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 Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli  (1824 - 1886)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: landscape, figure and genre painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Adolphe Monticelli
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Birth
1824 (Province, France)
 
Death
1886

Lived/Active
France

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landscape, figure and genre painting

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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.

Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli (October 14, 1824 – June 29, 1886) was a French painter of the generation preceding the Impressionists.

Monticelli was born in Marseille in humble circumstances.  He attended the École Municipale de Dessin in Marseille from 1842 to 1846, and continued his artistic training in Paris, where he studied under Paul Delaroche at the École des Beaux-Arts. In Paris he made copies after the Old Masters in the Louvre, and admired the oil sketches of Eugène Delacroix.  In 1855 he met Narcisse Diaz, a member of the Barbizon school, and the two often painted together in the Fontainebleau Forest. Monticelli frequently adopted Diaz's practice of introducing nudes or elegantly costumed figures into his landscapes.

He developed a highly individual Romantic style of painting, in which richly colored, dappled, textured and glazed surfaces produce a scintillating effect.  He painted courtly subjects inspired by Antoine Watteau; he also painted still lives, portraits, and Orientalist subjects that owe much to the example of Delacroix.

After 1870, Monticelli returned to Marseille, where he would live in poverty despite a prolific output, selling his paintings for small sums.  An unworldly man, he dedicated himself singlemindedly to his art.

The young Paul Cézanne had befriended Monticelli in the 1860s, and the influence of the older painter's work can be seen in Cézanne's work of that decade. Between 1878 and 1884 the two artists often painted landscapes together, once spending a month roaming the Aix countryside. Although Monticelli experimented briefly around 1870 with a treatment of light reflecting the discoveries of the Impressionists, he found the objectivity of this approach uncongenial.
Confronted with criticism of his style of painting Monticelli himself remarked, "I paint for thirty years from now".  The work of this instinctive painter reached its greatest spontaneity in the decade before his death in 1886.

In its painterly freedom Monticelli's work prefigures that of Vincent van Gogh, who greatly admired his work after seeing it in Paris when he arrived there in 1886. Van Gogh immediately adopted a brighter palette and a bolder attack, and later remarked, "I sometimes think I am really continuing that man."  In 1890, Van Gogh and his brother Theo were instrumental in publishing the first book about Monticelli.

Monticelli's reputation grew after his death.  Among his collectors was Oscar Wilde who, after going to prison in 1895, wrote of his bankruptcy in a letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, "De Profundis": "That all my charming things were to be sold: my Burne-Jones drawings: my Whistler drawings: my Monticelli: my Simeon Solomons: my china: my Library..."
Today Monticelli is considered a minor figure in 19th century painting, a painter's painter. In 2005 in The Guardian, Sir Timothy Clifford, director general of the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, chose Monticelli's A Garden Fete as the worst painting in Britain, and commented, "We have been bequested eight paintings by Monticelli, each one more hideous than the last. In my 21 years here, none has been hung because I think Monticelli produces screamingly awful art. I call this one a Fete Worse Than Death."

Source: Wikipedia, Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli


Biography from Schiller & Bodo European Paintings:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Adolphe Monticelli arrived in Paris from his native Provence in 1846 and became a pupil of Paul Delaroche.  Still, the master who was to have the greatest influence over the young Monticelli was N. V. Diaz de la Peña, whom he met when he returned to Paris from 1855 to 1856.

Monticelli’s visits to Paris exposed him to the Rococo Revival, which was being popularized by artists including Diaz, and he started producing scenes of courtly figures in garden settings à la Watteau.  This became a favorite subject, and from the 1860s until the end of his career Monticelli treated numerous variations on the theme.

The Prussian siege of Paris in 1870 forced Monticelli to return to Marseilles. His final sixteen years were his most productive.  The vibrant colors and thick, impastic surfaces of his late works struck a responsive chord in the young Vincent Van Gogh, who collected Monticelli’s paintings and expressed his indebtedness to the older artist’s work.

Museums:
Atlanta, High Museum of Art; Caen, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Compiègne, musée national du château; Dijon, Musée national Magnin; London, National Gallery; Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Marseille, Musée Cantini, Musée des Beaux-Arts; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Paris, Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée national Jean Jacques Henner; Péronne, Musée Alfred Danicourt; Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Strasbourg, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain;

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