Monthly Archives: March 2013

“The Future of French Art”: Henri Regnault (1843-1871)

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870).

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870).   Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Henri-Alexandre-Georges Regnault (1843 –1871), a Parisian, began his Salomé in Rome.  The model was Maria Latini, the fiancée of one of Regnault’s friends.  (She also posed for the female sculptor Marcello’s bronze Pythia,  1870, Opéra Garnier, Paris).  Regnault met Maria in Rome, and the painting began there in 1868 or 1869 as a portrait head.  He later enlarged the canvas at the bottom and right and painted his subject as Salomé, completing the work in Tangier in the spring of 1870.  Regnault sold the picture for between 12,000 and 14,000 francs to an art dealer who sold it in March 1870 to the young Paris dealer Paul DurandRuel (1831 – 1922) for 14,000 or 16,000 francs.  Durand-Ruel lent it for exhibition at the 1870 Salon from May 1 through June 20, then sold it for between 35,000 and 36,000 francsSalomé won Regnault his second gold medal.  The acclaimed history painter and sculptor, Ernest Meissonier (1815 – 1891) considered Henri Regnault the future of French art.

English: Henri Victor Regnault Artist: Léon Cr...

Henri Victor Regnault (1810-1878), c. 1861-65.  Albumen silver print by Léon Crémière (1831 – 1872).  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.  Gift of A. Hyatt Mayor, 1967.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regnault began drawing zoo animals by the age of eight, and his father, Victor Regnault (1810 – 1878) – an eminent chemist and physicist — sent his precocious, well-educated second son at age 17 to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which taught drawing but not painting.  Like James Tissot, Regnault first attempted to study painting under Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864), a student of Neoclassical master Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867).  But Flandrin was busy painting frescoes at Saint Germain-des-Prés, and sent him (as he had sent James Tissot) to Louis Lamothe (1822-1869), another former student of Ingres.  Lamothe directed him to copy Italian Renaissance painter Raphael (1483-1520), French Baroque painter Poussin (1594 – 1665), and Ingres.  At the École des Beaux-Arts, Regnault studied with Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889), drawing from nude models.

Regnault entered the prestigious Prix de Rome competition in 1863 but did not win, and at the 1864 Salon, he exhibited two unremarkable portraits.  But in 1866, almost giving up hope, he finally won the Prix de Rome, with Thetis Giving the Weapons of Vulcan to Achilles.  He was still 22.

Self-portrait with a maulstick, by Henri Regnault, c. 1863. Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Georges Clairin (Photo: wikimedia.org)

A Parisian with an expansive dining room had commissioned six large canvases from Henri Regnault and two of his fellow students, Georges Clairin (1843 – 1919, who first exhibited at the 1866 Salon) and Édouard Blanchard (1844–1879, who also studied with Alexandre Cabanel at the École des Beaux-Arts, and who would win the Prix de Rome in 1868).  One of these paintings, Regnault’s Still Life with Pomegranates (c. 1865, now at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia), was exhibited at the 1867 Salon.

Winning the Prix de Rome entitled Regnault to a grant from the French government that funded his travel and living expenses for three years while he studied classical painting at the French Academy in Rome.  He left in March, 1867 with great freedom to learn and explore.  He only was required to send one history painting a year back to Paris.

Friends described Henri Regnault as demanding, arrogant and temperamental, but also fun, generous and compassionate.  He was a well-bred gentleman who enjoyed music, particularly Beethoven, and had a fine singing voice.  He also was athletic and enjoyed hiking, swimming, hunting, and horseback riding.

