donderdag, maart 27, 2014

Horace Vernet

Horace Vernet: l'Atelier, 1822.

"In 1822, French artist Horace Vernet painted l'Atelier, a picture which, through the many engravings made of it, was to become an extremely popular image with the public. In it, Vernet, who stands just off center with his back to the viewer, is fencing with his pupil Ledieu, in what can only be a brief distraction from painting, as the two men still hold their palettes and brushes in their left hands as they trade blows with the foils in their right hands. Duchesne, another of Vernet's students, rests nearby against a chair, casually holding a rifle. Artist Robert Fleury sits at an easel in the left hand of the image while Monsieur de Forbin, Director of Museums for France, closely observes. Just behind de Forbin, painter and engraver Eugène Lami leans on a piano, played by the composer Amédée de Beauplan, and blows a horn while another man, Montcarville, accompanies him on the drum. Among the remaining inhabitants of the room, there are soldiers (in fact, almost every man in the painting was at one time a soldier), a man reading a newspaper (Colonel Jean-Charles Langlois), two resting boxers (Monfort and Lehoux, two more of Vernet's students), a dog barking at a deer, a monkey sitting upon the shoulder of Vernet's pupil Ladurner, and last, but not least, Le Régent, the not-so-inconspicuos white horse in the back corner of the room. Though in actuality a radical political image with thinly veiled allusions to Bonapartist loyalties, most saw it as one in a long-line of pictures of artists in their studios, especially in later years, when items within the work, such as the outlawed black hat hanging on the wall, had lost their significance.

Though friends did confirm that the actual attic studio which Vernet depicted was often a real-life scene of crowds and rowdiness, it is unlikely that the chaos he portrayed was anything but fictional. Vernet's friend, Charlet, in reaction to the public's belief in the veracity of the scene, commented: "People imagine him all the time fencing with one hand and painting with the other : horn-playing here, boxing there. Rubbish! He knows well enough how to shut himself away when he writes his letters and only addresses the envelopes when in company."¹ In other words, Vernet knew when to buckle down and paint, and knew also when to put on a show for the public. Yet the populace believed that this scene was typical of the working habits of artists.

Why was it so easy for the public to believe that this was the life of the artist? Certainly artists contributed to the idea; many artists in the 19th century relished portraying themselves as eccentric outsiders, and would have themselves photographed in staged poses, wearing such items as velvet smoking jackets and fezzes while painting. But what seems more likely as a contributing factor to the view that an artist's life was filled with frivolity and ease is a miscomprehension on the part of the public as to the idea of talent, and what role talent plays in making a painting.
...." (bron: Underpaintings)

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