter 9 in BookX


In the year 1836 a young student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where he had studied under Drolling and Picot, entered into the school competition for the Prix de Rome and won it. His name was Felix Auguste Clement, and he was born in 1826 at Donzere, in the Department of Drome. The course of his artistic life began at the Art School of the city of Lyons in 1843, and in 1848 he came to Paris. The four years he spent in Italy as a pensioner of the State proved fruitful in good work. At that time he made a special study of Roman antiquities and history, upon which he based his picture of "The Death of Caesar" and others. After his return to Paris, where he found a profitable market as a portrait painter and for his Italian genre pictures, he became interested in the history of ancient Egypt, and eventually visited that country, where he made a protracted stay and gathered much valuable material. His travels in Egypt were probably more extensive than those of any other modern artist. No ancient ruin was too remote for him to visit, and the mass of studies he made bore fruit on his coming back to France in a powerful picture of "The Destruction of Babylon." He varied his historical compositions by many pictures of Oriental every-day life, and other more familiar subjects, to which his "Morning," a young mother teasing her babe with a spray of ripe cherries, belongs. He took his first medal in 1861, and some ten years ago settled in Brussels, where he had been made a professor at the Academy.

Pompeii was essentially an aristocratic city. It bore pretty much the same relation to Rome that Newport does to New York. That is to say, it was the home of the wealthier class, and even its poor, who served them, were relatively well-to-do compared with the rabble of the Imperial city. The fruit-girl in Miss Coomans' picture is an instance of this.

When Ulysses, after the fall of Troy, as the "Odyssey" relates it, went voyaging in search of adventures, he landed at the island of Aeaea, to the westward of Sicily, which was ruled over by the fairhaired and beautiful sorceress Circe, the daughter of the Sun. Around her wonderful palace, where she sat enthroned on a golden throne, in a pond of lotus and lilies, roved herds of beasts, wolves, lions, tigers, oxen, and the like, which had once been human beings and whom she had transformed by her spells. The companions of Ulysses, feasting and drinking her drugged wine while guests at her palace, were converted by her incantations into swine, but the hero himself, forewarned by Mercury and provided by him with a supply of mystic herb called moly, was proof against her sorcerey. His invulnerability, courage, and manly beauty captivated the lovely witch, and for a year he remained her guest, when, having induced her, out of her love for him, to disenchant his companions, he resumed his voyage. Louis Chalon, the painter, is a native of Paris, and a pupil of Jules Lefebvre and G. Boulanger.

The Blue Grotto, on the island of Capri, at the entrance to the Bay of Naples, is one of the natural wonders of the world. It is a cavern which can be entered only from the sea, whose interior is of magnificent proportions and a wonderful blue color, produced probably by the refraction by the water of the sunlight outside. Thousands of visitors cross the bay from Naples annually to visit the grotto, and the island itself is a favorite resort of artists, quite a colony of whom have formed a permanent settlement there, many of them marrying girls of the country. Jean Benner visited Capri while studying in Italy, and his picture represents a country girl bathing in the Blue Grotto, which is a favorite resort for this purpose during the midsummer heats.

The subject of "A Song Without Words" explains itself. A young girl in an idle mood plays upon a zither the dreamy music whose spell has enchanted half the world. The artists, W. Thorne, is English, a native of London and pupil of the South Kensington Museum School of Art.

Ovid tells the tragical history of Pyramus and Thisbe in the fourth book of his "Metamorphoses." The lovers were natives of Babylon, and tenderly attached to each other, but their parents opposed their union and they had to meet in secret by night. These meetings they arranged by conversing through a crevice in the wall which divided their adjoining gardens. Having made a rendezvous at the tomb of Ninus, in the necropolis outside the city, Thisbe arrived first on the spot, where she encountered a lioness which had just killed an ox, and in her flight while flying from the dreaded beast dropped her garment, which the lioness tore to pieces. When Pyramus reached the tomb he discovered the robe, torn and covered with the blood of the ox, and supposing his mistress to have been killed and devoured, he, in despair, killed himself. Thisbe, having regained her courage, returned only to find her lover dead, whereupon she too committed suicide. Edouard Paupion, the painter of "Thisbe," was born at Dijon and is a pupil of J.L. Gerome. His genre pictures and portraits are highly esteemed and his historical and romantic subjects always well composed and excuted.

