DEATH: 1864 FLANDRIN
BIRTH: 1824 HUNT
Born on 21 March 1824: William
Morris Hunt, US painter, printmaker, sculptor, who died
on 08 September 1879.
Born in Brattleboro, Vermont, William Morris Hunt spent much of his youth in New Haven, Connecticut. Ill health ended a three-year enrollment at Harvard College, where he had studied sculpture with Henry Kirke Brown (1814-1886). In 1843 he left for Europe, eventually enrolling at the Dusseldorf Academy in Germany. Tiring of its rigid approach to art, Hunt soon departed for France, where he entered the atelier of Thomas Couture (1815-1879). The French instructor was less strict than his German counterparts but still highly structured in his teaching methods. The disenchanted Hunt eventually found his way into the circle of the French Barbizon landscape painters, becoming especially close to Jean François Millet (1814-1875).
Hunt returned to the United States in 1855, settling first in Newport, Rhode Island, and later in Boston, where he became important as both a painter and teacher. He was a powerful artistic force, bringing Boston into contact with European art, particularly that of the Barbizon School. By 1859 Hunt had become a very successful portrait painter. In the years just after the Civil War his commissions reached a peak
Governor's Creek, Florida (1874) Peasant Girl (1852) Agnes Elizabeth Claflin (1873)
Captain William Madigan (1866, 132x92cm) Hunt's strong affiliation with Boston probably led to his being selected to paint this posthumous military portrait of the Boston-born William Madigan. The work was commissioned by Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew during the Civil War and is one of several portraits done by Hunt of Civil War heroes.
Like most of Hunt's portraits of the time, Captain William Madigan is sober and straightforward in execution. As he often did in offcial male portraits, Hunt silhouetted the dark form of the offcer against a light background to produce a bold, imposing image, appropriate for a memorial. His painting techniques at this time varied from a loose, visible brushwork to the smooth, controlled sfumato shown here.
William Madigan served in the Ninth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, also known as the "Irish North." He was killed on 27 June 1862, at the age of thirty-six in the Battle of Chickahominy in Gaines Mill, Virginia. A contemporary account of his regiment recorded:
There [in Virginia] Captain Madigan flourished, a wit and every inch a gentleman; a brave soldier who perished gallantly fighting at the battle of Chickahominy. Madigan was a punster and a vocalist; could tell a pleasing story, or perpetrate a good joke. He was greatly beloved by his brother officers, and his death, noble and patriotic though it was, filled them with profound sorrow.
None of Madigan's light-hearted side is evident in Hunt's appropriately ennobling portrait. He looms large against a very low horizon line, inviting us to look up at him from a somewhat reverential viewpoint. Hunt has cropped the figure at knee length; it is as if Madigan is floating against the sky, no longer of the earth. His posture with hands folded and his somber expression also invite an attitude of veneration. The surrounding space is lacking in extraneous detail, forcing the viewer to remain entirely focused on his image. The only visual detractions are the military decorations on his uniform. The solemnity of the portrayal is heightened by a relentless verticality found not only in the subject's form but also in the row of buttons, the sword, the tassels, and the medal hanging on his chest.
Died on 21 March 1864: Hippolyte-Jean
Flandrin, French artist born on 23 March 1809. Studied under
Flandrin was born in Lyon and died in Rome. He came of a family of poor artisans and was a pupil of the sculptor Legendre and of Revoil. In his education, however, two elements must above all be taken into account. The first is the Lyonnais genius. Various causes, physical and historical, have combined to give the city of Lyon a character all its own. This is twofold — religious and democratic — and the laboring classes have always been an active centre of idealism. This is especially noticeable in its poets, from Maurice Scève to Lamartine. Lyon has also always been the great entrepôt for Italy, and the province was a permanent center of Roman culture.
The second factor in Flandrin's development was the influence of Ingres, without which it is doubtful whether Flandrin would have achieved any fame. In 1829 Flandrin, with his brother Jean-Paul (the landscape painter), went to Paris, where he became a pupil of Ingres, who conceived a paternal affection for him. In Paris the young man experienced the bitterest trials. He was often without a fire, sometimes without bread, but he was sustained by a quiet but unshakable faith, and finally (1832) carried off the Grand Prix de Rome for The Recognition of Theseus by his Father. At Rome, where, after 1834, Ingres was director of the French Academy, his talents expanded and blossomed under the influence of natural beauty, a mild climate, and the noble spectacle of the works of classic and Christian antiquities. He sent thence to the French salons: Dante and Virgil (1835); Euripide (1835); Saint Clare Healing the Blind (1836); Christ Blessing the Children (1837). The serenity of his nature, his chaste sense of form and beauty, his taste for effective disposition of details, his moral elevation, and profound piety, found expression in these early efforts. On his return to Paris, in 1838, he was all intent upon producing great religious works.
