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 Gaspard Duche de Vancy  (1756 - 1788)

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Lived/Active: California / France      Known for: portrait, architecture, expedition artist

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Gaspard Duche de Vancy
An example of work by Gaspard Duche de Vancy
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

French painter Gaspard Duche de Vancy is noted for his images of the voyage of exploration of Jean-Francois Galaup de La Perouse in the late 18th century. After studying art in Vienna, Duche de Vancy exhibited in Paris and at the Royal Academy in London. He went on to complete portraits of European royalty and architectural views of Naples and Rome.

Duche de Vancy was a young and well-trained artist living in London when he was chosen as 'draughtsman of landscapes and figures' for La Perouse's ill-fated voyage. The expedition first met disaster in 1786 with the death of twenty-one men in the tide rips of Alaska's Lituya Bay. Samoan Natives on the return trip killed ten more crew members in 1787, and finally the entire crew, including Duche de Vancy, disappeared at sea without a trace in 1788. La Perouse had forwarded to Paris the drawings by Duche de Vancy, but many of his works were lost with the vessel.

Duche de Vancy, like other European artists depicting 'exotic' Native peoples, showed Eskimos with decidedly European bodies and faces, although their clothing is accurately rendered. He did, however, bare the breasts of women in his drawings, as in 'Costumes of the Inhabitants of Port des Francais' (1786), which is an image of a group of Tlingit Natives examining a mirror, beads, cloth, and other items acquired from the La Perouse expedition. Artist-explorers also portrayed decorations such as facial tattooing, often in an exaggerated manner. Presumably such details were to emphasize the artists' cultural view of the Natives 'uncivilized' state. Such emphases were to persist in explorer art throughout most of the 19th century.

Duche de Vancy also holds a place in the history of the art scene of Monterey, California. Artists have long known of that area's scenic richness, beginning as early as 1786, when Duche de Vancy arrived with explorers, the first European artist to visit Monterey.

Woodward Kesler, "Painting in the North"

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Born in France in 1756. Duché de Vancy studied in Paris with Joseph Vien. He was well known for his paintings and engravings in Europe in 1785 when he was selected by the French Government as official artist of the Lapérouse exploring expedition. Arriving in California in 1786, the ship sailed into Monterey Bay where he painted the welcoming scene at Mission San Carlos de Borromeo. This painting gives Duché de Vancy the distinction of being the earliest professional artist known to have painted a California scene. Other views of the northwest coast were dispatched to France and appeared later in the published account of the expedition. Two years after arriving in California, Duché de Vancy died when the expedition was lost in the South Seas. In: Museo Naval (Madrid); Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
First 100 Years of Painting in California (J. Van Nostrand); California Pictorial (Van Nostrand & Coulter); New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America (Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace); Yesterday's Artists on the Monterey Peninsula.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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