Regnault sent a portrait of a lady to the 1868 Salon, and he completed the enormous Automedon Taming the Horses of Achilles (1868, 124 x 129.5 inches, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) as the first history painting due in Paris by the terms of his prize.  In August, he and his friend Georges Clairin traveled to Madrid.  At his request, Regnault was permitted to continue to work in locations other than Rome while still funded by his Prix de Rome grant — the first prize winner to receive this special permission.  He studied Diego Velázquez (1599 –1660, an individualistic painter in the court of King Philip IV) and Francisco de Goya (1746 –1828, court painter to the Spanish Crown, known for his bold handling of paint) in the Prado Museum while painting portraits, including that of the liberal revolutionary General Juan Prim y Prats (1869, Musée d’Orsay, Paris).  Regnault loved to paint horses, and he was invited to select the horse from the royal stables for this equestrian portrait.  Although the General rejected it, his life-sized portrait (124 x 102 inches) won a gold medal at the 1869 Salon in Paris and was purchased by the French Government.

Regnault returned to Rome in the spring of 1869, writing his father in March, “Rome now seems to me lighted by a night-lamp.”  By August, he had moved to Spain.  He and Clairin  went to Alicante, then Granada.  But by December, Regnault was in Morocco, and Clairin joined him.  The two painters rented an ancient Moorish house in Tangier where they could work in solitude, waited on by a half-dozen devoted servants. They furnished the place richly with Oriental carpets, textiles and curiosities, and they kept horses and dogs.  Regnault loved his picturesque, sunny and tranquil life there so much that he purchased land and built a studio massive enough to accommodate his largest paintings.  He planned to construct his own house – “a little palace” with stables and dog kennels – there as well.

Under the terms of the Prix de Rome, Regnault was required to send one last history painting back to Paris.  He sent Execution without Judgment under the Moorish Kings (1870, Museé d’Orsay, Paris), to the 1870 Salon.

Execution without Judgment under the Moorish Kings of Granada (1870), by Henri Regnault. Musée d’Orsay. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

And then war was declared between France and Prussia.

The Prix de Rome exempted winners from military duty, but at the outbreak of war between France and Prussia, Henri Regnault joined the ranks of the National Guard defending Paris because he felt he would be only a mediocre officer but a model foot soldier.  He served in the 69th infantry battalion, 4th company, and he prepared for death in combat by attaching to his clothing a card with his name, “Henri Regnault, painter, son of M. Victor Regnault, of the Institute [of France, a learned society],” and some letters and portraits for his Parisian fiancée, with her name and address.  On January 19, 1871, seven miles west of Paris during the Battle of Buzenval [in which James Tissot’s unit also fought], Regnault and Clairin were separated.  The retreat was sounded, and Clairin could not find Regnault.  He returned to Paris without him.

It was reported in the New York Times on January 29, 1871 that Henri Regnault was a Franc-tireur, or sniper.  One of Regnault’s comrades saw Regnault stay behind after the retreat was sounded – to fire his last bullet – and this comrade believed he saw Regnault fall an instant later.  The sculptor Joseph Carlier (1849 – 1927), who himself took three bullets, said he saw Regnault drop.  A contemporary reporter noted, perhaps with a little flair for drama considering that Regnault was shot in the left temple by a Prussian bullet, “When they picked [Regnault] up, he had just strength to point to the address [of his fiancée], and then he was dead.”

In the extensive research I conducted for my novel, The Hammock*, I happened on an eyewitness account from an American volunteer who was on the battlefield digging graves.   He stated that Regnault’s fiancée was there:

“We saw out there the young lady who was soon to have married Henri Regnault.  She was looking for his body among the dead, and found it during the day.  The memory of that sweet, brave girl in that awful scene has lent a pathos to the story of his life and death which I do not get out of the writers and painters who have since dwelt so much and so lovingly upon the subject.”

The distinguished painter and sculptor Ernest Meissonnier claimed to have personally retrieved Regnault’s corpse from the battlefield, but Regnault’s biographer writes that a medical volunteer had located his body the morning after the battle, and that it was moved the next day with two hundred others from the battlefield to the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Henri Regnault’s funeral service at the new Church of St. Augustine was packed with hundreds of mourners – politicians, soldiers, poets and painters – and the crowd spilled outside the entrance.  Meissonnier delivered the oration at the funeral, held on Friday, January 27 – the day before France surrendered to Prussia.  It is said that Regnault’s fiancée, Mademoiselle Geneviève Bréton (1849 – 1918), set a small bouquet of white lilacs on his casket.