At this time there sprang up throughout the French School a powerful reaction against "useless pictures", against the conventional canvases exhibited since the end of the eighteenth century. There was a return to an art more expressive of life, less arbitrary, more mural and decorative. Delacroix, Chassériau, and the aged Ingres were engaged on mural paintings. It was above all, however, the walls of the churches which offered an infinite field to the decorators, to Chassériau, Victor Mottez, Couture, and Amaury Duval (1808-1885). Within fifteen or twenty years this great pictorial movement, all too obscure, left on the walls of the public buildings and churches of Paris pictorial treasures such as had not been seen since the age of Giotto. It is possible, and even probable that the first impulse towards this movement (especially so far as religious paintings are concerned) was due to the Nazarene School. Ingres had known Overbeck (1789-1869) and Steinle at Rome; Flandrin may well have known them. In any case it is these artists whom he resembles above all in purity of sentiment and profound conviction, though he possessed a better artistic education. From 1840 his work is scarcely more than a painstaking revival of religious painting. The artist made it his mission in France to serve art more brilliantly than ever, for the glory of God, and to make beauty, as of old, a source of instruction and an instrument of edification to the great body of the faithful. He found a sort of apostolate before him. He was one of the petits prédicateurs de l'Évangile. Artistic productions in the mid-nineteenth century, as in the Middle Ages, became the Biblia Pauperum.
Henceforth Flandrin's life was passed almost entirely in churches, hovering between heaven and earth on his ladders and scaffolds. His first work in Paris was in the chapel of St-Jean in the church of St-Séverin. He next decorated the sanctuary and choir of the church of St-Germain-des-Prés (1842-48). On either side of the sanctuary he painted Christ's Entry into Jerusalem and The Journey to Calvary, besides the figures of the Apostles and the symbols of the Evangelists. All these are on a gold background with beautiful arabesques which recall the mosaic of Torriti at Santa Maria Maggiore. At St. Paul, Nîmes (1847-49), he painted a lovely garland of virgin martyrs, a prelude to his masterpiece, the frieze in the nave of the church of St-Vincent-de-Paul in Paris. The last is a double procession, developing symmetrically between the two superimposed arches, without any exaggeration, a Christian Panathenæa, as it was called by Théophile Gautier. It might be shown how the ancient Greek theme is subjected, in the work of the modern painter, to a more flexible, less uniform, and more complex rhythm, how the melodic procession, without losing any of its grandeur or its continuity, is strengthened by silences, pauses, cadences.
But it is more important to note the originality in the return to the most authentic sources of Christian iconography. Hitherto painters of this class hardly went back beyond the fourteenth or fifteenth century. But Flandrin turned to the first centuries of the Church, and drew his inspiration from the very fathers of religious thought. In the frieze of St-Vincent-de-Paul fifteen centuries of Christian tradition are unrolled. In 1855 the artist executed a new work in the apse of the church of Ainay near Lyons. On his return he undertook his crowning work, the decoration of the nave of St-Germain-des-Prés. He determined to illustrate the life of Christ, not from an historical, but from a theological, point of view, the point of view of eternity. He dealt less with facts than with ideas. His tendency to parallelism, to symmetry, found its element in the symbolism of the Middle Ages. He took pleasure in considering, according to this system of harmony and relations, the Old Testament as the prototype of the New, the burning bush as representing the Annunciation, and the baptism of Christ as prefiguring the crossing of the Red Sea.
It was, perhaps, the first time since the frescoes of Perugino and Botticelli in the Sistine Chapel, that Christian art returned to its ancient genius. The interrupted tradition was renewed after three centuries of the Renaissance. Unhappily the form, despite its sustained beauty, possesses little originality. It is lacking in personality. The whole series, though exhibiting a high degree of learning and poise, of grace, and even of strength, lacks charm and life. The coloring is flat, crude, and dull, the design neutral, unaccented, and commonplace. It is a miracle of spiritual power that the seriousness of thought, the truth of sentiment, more harsh in the Old Testament, and more tender in the Christian, scenes, glow through this pedantic and poor style. Certain scenes, such as The Nativity, which strongly recalls the Nativity of Giotto at Padua, possess a sweetness which is quite human in their conventional reserve. Others, such as Adam and Eve after the Fall, and The Confusion of Tongues, are marked by real grandeur. This was Flandrin's last work. He was preparing a Last Judgment for the cathedral of Strasbourg, when he went to Rome, where he died.
Apart from his religious work, Flandrin is the author of some very charming portraits. In this branch of painting he is far from possessing the acute and powerful sense of life of which Ingres possessed the secret. Nevertheless, pictures such as the Young Girl with a Pink, and the Young Girl Reading, of the Louvre, will always be admired. Nothing could be more maidenly and yet profound. His portraits of men are at times magnificent. Thus in the Napoléon III of the Versailles Museum the pale massive countenance of Caesar and his dream-troubled eyes reveal the impress of destiny. An admirable Study of a Man in the Museum of the Louvre, is quite "Ingresque" in its perfection, being almost equal to that master's Oedipus. What was lacking to the pupil in order that the artistic side of his work should equal its merits from the religious and philosophic side was the power of always painting in the style displayed in this portrait.
Christ Mourning the City Jesus riding into Jerusalem , with palm fronds strewn in his path. Jeune Homme Nu Assis au Bord de la Mer _ Young Man Beside the Sea: A Study _ Young Man Beside the Sea: A Study (1855)