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Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier

French Romantic Painter, Printmaker, Sculptor and Colonel

1815 - 1891


Ernest Meissonier Self Portrait

Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier: 1891


Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier was a leading French Classicist painter and sculptor famous for his depictions of Napoleon, his armies and military themes. He documented sieges and maneuvers and was the teacher of Édouard Detaille. Ernest Meissonier was born at Lyon. From his schooldays he showed a taste for painting, to which some early sketches, dated 1823, bear witness. After being placed with a druggist, he obtained leave from his parents to become an artist, and, owing to the recommendation of a painter named Potier, himself a second class Prix de Rome, he was admitted to Léon Cogniet's studio.

He paid short visits to Rome and to Switzerland, and exhibited in the Salon of 1831 a painting then called Les Bourgeois Flamands (Dutch Burghers), but also known as 'The Visit to the Burgomaster', subsequently purchased by Sir Richard Wallace, in whose collection (at Hertford House, London) it is, with fifteen other examples of this painter. It was the first attempt in France in the particular genre which was destined to make Meissonier famous: microscopic painting miniature in oils. Working hard for daily bread at illustrations for the publishers Curmer, Hetzel and Dubocherhe, Meissonier also exhibited at the Salon of 1836 with 'Chess Player' and 'The Errand Boy'.


Dutch Burghers

Dutch Burghers


Chess Players

Chess Players


After some not very happy attempts at religious painting, he returned, under the influence of Chenavard, to the class of work he was born to excel in, and exhibited with much success the 'Game of Chess' (1841), the 'Young Man playing the Cello' (1842), 'Painter in his Studio' (1843), 'The Guard Room', the 'Young Man looking at Drawings', the 'Game of Piquet' (1845), and the 'Game of Bowls', works which show the finish and certainty of his technique, and assured his success.


A Game of Chess

A Game of Chess


Young Man Playing the Cello

Young Man Playing the Cello


The Guard Room: 1847

The Guard Room: 1847


A Game of Piquet

A Game of Piquet: 1861


Playing Jeu De Boules

Playing Jeu De Boules


Playing Bowls in the Fosse at Antibes

Playing Bowls in the Fosse at Antibes: 1885


'After his Soldiers' (1848) he began 'A Day in June', which was never finished, and exhibited 'A Smoker' (1849) and 'Bravos' (Les Bravi, 1852). In 1855 he touched the highest mark of his achievement with 'The Gamblers' and 'The Quarrel' (La Rixe), which was presented by Napoleon III to the English Court. His triumph was sustained at the Salon of 1857, when he exhibited nine pictures, and drawings; among them the 'Young Man of the Time of the Regency', 'The Painter', 'The Shoeing Smith', 'The Musician', and 'A Reading at Diderot's'. To the Salon of 1861 he sent 'The Emperor at Solferino', 'A Shoeing Smith', 'A Musician', 'A Painter', and 'M. Louis Fould'; to that of 1864 another version of 'The Emperor at Solferino', and '1814'. He subsequently exhibited 'A Gamblers' Quarrel' (1865) and 'Desaix and the Army of the Rhine' (1867).


A Smoker

Smoker


Relief After the Battle

Relief After the Battle


The Quarrel

The Quarrel


A Painter

A Painter


Diderot and his Scribe: 1869

Diderot and his Scribe: 1869


At Diderot's Library: 1859

At Diderot's Library: 1859


The Emperor at Solferino

The Emperor at Solferino

The Battle of Solferino, fought on 24th of June 1859 was the last battle at which both armies were commanded by their monarch; the French army commanded by Napoleon III and his Allies Victor Emmanuel II and his Sardinian Army were victorious over the Austrian Army commanded by Emperor Franz Joseph.


Information - General Desaix and the Peasant: 1867

Information - General Desaix and the Peasant: 1867


Meissonier worked with elaborate care and a scrupulous observation of nature. Some of his works, as for instance his 1807, remained ten years in course of execution. To the great Exhibition of 1878 he contributed sixteen pictures: the portrait of 'Alexandre Dumas', fils which had been seen at the Salon of 1877, 'Cuirassiers of 1805', 'A Venetian Painter', 'Moreau and his Staff before Hohenlinden', a 'Portrait of a Lady', the 'Road to La Salice', 'The Two Friends', 'The Outpost of the Grand Guard', 'A Scout, and Dictating his Memoirs'. From then forward he exhibited less in the Salons, and sent his work to smaller exhibitions. Being chosen president of the Great National Exhibition in 1883, he was represented there by such works as 'The Pioneer', 'The Army of the Rhine', 'The Arrival of the Guests', and 'Saint Mark'.