Only twenty-seven when he died, Regnault left sixty-five oil paintings, forty-five water colors, nearly two hundred sketches, and a reputation as a genius – the greatest French painter of his generation.

Henri Regnault (1871), by Louis-Ernest Barrias. Musée d’Orsay. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

For years, Regnault’s friends met on the day and at the place that he was killed, where a monument was erected to his memory.  Among the other tributes to Regnault was Marche héroïque (1871), by his friend, the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921), who also had served in the National Guard.  Louis-Ernest Barrias (1841 – 1905) sculpted a bronze bust of Regnault, now at the Museé d’Orsay, in 1871.  Henri Chapu (1833 – 1891) sculpted a monument to the students of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris who died defending Paris in 1870-71.  The monument, incorporating a bronze bust of Regnault by Charles Degeorge (1837 – 1888), in the courtyard of the École, was erected in 1872 by the pupils there at the time of a memorial exhibition for Regnault.  The French government bought Regnault’s Execution without Judgment from his heirs in 1872, to honor his memory.

The Siege of Paris, 1870-1871 (c. 1884), by Ernest Meissonier. Musée d’Orsay. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Meissonier completed his heroic painting, The Siege of Paris, 1870, around 1884; it features the fallen Regnault leaning against the pedestal in the center.

For years, Henri Regnault’s Salomé was considered a masterpiece of contemporary art.  When it was put up for sale by a private collector in 1912, Baron Henri de Rothschild tried to raise the funds necessary to keep the painting in France.  He was outbid for the purchase price of 528,000 francs, and Salomé was presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1916, where it continues to shimmer with the youth and promise of its creator.

CH377762[*] In my book, The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, Henri Regnault is killed in the Battle of Malmaison on October 21, 1870 [in which he likely fought] rather than in the  Battle of Buzenval on January 19, 1871.  I included him in my opening chapter to depict the caliber of the artists fighting to defend Paris.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Exhibition notes:

James Tissot: Painting the Victorian Woman

The Hepworth, Wakefield, U.K., March 28 to November 3, 2013

“Taking the much cherished painting On the Thames, 1876, from our collection as a starting point, this new collection display explores the representation of women in the work of French born artist, James Tissot (1836-1902).

The display will also feature loans from Tate and several regional art galleries, and will discuss the portrayal of Victorian femininity in relation to Tissot’s life-history and the contrasting roles of women in the region’s coal industry.”

For more information:   www.hepworthwakefield.org

Advertisements

Courage & Cowardice: The Impressionists at War, 1870 (Part 2 of 2)

French National Guard soldier with Tabatière rifle (wikimedia.org)

From September 1870 on, every able-bodied Frenchman enlisted in the National Guard, a hastily-organized, inexperienced militia protecting Paris.  The volunteers were mostly assigned tasks such as standing guard at the city walls or public buildings.  The illustrious Parisian painter of well-dressed women, Alfred Stevens (1823 – 1906) joined the National Guard.  Stevens was a Belgian citizen but had resided in Paris since he was 20; now 47, he was assigned to a unit which did not see much action.  Even Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826 – 1889), a German painter who, like Stevens, had settled in Paris around 1843, served in the National Guard.  [Édouard Manet and Heilbuth had become good friends over the past summer, and James Tissot and Heilbuth would become close within the next few years.  Tissot had long been friends with Alfred Stevens.]

In September, 1870, Edgar Degas, now 36, was working on the coast.  He returned to Paris and enlisted in an infantry unit with the National Guard.  When he could not see the target clearly at rifle practice, he realized he was losing vision in his right eye.  He told another friend that it had been confirmed that his eye was almost useless, and he blamed this on the fact that he had been sleeping in a damp attic.

