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 Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret  (1852 - 1929)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret
Facts/Data
Birth
1852 (Paris, France)
 
Death
1929 (Quincey, France)

Lived/Active
France




Often Known For
painting

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Biography from Sotheby's New York:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

By 1900, Dagnan-Bouveret had shifted from his naturalist subjects of the late nineteenth century to religious scenes inspired by Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelite artists, commissioned portraits, and works revealing a symbolist influence, such as Sur les cimes (On the Summit).  In this painting, a mysterious maiden sits atop a mountain, dressed in a white robe and veil which swirl around her body like snow, her hair tinged with white frost, and her skin nearly as pale as the ice crystals set in a stone cistern beside her; behind her, a far-distant valley bordered by cold blue mountains and a glacial lake suggest a remote, frozen locale.  Without identifiable allegorical or mythological sources, the viewer is left to ponder the mystical origins of this haunting woman. The allusive subject of Sur les cimes recalls Dagan-Bouveret's earlier compositions like In the Meadow and In the Forest of 1893 which attracted the attention of critics and fellow artists aligned with the symbolist movement.  In these paintings a recognizable scene — a woman tending her cow, a group of peasants taking a break from work to listen to music — is infused with a moody atmosphere and a surreal suggestion of the relationship between people and nature(Weisberg, pp. 100-3).  As a critic for La Liberté noted, with such compositions Dagnan-Bouveret, like Edmond François Aman-Jean or Edward Burne-Jones, brought the "poetry out of a reality that is strictly observed andcaptured" (A. Pallier, "Le Salon de 1893, Champs de Mars, Les Poètes," La Liberté, May 9, 1893, p. 2, as quoted inWeisberg, p. 103).

Sur les cimes inspired a similar response, and a writer for the Art Journal linked the wintry color palette with a particular emotion: "the white and blue tones are cleverly handled, and the idea of solitude and vast distance well conveyed" ("The Paris Salons," p. 212). The isolation of the female figure puzzled some, but her mysterious presence could serve as a starting point for the imagination, a way to bring out what is hidden in the subconscious.  The ice queen's commanding stare suggests the inexplicable power of female beauty, a common component of symbolist "portraits" of women. Among those admirers of Sur le cimes, Dagnan-Bouveret himself seemed to have been particularly haunted by its beauty.  Despite some mixed reviews, Sur les cimes was quickly reproduced as a photograph by Braun suggesting its popularity.  Interestingly, the artist applied pastel over a copy of this same photograph to create a smaller replique of the oil, faithful to the original both in composition and mood.  This pastel was acquired by Albert May Todd, a wealthy peppermint grower and manufacturer in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and in 2000 it was exhibited by the Kalamazoo Valley Museum among other works by Gaston Bussière, Jules-Alexis Muenier, Jean Jacques Henner and American artistsmaking up the larger Todd Collection.  In the accompanying catalogue, Dr. Gabriel P. Weisberg investigates the pastel's history and suggests that it points to the artist's particular affection for the composition and its model, Jeanne Dortzal (Weisberg, "French Anti-Modern, p. 43, note 13).

Dortzal's biography is as dramatic as the painting she inspired.  In 1899, The New York Times reported of the debut of Dortzal, "a young actress" and beauty competition winner born in 1878 in Nemours, Algeria; she was already famous for inspiring a duel between an "Arab sheik" and a "French naval officer" before running away to Paris ("The Drama," The New York Times, July 16, 1899). Accompanying the article is a sketched portrait of Dortzal, then twentyone,
bearing an almost identical likeness to the model of Sur les cimes painted four years later (it is yet to be determined if Dagnan-Bouveret created this sketch). I n the years following Sur les cimes' exhibition at the Paris Salon, a writer for La revue noted that Dortzal was the "mysterious beauty who inspired the painter Dagnan-Bouveret" ("Nos poètes," La Revue, vol. IX, September 1908, p. 390).  She was also celebrated as a poetess, who authored lyrical works with romantically haunting titles like Vers l'infini.  Dagnan-Bouveret captured Dortzal's likeness a number of times, including an illustration for a March 1912 article in The Theater, in which her pose and posture closely recall Sur les cimes.

In 1910, Sur les cimes, then known as Femme en blanc, was sold in the auction of Franz Goerg's collection, which included equally dreamy compositions of women by the French symbolist painter Eugene Carrière and Henri Fantin-Latour.  After the sale, the work was believed to be part of a South American collection, but its exact whereabouts remained unknown until today.  Now, after 100 years, Sur les cimes has reemerged to intrigue and inspire audiences once again.

We would like to thank Dr. Gabriel P. Weisberg for kindly confirming the authenticity of this lot and providing additional catalogue information.

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.

A contemporary of Jules Bastien-Lepage, Dagnan-Bouveret painted elegant genre and literary themes until 1880, when he exhibited a work entitled The Accident at the annual Salon.  The work depicted a young peasant boy being tended to by the country doctor, and signaled the artist’s shift in focus to the life of peasants and the working class. 

His approach to these subjects followed the lead of Lepage in its acute perception of psychology and expression and its sense of detached observation of the life of the poor. 

With Bastien-Lepage’s death in 1884, Dagnan-Bouveret became the leading artist of the movement, developing his work to the limits of Naturalistic observation and psychological symbolism.

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