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Nymphs and Satyr, by William Bouguereau (Detail)
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Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la
Pena
French painter & printmaker
born August 25 1808- died November 18 1876

Also known as:
Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Pena, Narcisso Virgilio Diaz de

Nationality:
French

Student of:
Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867)

Influence on:
Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Leon Richet (Leon Richet) (1847-1907)


Biographical Information

DÍAZ DE LA PEÑA, NARCISSE-VIRGILE (1808-1876), French painter, was born in Bordeaux of Spanish parents, on the 25th of August 1808. At first a figure-painter who indulged in strong color, in his later life Díaz became a painter of the forest and a tone artist of the first order. He spent much time at Barbizon; and although he is the least exalted of the half-dozen great artists who are usually grouped round that name, he sometimes produced works of the highest quality. At the age of ten Diaz became an orphan, and misfortune dogged his earlier years. His foot was bitten by a reptile in Meudon wood, near Svres, where he had been taken to live with some friends of his mother. The bite was badly dressed, and ultimately it cost him his leg. Afterwards his wooden stump became famous. At fifteen he entered the studios at Svres, where the decoration of porcelain occupied him; but tiring of the restraint of fixed hours, he took to painting Eastern figures dressed in richly colored garments. Turks and Oriental scenes attracted him, and many brilliant gems remain of this period. About 1831 Díaz encountered Théodore Rousseau, for whom he entertained a great veneration, although Rousseau was four years his junior; but it was not until ten years later that the remarkable incident took place of Rousseau teaching Diaz to paint trees. At Fontainebleau Díaz found Rousseau painting his wonderful forest pictures, and determined to paint in the same way if possible. Rousseau, then in poor health, worried at home, and embittered against the world, was difficult to approach. Díaz followed him surreptitiously to the forest, wooden leg not hindering, and he dodged round after the painter, trying to observe his method of work. After a time Díaz found a way to become friendly with Rousseau, and revealed his anxiety to understand his painting. Rousseau was touched with the passionate words of admiration, and finally taught Díaz all he knew. Diaz exhibited many pictures at the Paris Salon, and was decorated in 1851. During the Franco-German War he went to Brussels. After 1871 he became fashionable, his works gradually rose in the estimation of collectors, and he worked constantly and successfully. In 1876 he caught cold at his son's grave, and on the 18th of November of that year he died at Mentone, whither he had gone to recruit his health. Díaz's finest pictures are his forest scenes and storms, and it is on these, and not on his pretty figures, that his fame is likely to rest. There are several fairly good examples of the master in the Louvre, and three small figure pictures in the Wallace collection, Hertford House. Perhaps the most notaLle of Díaz's works are La Fée aux Perles (1857), in the Louvre; Sunset in the Forest (1868); The Storm, and The Forest of Fontainebleau (1870) at Leeds. Díaz had no well-known pupils, but Leon Richet followed markedly his methods of tree-painting, and J. F. Millet at one period painted small figures in avowed imitation of Díaz's then popular subjects.

See A. Flustin, Les Artistes cilbres: Díaz (Paris); D. Croal Thomson, The Barbizon School of Painters (London, 1890); J. W. Mollett, Díaz (London, 1890); J. Claretie, Peintres et sculpteurs contemporains: Díaz (Paris, 1882); Albert Wolff, La Capitale de Lan: Narcisse Díaz (Paris, 1886); Ph. Burty, Maîtres et petitmaîtres: N. Díaz (Paris, 1877). (D.C.T.)

Source:
  • Biographical entry in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

  •    Artist Portraits

       Artist Letters

    Mother and Child

    Oil on cradled panel
    55.9 x 35.6 cm
    (22.01" x 14.02")
    Private collection

    Added: 2002-07-12
    The Old Windmill near Barbizon

    Oil on panel
    100 x 78.5 cm
    (39.37" x 30.91")
    Private collection

    Added: 2002-07-12
    Oriental Woman and Her Daughter

    1865
    Oil on canvas
    Private collection

    Added: 2002-12-20
    The Fagott Gatherer

    Oil on panel
    21.6 x 43.3 cm
    (8½" x 17.05")
    Private collection

    Added: 2001-09-23
    The Fagott Gatherer
    The Forest of Fontainebleau

    Oil on canvas
    49.5 x 70.8 cm
    (19.49" x 27.87")
    Private collection

    Added: 2001-09-23
    The Forest of Fontainebleau
    The Hunter's Return

    Oil on panel
    27 x 34.9 cm
    (10.63" x 13.74")
    Private collection

    Added: 2001-09-23
    La Foret de Fountainebleau

    -1874
    Oil On Panel
    41 x 34 cm
    (16.14" x 13.39")
    Private collection

    Added: 2011-01-19
    Diaz de la Paysanne Ramassant du Bois dans la foret

    -1869
    Oil On Panel
    52 x 36 cm
    (20.47" x 14.17")
    Private collection

    Added: 2011-04-13
    Femme ramassant du bois pres d'une mare en foret

    -1856
    Oil on canvas
    45.085 x 69.215 cm
    (17¾" x 27¼")
    Private collection

    Added: 2011-08-25
    Femme ramassant du bois pres d'une mare en foret
    Baigneuse

    Translated title: Bather
    1851
    Oil on cradled panel
    34.2 x 25.4 cm
    (13.46" x 10")
    Private collection

    Added: 2002-03-14
    Baigneuse