Édouard Manet closed his Paris studio and sent his family (his mother, his wife, Suzanne, and Suzanne’s 18-year-old “brother,” Léon Leenhoff), to stay with friends tucked away safely in Oloron-Sainte-Marie near the Pyrenees mountains, north of the Spanish border.  He transported a dozen of his most important paintings, including Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1862-63) and Olympia (1863) to the cellar of a friend’s house, and took the remainder to the cellar of the family home in Paris, where he stayed with his brothers Gustave and Eugène.  On September 10, Manet wrote to Suzanne, “I’m surprised we have not had to lodge any militiamen, everyone in the neighborhood has them….  I hope this won’t last long.”

Berthe Morisot, 29, remained in Paris with her mother and father at their house in Passy.  Her father, Chief Clerk of the Audit Office, was required to stay in Paris.  He wanted his wife and daughter to leave, and Édouard Manet tried his best to scare the Morisot women into leaving, but they stood firm.  “I am not worried,” Madame Morisot wrote, “I think we will survive.”  By September 12, National Guard soldiers were quartered in their studio, and Berthe could not paint.

On September 19, 200,000 Prussian troops encircled Paris in attempt to starve the French into submission.  No one could enter or leave the city; all communication between the French capital and the outside world was cut off.  The Siege of Paris had begun.

Later that month, Berthe wrote to her married sister, Edma, “I have heard so much about the perils ahead that I have had nightmares for several nights.”  She added, “Would you believe that I am being accustomed to the sound of the cannon?  It seems to me that I am now absolutely inured to war and capable of enduring anything.”

Édouard Manet - Le repos

Repose, by Édouard Manet, c. 1871, depicting Berthe Morisot in Manet’s Paris studio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Manet wrote to Suzanne, “Paris is now a huge camp — from 5 a.m. until evening, the militia and the National Guards not on duty do drill and are turning into real soldiers.”  By the end of September, the National Guard comprised nearly 200,000 men.  When not on duty, they could live at home – or in tents pitched along the boulevards and avenues, or at the fortifications.  The government provided their uniforms and food and paid them 30 sous a day.  Many militiamen, undisciplined and bored, spent their salary getting drunk.  As the war continued, the National Guardsmen were predominately from the poor sections of Paris.  Frédéric Bazille (who would die in battle on November 28, 1870) wrote that they were “a filthy, greasy lot,” adding, “I can’t imagine where they’ve all crawled from.”

Self-portrait. Oil on canvas, 925 x 665mm (36 ...

Edgar Degas, self-portrait, c. 1863. Oil on canvas, 925 x 665mm (36 3/8 x 26 1/8″). Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon. London only. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In early October, Degas was transferred to the artillery and was posted to the Bastion 12 fortifications, just north of the Bois de Vincennes, a large public park on the eastern edge of Paris created by order of Napoleon III between 1855 and 1866.  He served under the command of his old school friend, the engineer and entrepreneur Henri Rouart.  On October 16, Berthe Morisot’s mother wrote to her daughter Yves, “Monsieur Degas has joined the artillery, and by his own account has not yet heard a cannon go off.  He is looking for an opportunity to hear that sound because he wants to know whether he can endure the detonation of his guns.”  Here, well east of the action, Degas had the leisure to read and draw.

Ernest Meissonnier, self-portrait c. 1865 (wikimedia.org)

Manet’s brothers both were conscripted into the Garde Mobile, a unit of the National Guard.  In November 1870, Édouard Manet was conscripted as a gunner in an artillery unit of the National Guard protecting Paris, along with Degas.  He was commissioned a lieutenant.  Soon he was on maneuvers with Degas for two hours a day in ankle-deep mud.  By December 7, he had left the artillery, which he said was “too demanding” on a soldier of 39, to be transferred to the general staff headquarters in company with the acclaimed painter and sculptor Ernest Meissonier (now 55, and a grandfather) and other painters.  Meissonier’s assignment was to inspect the protective walls and fortresses encircling Paris.  At the headquarters, Manet said, he could “be safe while being able to see everything.”

