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Wilfrid Constant Beauquesne (1847-1913)
French artistry was deeply influenced by three wars during the 19th century and, accordingly, the artistic imagination was not lost upon the public. “Patriotism comes to the aid of battle painters,” a contemporary remarked, “presenting them with a sympathetic public already fascinated by the subject.” After the brief Franco-Prussian conflict of 1870, French painters were particularly anxious to retrieve national pride by presenting works which reflected their own national heroism versus enemy brutality.
Known for his scenic depictions of this war, Wilfried Beauquesne, a native of Rennes, France, was undoubtedly influenced in his selection of subjects by his instructors at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Vernet-Lecomte and Horace Vernet were both well known military artists. Vernet had actually lived and worked during the period of Napoleonic conflicts – being awarded the Legion of Honor by the Emperor’s own hand. Beauquesne exhibited regularly at the annual Paris Salon between 1887 and 1899, as well as throughout Europe.
In 1890, illustrating the fortunes of life, The Art Amateur ran the following item in its “Gossip Column:”
“A queer story comes to me from Paris. A commission agent made a bargain with a poor painter, living out at Saint-Maude, to paint military subjects for him, at two francs an hour. The agent changed the signature to that of Gaubault, and sold the pictures to various dealers. On day, by chance, the poor painter came to Paris, went to the Salon, and was astonished to see one of his pictures there. He look at the catalogue, and found the name of the artist and the address of the dealer where he was to be found, The poor artist went to the dealer and introduced himself saying, “I am Gaubault.” “Most happy to make your acquaintance,” replied the dealer. “Your pictures sell very well, and I have been wanting to see you for the last six years.” “But my name is not Gaubault, it is Beauquesne.” Explanations followed. The dishonest commission agent disappeared; and Beauquesne restored his real signature on the pictures, which had made his pseudonym almost famous.”
Biography excerpted from the unpublished catalog by Edward P. Bentley for the Haussner Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland, titled Haussner’s: The Art Collection.