1817 - 1878
Charles François Daubigny belonged to a family of painters and engravers: his grandfather; his father, Edme-François; his sister, Rolande; his uncle, Pierre; his aunt, Amélie Dautel; and his son after him were artists. Daubigny studied first with his father, but after his mother’s death he could not adjust to his father’s remarriage. In 1836 he left for Rome, and spent nine months visiting the greatest Italian museums. Back in Paris he was taken on by the painter François Marius Granet, then curator at the Louvre, to restore some of the museum’s paintings. Daubigny freely held these years to be the bleakest hours in his artistic career and professed his distaste for ‘that profanation’. In 1840 he started to work for the historical painter Paul Delaroche. He earned a living by producing decoration for sweet boxes and countless illustrations mostly for wood engravings, being paid 20sous for each. He had intended to compete for the Prix de Rome, but was disqualified by some negligence. His circumstances remained strained, dependent on more illustrations, bills headings, and the like. In 1840 he visited Great Britain for the first time and there is no doubt that he was much taken with John Constable’s paintings, although the influence of the latter on his work remains slight. He was later to engrave from some of Jakob van Ruysdael’s work. Some early successes combined with a small inheritance enabled Daubigny to realise an unusual dream – in 1857 he acquired a ferryboat that he set up as a studio. Henceforward, on board the Botin, he was to lead a wandering life on canals and rivers, exploring the Seine’s entire basin. This prolonged proximity with still waters and drenching fogs did little for his failing health. He was already exhausted when he started on his summer ramble in 1877, and a heart hypertrophy compounded his growing fatigue to cause his death on 21 February 1878.
For his first Salon, in 1838, he presented a View of Paris and the Île St-Louis ( Vue de Paris et de l’Île St-Louis). Thereafter, the works he exhibited at the Salon abound. 1840 Salon: St Jerome View from the Vallée d’Oisans, Isère; 1841 Salon: View from the Banks of the Furon Near Sassenage, Isère ( Vue prise sur les bords du Furon près de Sassenage, dans l’Isère), six etchings of landscapes; 1843 Salon: View Taken in the Vicinity of Choisy-le-Roi; 1844 Salon: Nid de l’Aigle Crossroad, Forest of Fontainebleau; 1845 Salon: six etchings; 1847 Salon: View from Picardy ( Vue prise en Picardie), View from a Brook’s Banks, Valmondois ( Vue prise au bord du ru, Valmondois), Thatched Cottage in Picardy ( Une chaumière en Picardie); 1848 Salon: Tree Stumps, View from Morvan, Corn Field, Banks of the River Cousin near Avallon, View Taken in the Vicinity of Château-Chinon; 1849 Salon: View from Champlay, View from the Banks of the Seine ( Vue prise sur les bords de la Seine), Sunset; 1851 Salon: The Mouche, Small River by the Rhône, View from Optevoz, Isère, Bezons: Îles Vierges, View from near Argenteuil, Barge, Grape Harvest, View from the Banks of the Oullins River near Lyons; 1852 Salon: Harvest ( Moisson), View from the Banks of the Seine in Bezons ( Vue prise sur les bords de la Seine à Bezons); 1853 Salon: Small Optevoz Valley, Isère, Road to a Village; 1855 Salon: Brook Banks in Orgevaux, Seine-et-Oise ( Bords du Ru, à Orgevaux, Seine-et-Oise), Meadow in Valmondois, Seine-et-Oise ( Pré à Valmondois (Seine-et-Oise)), Pool at the Seaside ( Mare au bord de la mer), Lock in the Optevoz Valley ( Écluse dans la