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 Regis Francois Gignoux  (1816 - 1882)

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Lived/Active: New York / France      Known for: seasonal landscape painting, especially winter scenes, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
Regis Francois Gignoux
from Auction House Records.
Chief Daniel Ninham Looking Across the Hudson River at Cold Spring
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A snow scene specialist and known for his sentimental and detailed views of Niagara Falls and New England and Virginia, Regis Francois Gignoux was born in Lyon, France, and studied at the Eçole des Beaux-Arts under Paul Delaroche.  He chose snowscenes as his specialty to distinguish his work from his other contemporary Hudson River Valley School painters.  George Inness was one of his students.

He first came to America in 1840 because of his interest in a woman, whom he later married.  However, he was so taken with the scenery he decided to stay, and he received numerous commissions for his work which was in the precise academic style of that period.  He settled in Brooklyn where he served as the first president of the Brooklyn Art Association.  He was a member of the National Academy of Design with whom he exhibited.

By 1870, he returned to France, dying in Paris in 1882.

Sources include:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from Roughton Galleries,Inc:
Regis Gignoux was born in Lyon, France, in 1816.  Interested in art at an early age, he began his formal education in Fribourg, Switzerland and then at the St. Pierre Academie in Lyon, France, which was celebrated for teaching floral still-life painting.  With an annual stipend and with an interest in historical genre, Gignoux traveled to Paris to study at the Beaux-Arts Académie with historical painter Hippolyle Paul Delaroche (1897-1856) and with Emile Jean Horace Vernet (1789-1863).

Delaroche and his teaching were a perfect fit and an inspiration.  He encouraged Gignoux to turn his talents toward landscape painting.  Having traveled with fellow students during the summer on sketching excursions to Switzerland, Gignoux returned to Paris with sketches of the mountain countryside and Swiss villages. When Delaroche saw them, he exclaimed: "You are strong here;-be a landscape-painter." Hence, Gignoux devoted his energy entirely toward becoming a landscape painter.

Becoming interested in a young American lady, Régis Gignoux crossed the Atlantic with his brother in 1840.  He soon married and was immediately struck by the beauty and wonder of the American landscape.  He and his wife made Brooklyn their home.

Gignoux’s first paintings were winter landscapes, which he executed with truth to nature rarely achieved by American painters of the time.  Collectors, as limited as they were during this period, began considering a Gignoux’s winter landscapes essential to their collections and commissions followed beyond his ability to produce. His versatile skill enabled him to experiment with additional seasonal landscapes and these became just as popular.  These early successes established Gignoux as an important member of the Hudson River School, which was a movement that began in 1825 when artists, including Asher Durand, discovered Thomas Cole's landscapes whose loftiness and sense of high drama suggested communication with God through nature.

In 1843, Regis Gignoux’s painting Interior of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, (oil on canvas measuring 48 x 37, New York Historical Society, Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture) was a critical success when exhibited in 1844 at the Boston Athenaeum (#44).  In the painting, he captured the dramatically lit interior view of Mammoth Cave looking deep in the cave into the "Rotunda" toward the entrance and illuminated by an almost mystical light from the outside.

In Gignoux's canvas a large, roaring fire has been built, whose artificial light contrasts with the natural light of the entrance, creating a the contrast between heavenly versus infernal, natural versus artificial elements. The canvas contains a blend of French and American traits that characterize many of the Gignoux's early works.  His popularity as a landscape painter and teacher began to attract numerous students, and his most noted was George Inness, who briefly studied with him in 1843.

By 1844, Gignoux had opened a studio in New York City becoming one the first to join the illustrious group (Bierstadt, Church, Cropsey, Kensett, Whittridge, etc.) at the famous Tenth Street Studio.  His successes continued and his clients grew to include the likes of Charles Gould, Esq. New York, Baron Rothschild and the Earl of Ellesmere, who commissioned Dismal Swamp, North Carolina (Museum of Fine Art, Boston) in 1850.

Regis Gignoux’s most celebrated painting Niagara Falls in Winter, 1848 (U.S. Capitol, Senate wing, third floor, south corridor) exemplified American landscape painting, and it illustrated the experience of the common man in a sublime natural setting, a change in subject matter, which marks a critical point in the changing perceptions of the American wilderness.  Niagara Falls also successfully attracted European attention and critical acclaim when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1858.

Additional paintings of note are Virginia in Indian Summer; The First Snow, which belonged to collector S. Hallet, Esq.; Four Seasons in America; Moonlight on the Saguenay; Mount Washington, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1867, and Spring, which was exhibited at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876.

Gignoux exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.  In 1851, Gignoux was elected a member of the National Academy of Design, and he was the first president of the Brooklyn Art Academy.

Regis Gignoux painted the Catskills, Niagara Falls, and the mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Vermont.  During the 1850’s, he accompanied fellow artists Frederick Church and John F. Kensett on several sketching trips.  He was considered by his piers to be one of the most accomplished painters of period to faithfully capture nature’s truth in American scenery.  The explorers in painting such as Regis Gignoux's are common men, not aristocrats or European dignitaries; they had embarked on journeys and they were driven by a taste for adventure and a curiosity about the land.  However, they also needed to be able survive alone in the wilderness, which fostered the beloved American traits of independence, ingenuity, pragmatism, and resourcefulness.

After a rewarding and successful career in America as a landscape painter, Regis Gignoux returned to Paris in 1870, where he resided until his death, August 6, 1882

Public Collections:

The Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C

Georgia Museum of Art, Athens. GA

High Museum, Atlanta, GA

Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA

Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA

Watson Gallery, Wheaton College, Norton, MA

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY

New York Historical Society, NY, NY

The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY

Museum at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Regis Gignoux is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Hudson River School Painters

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