The "Evening" of W.A. Bouguereau is a companion picture to his "Morning," which has already been given in his work, and like it is one of the artist's most graceful and tenderly sentimental works. The original, like its companion, is in an American collection.

Edouard Bernard Debat-Ponsan is a favorite French artist, born at Toulouse, and graduated out of the studio of Alexandre Cabanel. Portraits and idyllic subjects like "Spring Flowers," a wood nymph who has been gathering wild flowers, are his specialties. He was first medalled in 1874 and has been a member of the Legion of Honor since 1881.

In "Aspasia" Nathaniel Sichel presents a characteristic impersonation of the famous Athenian Woman, the wife of Pericles, and the most learned woman of antiquity, from whom Socrates himself did not disdain to take advice.

Leon Perrault's picture shows a nymph who has detected Cupid in the act of making her a target for one of his darts, and having captured and disarmed him, is taking her revenge by teasing the malicious little enemy to the peace of mind of her sex.

In ancient mythology, when they had tutelary deities for nearly everything in nature, the riverside was not forgotten. There were two great classes of nymphs, one of the woods and theother of the streams. The riverside nymphs were of an amphibious nature, partaking of the characteristics of both. It is such a fabled beauty whom the artist depicts, slumbering beside the stream whose shore is under her special guardianship. Georges Lefebvre is the son of an artist and was born at Cezy in the Department of Vonne. He received his preliminary education from his father, and was, when sufficiently advanced, sent to paris to study under Gerome.

The "Improvisation" is another example of G. Van den Bos, and represents a young lady upon the terrace of a chateau, improvising an air upon the violin while another lady accompanies her on the harp.

The Isis of the ancient Egyptians was universal throughout Egypt, particularly at Philae and at Bubastis on the Nile, and the annual inundations of that stream were supposed to be caused by her tears. At her death the Egyptians believed that she was translated to the heavens and reincarnated int he star Sothis, which we know as Sirius or the Dog Star. Isis was served in her temples by priestesses of her own sex, one of whom the painter represents, enthroned at the foot of an altar, on the brink of the fountain or pond of the temple. Her long hair is plaited in narrow plaits; on her forehead she wears a golden serpent, the symbol of eternity, and she reposes on the skin of a leopard, one of the innumerable animals sacred to the Egyptian gods. The birds at her feet are sacred ibises, which, like cats, were held to be especially holy members of the world of nature, and were cherished and protected in the temples. Etienne Bonneau was a native of Chanteloup in the Nievre, and his great talent and rapid progress made him a favorite pupil with his master, Alexandre Cabanel. He died young, in 1881, but had already made a high mark and was regarded and regretted as one of the coming leaders in modern French art.

Joseph Coomans, the father of the Misses Heva and Diana Coomans, was a Belgian artist, whose biography will be found in full in a previous division of this work. "The Smile" is one of his favorite and enormously popular Pompeiian subjects, a lady reclining upon a divan and cassting at some admirer a glance of invitation and encouragement. It is one of the most characteristic of this class of works which the painter produced during his long and incessantly active career.

Edouard Bisson, in "La Cigale," gives another interpretation to an old fable of which we have already given versions by several different artists. In this case, they depicted the joyful and merry period of the poor grasshopper's life. Bisson deals with its tragic side. The Spring ablaze with flowers, the Summer basking in the bland beams of the sun, the Autumn fragment with its rich harvests have passed; the cruel Winter, against which the Cigale made no provision, had arrived, and her gay songs are hushed as she shivers, shelterless, in the snow. The artist is a Parisian, a pupil of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and a popular painter of sentimental and decorative subjects.

The "Wood Nymph Reposing" is one of the fine studies of the nude of Emmanuel Benner. This picture was exhibited at the Salon of 1881 and is esteemed the artist's masterpiece. It was by it that he secured his first medal.

Chapter 1 Chapter 1
Chapter 2 Chapter 2
Chapter 3 Chapter 3
Chapter 4 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 6
Chapter 7 Chapter 7
Chapter 8 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 9
Chapter 10 Chapter 10
Chapter 11 Chapter 11
Chapter 12 Chapter 12

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