vallée d’Optevoz), which was exhibited again at the Champs de Mars in 1867; 1857 Salon: Optevoz Valley, Sunset, Clump of Poplar Trees, Bush, landscape engraved after Ruysdael (Louvre); 1859 Salon: Graves at the Seaside in Villerville, Calvados ( Les Graves au Bord de la Mer, à Villerville (Calvados)), Banks of the River Oise ( Les Bords de l’Oise), Sunset, Moonrise, Fields in Spring; 1861 Salon: Sheepfold in the Morning ( Parc à Moutons, le Matin), The Île de Vaux in Auvers, Val d’Oise, Village near Bonnières ( Un Village près de Bonnières), Moonrise ( Lever de lune), Banks of the River Oise, Ray of Sunlight after Ruysdael’s painting (Louvre); 1863 Salon: Grape Harvest ( La Vendange), Morning, Banks of the River Oise in Auvers, Villerville-sur-Mer, Banks of the River Cure, Morvan; 1865 Salon: St-Cloud Park, Moonlight, Sheepfold, Grape Harvest, etchings; 1866 Salon: Sunrise over the Banks of the River Oise ( Soleil levant, bords de l’Oise), Banks of the River Oise Near Bonneville ( Les Bords de l’Oise, près de Bonneville), Ford ( Le Gué), etching; 1867 Salon (Exposition Universelle): Optevoz Hamlet; 1867 Salon: An Evening in Andrecy, Banks of the Seine; 1868 Salon: Spring, Moonrise. Also worth mentioning are two decorative panels owned by the State: Le Pavillon de Flore and The Tuileries: Palace and Garden. Following the 1857 Salon where he exhibited, among other works, Spring ( Le Printemps), he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, becoming an officer in 1874.
From 1844 his standing as an artist grew, and he was commissioned to decorate the reception rooms of the state ministry at the Louvre. Furthermore, the paintings resulting from his travels on barge-cum-studio were in great demand, to the extent that he was criticised for bucking the market.
Despite this, reviewers were able to identify Daubigny’s technical aptitude, his sincerity, fresh and bright colours, fluid settings, and simple themes as in Spring ( Le Printemps), Sluice Gate ( La Vanne), Optevoz Valley ( La Vallée d’Optevoz), Apple Trees in Bloom ( Les Pommiers en Fleur), and others, lush with spry greens and translucent waters.
Daubigny was no abstract thinker, and he never attempted to suggest anything beyond the subject in hand or to develop any greater concept. He simply painted the countryside, always from nature, just as he saw it. He thus stands in sharp contrast to Théodore Rousseau, whose depth of feeling is quite foreign to Daubigny, or to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, who recreated nature along the Classical lines enshrined by Nicolas Poussin. Daubigny was no exponent of historical painting; his very perception released him from the demands of composition. He painted the landscape to the exclusion of all else; his views include very few or no figures, and when present they are scaled down to mere indications. Oxen figures make the occasional appearance.
Daubigny painted first and foremost water and, as nobody else before him, he did so ‘on the water’, in this respect reminiscent of Claude Monet. He spawned followers throughout the second half of the 19th century until the beginning of World War I, just a few of which are Eugène Louis Boudin, Johan Jongkind, Stanislas Lépine, Antoine Chintreuil, Gustave Courbet, the Maris brothers, Henri Joseph Harpignies, Jules Bastien-Lesage, Léon Lhermitte, Jean Charles Cazin, Antoine Vollon, and Albert Lebourg. His canvases have no other subject but nature; he painted it for its own sake and, as such, is a forerunner of the Impressionists.
