Adrien Moreau

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Adrien Moreau

French Academic Classical artist

Born 1843 - Died 1906

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Mode

by Howard L. Rehs
Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City

The late 19th century saw a renewed interest in scenes of the bygone days. Artists like Meissonier, Madou, Detti, Moreau, Hamza and Stone were among its greatest proponents and the detail and precision of their works were admired by many collectors of the time. People began to look back on the 17th & 18th centuries as an age of elegance, a period in history when, as Meissonier put it, men respected their own persons. The graceful gesture, the harmonious attitude… was not a mere pose. Men in those days were careful about their bearing.

Adrien Moreau was born in Troyes on April 18, 1843 and was a student of Isidore Pils (one of the early 19th century Academic artists). A classical artist by training, Moreau began exploring the subjects that would occupy him for the remainder of his life – genre and history painting. He exhibited his first work at the Paris Salon in 1868 and continued to exhibit there throughout the century.

His works Repose at the Farm and Fair in the Middle Ages, which were both exhibited at the Salon of 1876, earned him the Second Class medal and he participated in both the Universal Exposition of 1889 and 1900.

In 1887 he painted and exhibited Une Mascarade au XVII Siecle at the Salon and the following comment appeared in Figaro-Salon of that year “Mr. Adrien Moreau remains true to the costume: La Mascarade au XVII siècle (the 17th century Masquerade) is composed with good taste and ingenuity.”

Collectors from across the globe vied for his work and many of his important paintings were acquired by the wealthy Americans of the time. Moreau’s paintings were highly regarded by the critics of the time and many were used in important art history books of the period. The following are descriptions of two works that were featured in some of these books:

The Bath – The original of this beautiful picture was exhibited in the French Section of Fine Arts at the World’s Columbian Exhibition. It shows the margin of a lake in summer, and five young people gathered there in the freedom and happiness of youth. Two of them are boys, and three, girls. One has passed the line of womanhood: one is a maiden of thirteen, and the other a lassie of nine. The boys are determined on a bath, and the girls also are going to wade as far as safety and modesty will permit. The boys have greater freedom. As brothers they strip themselves to small bathing suits and plunge in. Little lassie, for her part, is afraid. She sits in boots and apron, holding her bunch of daisies and watching the sport. The country here is a highland. The sketch may have been made from the region of the Vosges. The landscape opens far and wide. It is midsummer. The waters of the lake lie still and warm. The figures of the graceful young people are beautifully outlined against the shore and water. The foreground of the picture, with its abundance of wild flowers and tall grasses, reminds the beholder of the paintings of George M. Boughton. Quietude is the prevailing sentiment of the work. They have strolled some miles from home. In the broad landscape, there is only a faint suggestion of human abodes seen here and there along the distant horizon. Modesty, grace and innocence are the prevailing qualities which the artist has given to the young bathers.

The Minuet – In a most delicious series of paintings, Adrien Moreau has given us a charming idea of the luxurious life of the French nobility of the sixteenth century. He depicts the pleasures of an idle class, it is true; but idleness and amusement were the privileges of the wealthy and the great of the period from which he has chosen his subjects. One thing is true of him that can be said of very few artists – he is equally at home in landscape and figure painting; and he bestows equal care on the portrayal of each, neither being disregarded in favor of the other. At the same time a proper subordination of mere accessories to the central interest of the picture is carefully maintained. In this festive scene we hardly know whether to admire most of the faces, so full of expression appropriate to the merry occasion; the figures inimitably graceful in action or in repose; or the lovely woodland setting, in which is framed this picture of an aristocratic holiday. The artist fancies persons of quality for the peopling of his canvases, and makes his men gallant cavaliers, and gives to his grandes dames, or great ladies, as much refinement as grace. He is so careful a student of the times he depicts, that we may know that the customs and costumes are precisely what they really were in these courtier days of France. These ladies and gentlemen have chosen a retired spot in a grove for their picnic, and are dancing on the greensward a minuet, that stately, ceremonious function of high society, which afforded scope for the display of courtly graces and the skill of the accomplished persons of fashion.

By 1892 he had shown himself to be an important part of the Academic traditions of the time and he was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur. He was an active member of the Salon and continued to live and work in Paris until his death on February 22, 1906.

Museums:
Carcassonne - Le soir
Nantes - Propos gallants
La marchande de coco
Le gouter champetre
Troyes - Dans le parc

This essay is copyrighted by Rehs Galleries, Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Rehs Galleries, Inc.

Adrian Moreau

Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

Added on 17 August, 2010