As for Édouard Manet’s protégée, Eva Gonzalès, she had fled with her family to Dieppe, a French port on the English Channel, where the twenty-one-year-old received many letters from Manet describing conditions in Paris as well as sentiments such as, “Of all the privations the siege is inflicting upon us, that of not seeing you any more is certainly one of the hardest to bear.”  But he told her that he had no excuse for wasting his time, as he carried his paintbox and portable easel in his military kitbag.  He sketched scenes of the people and activities around him (such as his National Guard comrades, and Parisians in line at the butcher shop), writing his wife that these pictures would become valuable souvenirs of the war.

Édouard Manet (wikimedia.org)

In a November 19 letter to Gonzalès, Manet wrote, “A lot of cowards have left here, including Zola, Fantin, etc. I don’t think they’ll be very well received when they return.”  In early September, 1870 the writer Émile Zola, 30, had fled to Marseilles in southeastern France with his mother and his new wife, Alexandrine, joining Cézanne (his childhood friend) and his mistress.  Around Christmas, Zola and his wife went to Bordeaux, in southwestern France.  Thirty-four-year-old painter Henri Fantin-Latour holed up in the cellar of his Paris studio.  Manet later called Gustave Courbet a coward as well – and not only because Courbet, a socialist and pacifist who did not join the National Guard, sewed a red stripe up his trouser legs in imitation of a military uniform.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

How much do you know about the Impressionists & War?  Take my quiz on goodreads.com!

CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).  See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

Exhibition Notes:

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity                                                                          February 26 – May 27, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries. Some eighty major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, will highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world.

For more information, visit

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2013/impressionism-fashion-modernity

Courage & Cowardice: The Impressionists at War, 1870 (Part 1 of 2)

CH377762NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

By September, 1870, Channel boats were lined up to ferry people to safety in England.

English: , Dutch-British painter

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, who had been working in Paris over the summer but who lived in Brussels, boarded a Channel boat at the beginning of September 1870* with his two small daughters and his sister Artje.  In London, he rented a house and studio at 4 Camden Square that belonged to British artist Frederick Goodall (Goodall, who like Alma-Tadema was one of the dealer Ernest Gambart’s artists, was travelling in Egypt).  Alma-Tadema immediately arranged to give painting lessons to Laura Epps, now 18, whom he had met and fallen in love with on a trip to London in December 1869.  Laura, a doctor’s daughter with two sisters who also studied painting, modeled for In the temple (No 132, 1871).  The thirty-four-year-old Alma-Tadema proposed marriage, and though her father at first was opposed, he finally agreed as long as they would wait and get to know each other better first.

Portrait of the painter Claude Monet

Portrait of the painter Claude Monet, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the news of Napoleon’s surrender on September 2, 29-year-old socialist Claude Monet left for London to avoid the war – without his former model and new wife, Camille, and their infant son, Jean, both of whom joined him later.  They first lived at 11, Arundel Street, near Piccadilly Circus and then moved to 1, Bath Place, Kensington.

Paul Cézanne, 31, also dodged the draft.  He took his twenty-year-old model and mistress, Hortense Fiquet – whom he had met the previous year — nearly twenty miles north of Marseilles to Aix-en-Provence, where he had been raised.  When the authorities came after him, he and Hortense fled to L’Estaque, a remote fishing village closer to Marseilles.

Camille Pissarro, now 40, was a socialist willing to fight for his ideals but unwilling to fight for Napoleon III.  In September, he fled from Louveciennes (west of Paris) with his pregnant mistress, Julie Vellay, a vineyard grower’s daughter and his mother’s maid, and his two children, Jeanne (called Minette, age 5) and Lucien (age 7).  They took refuge at a friend’s farm in Brittany.  The baby died at birth on November 5, and Pissarro wanted his family to be safe.  Since he was born on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, which was owned by Denmark, he was legally Danish.  He had lived in Paris only since 1855.  He wrote to his mother in London, and she replied, “You are not French.  Don’t do anything rash.”  By Christmas, 1870, Pissarro took his family to England, where they joined his mother and family living south of London in Upper Norwood.

www.camille-pissarro.org, Self-Portrait,-1873

Camille Pissarro, Self-Portrait (www.camille-pissarro.org)

