Mariano Fortuny Marsal


Armand Cabrera

Mariano Fortuny Marsal was born in 1838 in Reus Spain to a family of artisans. He was orphaned at the age of 12 and worked with his grandfather to help support the rest of his family.

Fortuny studied with Claudio Lorenzale at the Barcelona Academy of Fine Arts for four years. In 1858 Fortuny won the Prix de Rome, a scholarship prize which allowed him to study drawing and painting in Italy for two years.

He first visited Africa in 1859 and again in 1862. In 1866 Fortuny visited Paris where he became friends with Jean Leon Gerome and Ernest Meissonier. Fortuny was married to Cecilia de Madrazo in 1868 and had one son.

While in Paris, Fortuny signed a contract with the Parisian art dealer Adolphe Goupil, giving Goupil exclusive rights to Fortunys work. Goupil mounted a show for the painter in 1870. The show consisted of Fortuny’s paintings of North Africa and paintings of contemporary court life. The work was a huge success, the public and other artists were captivated by his bravura style, excellent draughtsmanship and his bold use of color.

Fortunys most important collector was the American William Hood Stewart, a Philadelphian. Stewart held the largest collection of the artists work and was responsible for introducing him to other American collectors.

Through patrons like Stewart and the respect of his peers Fortuny became a sensation. He was followed everywhere in Paris by artists and friends and while visiting in Rome could barely work because of the amount of solicitations from fellow artists, travelers and collectors.

His style is very much in the grand manner of painting, with facile loose brushwork and the ability to capture a moment in time. He was just as competent in watercolor as he was in oils. When you compare his work to other Orientalist painters the difference is powerful and immediate. Fortuny was not a mere recorder of facts. His work is infused with light, color and above all the life of his subjects.

Tragically Fortuny died from tertian ague, a type of malaria at the age of 36, November 21 1874.

The Orientalists
Painter-Travelers 1828-1908
Lynn Thorntorn
ACR Publishers 1983

The Orientalists
The Spanish School
Eduardo Dizy Caso
ACR Publishers 1997 (In French)

QuoteHe is the master of us all…Ah Fortuny, I cannot rest because of you.
~Henri Regnault

Jean Leon Gerome

Armand Cabrera

Jean Leon Gerome was born in Vesoul, France in 1824. He was the son of a wealthy goldsmith. Gerome studied Greek, Latin and history at Vesoul College before enrolling in the Paris School of Fine Arts under Paul Delaroche. In his third year there the Atelier was closed after an incident of hazing resulted in a student’s death.

Gerome travelled to Italy for a year and after returning to Paris enrolled in Charles Gleyre’s studio. Gerome only stayed with Gleyre for three months but by all account learned a great deal from the master, although Gerome never acknowledged Gleyre’s influence on him.

In 1847 Gerome had his first salon entry, a painting of young Greeks holding a cock fight. Although the painting was skied it received favorable attention for its quality, attention to detail and subject matter.

Gerome would build his artistic career on subjects from antiquity and the Middle East. According to his biographer Gerald Ackerman, nearly half of Gerome’s paintings were orientalist in nature.
Gerome also had commissions from the government that helped build his career. Gerome also married Marie Goupil the daughter of Adolphe Goupil, one of the most influential art dealers of the time.

Gerome’s first trip to Egypt was in 1857, there were to be many more through his lifetime. His paintings were very popular at the salons and he commanded high prices for his work. He eventually stopped taking commissions because of his success. This freed the artist to pursue themes important to him as opposed to his patrons.

In 1863 the government sponsored Ecole des Beauxs Arts appointed Gerome as head of one of its ateliers. Gerome would continue to teach for the next 40 years. He influenced thousands of young artists and was a highly respected teacher. His American pupils included Thomas Eakins, Kenyon Cox, Julian Alden Weir, George DeForest Brush, Abbott Handerson Thayer, George Bridgman, Dennis Miller Bunker, and William MacGregor Paxton to name just a few.

In the 1870’s Gerome was an outspoken opponent of the impressionists and what he saw as a lowering of artistic standards. The fights were very public and as the shift to the new art style took hold he was continuously vilified by critics and younger artists.
Another issue Gerome was on the wrong side of was allowing women to the Ecole. Beginning in the late 1880’s the matter became heated with constant petitions for women to be allowed into the Ecole and to be able to attend the life drawing classes. Gerome who was on the council for the Ecole at the time voted against both changes.

Although the world had passed him by Gerome had been successful enough to live comfortably his whole life. Gerome died five months before his 80th birthday. At the time of his death in 1904 his estate was worth 1.7 million francs not including real estate.
In the ensuing years he was nearly forgotten in France and in the 1950’s his paintings were almost worthless. Recently though, important Gerome paintings regularly command prices of 2 million pounds at auction.