He features with great regularity in exhibitions on Romantic landscapes or on the origins of Impressionism, notably in Romanticism and the School of Nature: Nineteenth Century Drawings and Paintings from the Collection of Karen B. Cohen at the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, New York, in 2000.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Amsterdam: Landscape on the Banks of the Oise;View from the Beach
Amsterdam (Stedelijk Mus.): The Île de Vaux
Auvers-sur-Oise (Mus. Daubigny): Moorhen (1874);Cousin Valley
Avignon: The Îles Vierges in Bezons
Bayonne (Mus. Bonnat): Crystal Palace, London;Landscape (two paintings);View of Kérity: Fountain
Berlin: Spring Landscape
Béziers (MBA Hôtel Fabrégat): Banks of the Oise River
Bordeaux (MBA): Banks of the Oise River (1859)
Carcassonne: River in Oullins Near Lyons
Châlons-en-Champagne: St-Cloud Park (1865)
Chantilly (Mus. Condé): View of St-Cloud Palace (1848);Barges in Bezons (before 1878)
Chartres (MBA): Spring (1857)
Detroit (IA): Dordrecht Mills
Dijon (Mus. Magnin): Fallow Land
Fort Worth (Kimbell AM): Valley of the Oise River (1871, oil/panel)
Helsinki (Ateneumin Taidemus.): Rising Moon on the River Bank (1874);Moonlight and Sea;Landscape;Summer Landscape;Dutru;Tripleval
Kassel: Evening at the Seaside
Liège (Mus. of Modern and Contemporary Art): View of Villerville;Wetland;Banks of the Oise River;A Track
Lille (MBA): Banks of the Oise River (1865);Rising Sun, Banks of the Oise River
Limoges: In the Vicinity of Paris
London: River Banks
London (NG): River Scene with Ducks (1859, oil/wood);The Garden Wall (1860–1878, oil/wood);Honoré Daumier (1870–1876, oil on canvas);Alders (1872, oil/wood);Landscape with Cattle by a Stream (1872, oil/wood);St Paul’s from the Surrey Side (1873, oil on canvas)
Lyons (MBA): Seascape (1866);Brook (c. 1860)
Marseilles (Mus. Grobet-Labadié): Graves at the Seaside in Villerville (1859, in addition, a study for this painting);Landscape with River
Minneapolis (IA): Pond in Morvan (1869, oil on canvas);Dunes in Camiers (1871, oil on canvas)
Montreal (MBA): Dieppe Valley
Moscow (State Tretyakov Gal.): A Small Village;Banks of the Oise River;Seashore;Morning;Solitude;Evening in Honfleur
Nantes (MBA): Banks of the Seine Near Mantes (1851)
New York (Metropolitan Mus. of Art): Landscape with a Sunlit River;Boats on the Seacoast in Étaples (1871);Gobelle’s Mill in Optevoz (c. 1852);Apple Blossoms (1873)
Nice: View of Upper Montmartre;Landscape (two paintings)
Paris (Louvre): Banks of the Cousin River near Avallon (c. 1848);Barges (1865);Mill in Gyglieu (1868);Banks of the Oise River (1872);Morning;Pond (1870);A Place in Normandy;Pond with Herons (1857);Setting Sun;The Graves of Villerville (also called Pastures Overlooking the Sea);Sluice Gate in Optevoz (1859);Burgundy Grape Harvest;Pond;Spring;The Great Optevoz Valley (1857, two engravings after Jean Pinas and Claude Lorraine)
Paris (Mus. d’Orsay): River Thames in Erith;Scie Valley near Dieppe (1875);Swamps in the Sunset;Grape Harvest in Burgundy (1863);Boats on the River Oise (1865);Château-Gaillard, les Andelys;Harvest (1851);View of Mont-Valérien;Snowscape in the Setting Sun (1873)
Pontoise: The Stack;View of Bonneville
Pontoise (Mus. Pissarro)
Portland, ME (MA): Herd Walking in the Water (or Evening on the Banks of the Oise River, Île de Veaux) (1874)
Rheims (MBA): Banks of the Oise River;Landscape;Ferryboat;Cliff in Normandy (three landscapes)
Rouen (MBA): Lock in Optevoz Valley, Isère (1855);Morning Light on the River Oise (1866)
San Francisco (California Palace of the Legion of Honor): Village of Gloton (1857);Valmondois (important collection of prints)
St Petersburg (Hermitage): Banks of the Oise River (1875)
The Hague (Rijksmus. Hendrik Willem Mesdag): Old Mother Bazot’s House (1874, 21 other paintings)
Washington, DC (NGA): The Farm (1855, oil on canvas);Washerwomen at the Oise River Near Valmondois (1865, oil/wood);numerous engravings
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