Renoir by Bazille

Renoir by Bazille, 1867 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 29, was offered a staff post with the 10th Chasseurs, a light cavalry unit, in October.  Born to a working-class family, Renoir became an accomplished cavalryman, an opportunity usually open only to the sons of aristocrats.  Renoir also gave painting lessons to the daughter of the captain.  He was a pacifist, and he was terrified of gunfire, but as it happened, he did not see any action.  He first was sent to Bordeaux in southwestern France, then to nearby Libourne, where he became so ill with dysentery that he nearly died.  He ended up convalescing with an uncle in Bordeaux and later at his parents’ house in Louveciennes.

Bazille, Frédéric - Self Portrait

Frédéric Bazille – Self Portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frédéric Bazille joined the Third Regiment of the Zouaves, a light infantry regiment, in mid-August 1870.  By October, Bazille was in a village near Besançon in eastern France, and not having seen a single Prussian soldier yet, he was frustrated.  But on November 28, in the minor Battle of Beaune-la-Rolande near Orléans (about 80 miles southwest of Paris), when Bazille’s officer was injured, Bazille took command.  He led an assault on the Prussians – an unsuccessful one – and Bazille was struck twice during the retreat.  He died on the battlefield at age 28.  His father claimed his body from the snow and buried Bazille at Montpelier the following week.  Some of Bazille’s friends, such as Édouard Manet, did not learn of his death until February, 1871.

Alfred Sisley, a 31-year-old painter in Édouard Manet’s circle, lived near the avenue de Clichy in Paris, and his wealthy and cultivated parents lived in Bougival, west of Paris.  Sisley’s parents were English, but he was born in France and brought up in the capital.  He retained British citizenship though he had never mastered the English language.  Sisley lost everything he owned, and most of his paintings were looted or destroyed, when Prussian troops ransacked the family’s estate along with the town of Bougival.  By 1870, Sisley had been involved with Marie Louise Adélaïde Eugénie Lescouezec a 36-year-old artist’s model and florist from Brittany, for four years.  Sisley and she now had a three-year old son, Pierre, and an infant daughter, Jeanne.  Sisley traveled to London, where – like Monet and Pissarro — he met the art dealer Durand-Ruel and became one of his stable of artists.

Portrait of Alfred Sisley, painted by Pierre-A...

Portrait of Alfred Sisley, painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1868 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul Durand-Ruel, 39, also had fled Paris — with a hoard of paintings, many entrusted to him for safekeeping by various artists.  On December 10, 1870, he opened his first Annual Exhibition of the Society of French Artists at his new gallery at 168 New Bond Street.  Though there was no opportunity to exhibit or sell paintings in France during the war, the British would see the newest art from Paris.  It was mostly ignored – until British artists, trying to earn a living selling to the same pool of patrons, eventually became threatened by this different kind of siege.

 

Lawrence Alma-Tadema*, in my book, The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot © 2012, remains in Paris through Christmas, 1870 so that I can introduce him in the second chapter.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

How much do you know about the Impressionists & War?  Take my quiz on goodreads.com!

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).  See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

Exhibition Notes:

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity                                                                          February 26 – May 27, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries. Some eighty major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, will highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world.

 For more information, visit

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2013/impressionism-fashion-modernity

James Tissot & Tommy Bowles Brave the Siege Together: October 1870

CH377762NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

Tommy Bowles [Thomas Gibson Bowles, 1841 – 1922)] at 29 had met the challenge of establishing the Society magazine, Vanity Fair, which was now a profitable business.  On Tuesday, September 6, 1870, he was cruising in his yacht up the Southampton Water, fishing on the Cornwall coast, when he went ashore and read about Napoleon III’s surrender in the newspapers.  A republic had been established, and with or without the emperor, France was at war with Prussia.  Tommy took the first train to London, obtained a passport, and soon was busy in Paris as a war correspondent for the Morning Post.  “I know a considerable number of people here,” he wrote, “but I find that they have one and all fled.  Lodging is naturally extraordinarily cheap.”  He found a “splendid suite of apartments – some ten white-and-gold rooms” with a long balcony overlooking the boulevard, for just six francs a day.

