Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Francois-Leon Benouville (French, b. 1821 - d. 1859)

Francois-Leon Benouville (French, b. 1821 - d. 1859)
Saint Francois d'Assise, transporté mourant à Sainte-Marie-des-Anges, bénit la ville d'Assise (1226)/ St Francis of Assisi, dying, is carried to St Mary of the Angels, and blesses the town of Assisi (1226) [1853]
Oil on canvas 93,l x. 240 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Francois-Leon Benouville (French, b. 1821 - d. 1859)
Martyrs chrétiens entrant à l'amphithéâtre/ Christian martyrs going into the amphitheatre (1855)
Oil on canvas 4.59 x 3.91 m
Musée d'Orsay, Paris,

Francois-Leon Benouville (French, b. 1821 - d. 1859)
St Claire receiving the Body of St Francis of Assisi [
Oil on canvas 118 x 80cm
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Like Ingres many years before, Benouville was a winner of the Prix de Rome. In his case in 1845.

To do so was a great achievement.

The Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the French national art and architecture academy, was founded in 1648.

An admissions test, given only to men under 30, required drawing a figure from a model in natural light in six two-hour sessions.

Once enrolled, the student embarked on a rigorous curriculum devoted solely to drawing. (Painting was studied in the private ateliers of Beaux-Arts teachers.)

The goal: to win the coveted Prix de Rome, which was a five-year scholarship studying classical art at the French Academy there.

For the Prix, entrants had to produce -- in 12 hours flat -- an oil sketch for a single history painting for which the subject was announced at the last minute by the academy. They were then allowed 72 days to produce their finished works.

To prove his progress during the five-year stay, each scholar had to send specified works back to Paris.

For the first two years they included a life-size painting of a nude along with drawings of figures from life and from antique sculptures.

The third year demanded an oil or drawn sketch of a freely chosen subject, and the fourth a same-size copy of the work of an Old Master or figures from an Old Master fresco.

The fifth and final year's requirement was an original history painting of the artist's choice.

History painting, the depiction of great moments, was seen by the academy as an artist's highest calling.

Benouville painted numerous paintings with a historical or religious theme.

In Rome he had became interested in Early Christian art.

He was considered by many to be among the most promising history painters of his time. Unfortunately at an early age, he contracted typhoid fever and died only 38 years.

Even after 1848, history painting continued to bring to life events from the past and the present, to complement the dramatic scenes decorating churches and public buildings. They rivalled literature in inventiveness and brilliance.

Christian Martyrs is monumental. It tends towards Ingres but avoids pastiche;

Many of these large works are in storage awaiting space and the revived interest of the general public and critics.