Alexandre Antigna

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Alexandre Antigna

French Academic Classical artist

Born 1817 - Died 1878

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(b Orleans, 7 March 1817; d Paris, 26 Feb 1878)

French painter. He was taught at the school of drawing in Orleans by a local painter, Francois Salmon (1781--1855). On 9 October 1837 he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, first in the atelier of Sebastien Norblin de la Gourdaine (1796--1884). A year later he became a pupil of Paul Delaroche, from whom he acquired his understanding of dramatic composition.

Antigna exhibited at the Salon for the first time in 1841 with a religious canvas, the Birth of Christ (untraced), and showed there every year for the rest of his life. Until 1845 his exhibits were primarily religious scenes and portraits. Influenced by the effects of industrialization and the sufferings of the urban working class, which he witnessed at first hand while living in the poor quarter of the Ile St Louis in Paris, he turned towards contemporary social subjects dominated by poverty and hardship. The 1848 Revolution confirmed him in his allegiance to Realist painting, and he continued to paint in this style until c. 1860. During this period he produced his most important and personal works, which frequently dramatized natural or manmade disasters with bold lighting, dramatic poses and rich colour, almost exclusively on a large scale: for example Lightning (1848; Paris, Mus. d'Orsay), The Fire, his most famous painting (1850; Orleans, Mus. B.-A.; see fig.), the Forced Halt (1855; Toulouse, Mus. Augustins) and Visit of His Majesty the Emperor to the Slate Quarry Workers of Angers during the Floods of 1856 (1856--7; Angers, Mus. B.-A.). In 1849 he painted After the Bath, a large canvas bought by the state and sent the same year to the Orleans museum. The sensuality of the nudes and the topical quality of the scene provoked a local scandal.

Around 1860 Antigna moved from tragic Realism to a gentler Naturalism, and social subjects were replaced by anecdotal scenes, although he never lost his sense of compassion for the poor. He travelled in search of local colour and the picturesque: from 1857 onwards he made several journeys to Spain; in 1858 he stayed in Gargilesse and the Creuse. He visited Brittany many times over several years. Landscape, including the sea, appeared with increasing frequency in his works, which often had a moralizing or satirical flavour: the Village Cock (c. 1858; Bagneres-de-Bigorre, Mus. A), Young Breton Sleeping (c. 1858--9; Orleans, Mus. B.-A.), Young Girls Reading a Lament (1860; Nantes, Mus. B.-A.), Summer Evening (1862; Dinan, Hotel de Ville) and High Tide (1874; Dunkirk, Mus. B.-A.).

At the same time Antigna also produced a number of canvases of mystical and sentimental inspiration and of a Symbolist tendency: for example A Mother's Last Kiss (c. 1865; Lille, Mus. B.-A.). Children appear in most of his works, and he painted them with sympathy, whether happy or sad. Antigna received numerous distinctions and honours, including the Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur in 1861. In the same year he married Helene-Marie Pettit (1837--1918), who herself became a painter. Their son, Andre-Marc Antigna (1869--1941), was also a painter and miniaturist.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Alexandre Antigna (exh. cat. by D. Ojalvo, Orleans, Mus. B.-A., 1978)
The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing, 1830--1900 (exh. cat. by G. P. Weisberg, Cleveland, OH, Mus. A., 1980), pp. 265--6

SOURCE: www.groveart.com

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