Because there were not enough French troops, a National Guard – a volunteer militia independent of the regular army – was forming to defend Paris.  On Friday, September 9, Tommy was surveying the scene of Garde Mobile squads drilling or wandering around along the avenue de l’Impératrice [near James Tissot’s sumptuous villa at No. 64], “when my hand was suddenly seized, and I found myself talking to one of my smartest Parisian friends [James Tissot] who had donned the blue uniform like everybody else.  He was delighted to see me.”  Tissot promised that if there was a sortie, he would make sure that Tommy had the chance to see some action.  [Tissot scholar Willard E. Misfeldt learned that James Tissot actually had enlisted in the Garde Nationale de la Seine, the Fourth Company of the Eighteenth Battalion, in 1855 – as soon as he had arrived in Paris at age 19.]

Ten days later, on September 19, 200,000 Prussian troops encircled Paris in attempt to starve the French into submission.  No food could enter the city; all communication between the French capital and the outside world was cut off.  The Siege of Paris had begun.

French soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71 (Wikimedia.org)

By September 28, Paris residents were erecting a barricade on the straight, short and splendidly wide avenue de l’Impératrice (Empress Avenue), which led to the recreational grounds at the Bois de Boulogne.  It soon would be renamed avenue Uhrich after the hero of the Siege of Strasbourg, General Uhrich.

On October 3, Tommy Bowles recorded an unexpected guest in his luxurious rented lodgings:

France

James Tissot, self-portrait, 1865 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A friend [James Tissot] has turned up in a promiscuous, beleaguered sort of way, and has come to share my lodgings and to relieve with his society the tedium of waiting for the bombs.  We neither of us have got any money left, but we propose to support each other by our mutual credit, to fish each other out of the prison that yawns in the mouth of every Garde Nationale, and to share our last rat together.  Meantime we are not greatly to be pitied.  Our joint domestic, Jean, one of those handy creatures yet to be invented in England, makes our beds, scrubs the floor, brushes the clothes, cooks like a cordon bleu, and is, as we believe and fervently hope, capable of producing any explanation or invention that may be required by persons in search of payment.  He has been especially successful as regards meat.”

The British journalist and the French painter shared a mischievous sense of humor – and strong survival instincts.  After nine days together, on October 12, Tommy noted:

“We are all being put upon rations, and are to share and share alike the meat left, according to the number in each family.  My friend and I have returned ourselves as two families, and if our supply runs short we mean to make a touching appeal for our starving children and wives.  We have also brought our birthdays into the present month, and we expect our friends in Paris to give us at least a leg of mutton each as presents.”

Elihu B. Washburne (Wikimedia.org)

By that same day, October 12, the military operations had driven even Elihu Washburne (1816 – 1887), the United States Minister to France, out of his house at No. 75, at the end of the former avenue de l’Impératrice near the Porte Dauphine, the gate in the city wall opening into the Bois de Boulogne.  The avenue was filled with troops.

The lush woods of the Bois de Boulogne, planted only fifteen years ago when Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann began turning Paris into the showpiece of Europe, was nothing but pointed stumps for a hundred yards.  The gilded ornamental gates of the Porte Dauphine at the western end of the avenue had been removed and thrown off on the ground, replaced by a rough wooden drawbridge leading to a thirty-foot mound of earth.  On it stood two rows of palisades, and from openings in the rampart, cannons pointed down upon any Prussian troops attempting to enter Paris from the west.

By October 22, the eastern end was blocked — entry from the city to what was now called the avenue Uhrich was cut off by a barricade at the Arc de Triomphe.

But by then, James Tissot was armed and fighting on the front line – as well as saving lives as a Red Cross stretcher-bearer.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Oil on canvas

L’Attaque (Attack!) by Étienne-Prosper Berne-Bellecour (1838 — 1910). (Photo: Wikipedia)