The life and work of Jean Leon Gerome
A catalogue Raisonne

Gerald Ackerman
ACR Publishing

The Orientalists: Painters Travelers
Lynne Thornton
ACR Publishing

The American Pupils of Jean Leon GeromeH. Barbara Weinberg
Amon Carter Museum Press

I hate imitators, people who put works together out of older works, these men are blind unless they are looking with someone else’s eyes, and who produce only the mistakes of the master they draw from. These, one doesn’t even want to talk about; one must simply call them ‘Eunuchs’ ~ Jean Leon Gerome

Bouguereau Quotes Part 2

Armand Cabrera

This final group of quotes represents the last  of three articles on Bouguereau that I started two weeks ago. At some point I might return and write about his process since it is well documented and maybe it will help to dispel the myths that have grown around him. For those interested the ARC sponsored book on Bouguereau is out at $262.00 US dollars, it is 800 pages and is a luxury two-volume set in a slipcase, which includes all of Bouguereau’s known paintings as well as a comprehensive biography. I’m trying to figure out how I can justify buying one and slip it by Diane. If anyone wants to buy and send me a copy I’ll be happy to review it here:-)

Every morning I get up at seven without fail and have breakfast, then I go up to my studio which I don’t leave all day. Around three o’clock, a light meal is brought in; I don’t have to leave my work. I rarely have visitors, since I hate to be disturbed. My friends though are always welcome. They don’t bother me, I can work even when it’s noisy or they’re chatting. When I’m painting I don’t pay attention to anything else.

In painting, I’m an idealist. I see only the beautiful in art and, for me art is the beautiful. Why reproduce what is ugly in nature? I don’t see why it should be necessary. Painting what one sees just as it is, no- or at least, not unless one is immensely gifted. Talent is all redeeming and can excuse anything. Nowadays, painters go much too far, just as writers and realist novelists do. There is no way of telling where they will draw the line. I prefer poets; each to his own taste.

Starting a picture is very pleasant, for you always believe that this time you’re going to create a masterpiece; you take pains, and little by little the painting takes shape, the effect comes through. You feel marvelous sensations. When it’s done however things are different. You want to touch up the arm, the movement of the body doesn’t seem graceful…and you end up doing nothing for fear of having to redo the whole thing completely.

People say I paint to make money; it’s not true. I don’t need to make money; my family and I already have more than we need. But I have to paint all the time as I see feel, and know. That’s all there is to it. People pay a lot for my paintings and I’m not complaining; it proves my work is still appreciated. But if they didn’t sell as well as they do it wouldn’t stop me from making them.

Theory has no place in an artist’s basic education. It is the eye and the hand that should be exercised during the impressionable years of youth. It is always possible to later acquire the accessory knowledge involved in the production of a work of art, but never — and I want to stress that point — never can the will, perseverance, and tenacity of a mature man make up for insufficient practice. And can there be such anguish compared to that felt by the artist who sees the realization of his dream compromised by weak execution?

John Duncan

Armand Cabrera

John Duncan was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1866. At 11 years old he attended the Dundee school of art. In two years he began illustrating for local paper in Dundee. These assignments gave him an opportunity to go to London and work as a book illustrator. After three years in London Duncan felt he needed more training and wanted to leave illustration to pursue painting. He studied drawing and painting at the Antwerp School of Art in Belgium. After his instruction in Belgium Duncan toured France and Italy and viewed the great artists of the past. It was in Italy that he was most inspired by the Italian painters Botticelli and Fra Angelico.

Returning to Scotland Duncan met Patrick Geddes a biologist and educator. Geddes hired Duncan to paint his home and offered him a teaching position at a new art school Geddes was starting. When the school eventually closed Geddes secured a position in America for Duncan at the Chicago Institute starting in 1900 and lasting three years.
Duncan returned to Edinburgh and opened a studio and began working to create a unique voice with his work. He decided to incorporate Celtic themes and strive for better color and handling. He struggled to have his canvases reflect the images he saw in his mind. He disliked oil paints, which led him to experiment with other media. By 1910 he thought he had found his medium with tempera. His first large work with tempera was The Riders of the Sidhe, 45 x 69 inches.
Duncan was elected to the Scottish Royal Academy and began exhibiting in their annual shows. His studio became a gathering place for artists, writers and other Celtic Revivalists. In 1912 he married Christine Allen and the couple had two children.
At the outbreak of WW1 created financial difficulties for the artist and his family as his commissions dried up and Duncan struggled to make ends meet. His financial problems never recovered after the war and had a debilitating effect on his marriage and in 1925 his wife took his two children and left.
Duncan continued to struggle with his process and was never satisfied with the work he was producing. At times he would think his earlier work better and would go off and change his methods, only to be disappointed again.
Sales and commissions were few and his large tempera paintings were labor intensive and took him many months to complete. Geddes still gave him commissions and he still received some mural work for religious subjects but his popularity dwindled. In the 1930’s he worked with stained glass as well as his painting. In 1941 the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh put on a retrospective of his work; a first for a living artist. John Duncan died in his home at the age of 79 in 1945.
The paintings of John Duncan A Scottish Symbolist
John Kemplay
Pomegranate Art Books 1994

I often Despair, because my work does not improve. What I gain in one way I lose in another. Does one grow wiser with time or do some doors close as others open?
~John Duncan