Wednesday, December 14, 2005

They Never get Dressed

"The nudes of Puvis de Chavannes never get dressed . . ." -- Odilon Redon.

An engineer who took up painting after a trip to Italy, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (born on this day in 1824 in Lyons, France) painted symbolic, eerily quiet and somewhat naive pastoral scenes, often decorated with ethereal female nude figures. One of his favorite models (and, for a time, his mistress) was painter Suzanne Valadon.

Stylistically, he is somewhat beholden to Academics such as Ingres, with their stiff compositions, but perhaps because of his flat lighting and coloration, he was associated in the public mind with the avant-garde, and was on friendly terms with such Impressionists as Edgar Degas and Berthe Morisot. He was a contributor to the fund set up by Monet to purchase Manet's Olympia for the French government.

His influence can be felt in the idealistic, stylized renderings of Georges Seurat, and in the use of color by Paul Gauguin and Odilon Redon, among others. Among his better known works are The Balloon (1870, at left) and its companion piece The Pigeon (1871), Hope (1872; later copied by Gauguin) and the St. Genevieve panels at the Pantheon in Paris (1876-98).

Puvis de Chavannes died on October 24, 1898 in Paris.

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