Portrait of Alexandre Dumas, Jr: 1877

Portrait of Alexandre Dumas, Jr: 1877

Alexandre Dumas, was a French author and dramatist. He was the son (fils) of Alexandre Dumas, père, also a writer and playwright.

Alexandre Dumas, père, born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a French writer, best known for his numerous historical novels of high adventure which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world. Many of his novels, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne were serialized. He also wrote plays and magazine articles and was a prolific correspondent.


The Cuirassiers before their Charge at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805: 1878

The Cuirassiers before their Charge at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805: 1878


Portrait of Marquesa de Manzanedo: 1872

Portrait of Marquesa de Manzanedo: 1872

Marquesa de Manzanedo was an intimate friend of the Empress Eugenia Montijo.

The painting is signed and dated 1872.


Self Portrait along the Route De La Salice, Antibes: 1868

Self Portrait along the Route De La Salice, Antibes: 1868


On the 24th of May 1884 an exhibition was opened at the Petit Gallery of Meissonier's Collected Works, including 146 examples. As president of the jury on painting at the Exhibition of 1889 he contributed some new pictures. In the following year the New Salon was formed (the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts), and Meissonier became its president. He exhibited there in 1890 his painting 1807; and in 1891, shortly after his death, his 'Barricade' was displayed there. A less well-known class of work than his painting is a series of etchings: 'The Last Supper', 'The Skill of Vuillaume the Lute Player', 'The Little Smoker', 'The Old Smoker', the Preparations for a Duel, Anglers, Troopers, The Reporting Sergeant, and Polichinelle, in the Hertford House collection. He also tried lithography, but the prints are now scarcely to be found. Of all the painters of the century, Meissonier was one of the most fortunate in the matter of payments. His 'Cuirassiers', now in the late duc d'Aumale's collection at Chantilly, was bought from the artist for £10,000, sold at Brussels for £11,000, and finally resold for £16,000.


The Barricade

The Barricade

The Barricade, rue de la Mortellerie, June 1848

Ernest Meissonier has painted a Paris scene observed after a barricade was taken by the National Guard during the workers' riots in June 1848. This picture, devoid of pretension or pomposity, is highly original compared with a previous one also depicting a barricade: Liberty Leading the People (July 28, 1830) by Eugène Delacroix. Meissonier's painting is based on realistic observation. Known for his minutely detailed Ancien Régime genre scenes, the painter has here created his masterpiece.


After the Taking of a Barricade

The corpses of rioters, together with the cobblestones that form the remains of a barricade, lie like dummies who have lost their limbs in the center of a Paris street lined with old houses. Ernest Meissonier painted this picture after a watercolor (Musée du Louvre) done at the scene on June 25, 1848, during the workers' riots. These events made for a troubled beginning to the Second Republic, a few months after the February 1848 Revolution. The painter, a captain in the National Guard who was sympathetic to the government, painted the scene that lay before him after a barricade had been taken near to the town hall. The painting is highly original in comparison with another depiction of a barricade, Liberty Leading the People (July 28, 1830) by Delacroix (1831, Musée du Louvre), celebrating the revolution of 1830. There is no pretension to allegory here, no pompous rhetoric. It is the most powerful image to emerge from the events of 1848.


COMPARE THE TWO WORKS OF MEISSONIER AND DELACROIX


Liberty Leading the People, 28th July 1830 by Eugene Delacroix

Liberty Leading the People, 28th July 1830 by Eugene Delacroix

The Liberty Leading the People is a sort of epic narrative of the woman who quits her hearth to espouse a great cause. There is a carpet of bodies beneath her feet as she leads the ravening crowd. Her naked breasts have come to embody the social virtues of Republicanism, a point officially acknowledged by the generous diffusion of the image in the form of French stamps. It is also the first modern political composition. It marks the moment at which Romanticism abandoned its classical sources of inspiration to take up an emphatic role in contemporary life. Delacroix enrolled as a garde national, and in this role he portrayed himself, wearing a top hat, to the left of Liberty. The young drummer brandishing his pistols to the right of Liberty was, perhaps, the inspiration for the character Gavroche, in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, written thirty years later. Delacroix's influences - Goya, Gros, and, above all, Géricault - are clearly apparent.


Three Smokers

Three Smokers

Three Smokers


The Sergeants Portrait: 1874

The Sergeants Portrait:  1874


Polichinelle: 1860

Polichinelle: 1860


Cuirassiers

Cuirassiers


Besides his genre portraits, he painted some others: those of 'Doctor Lefevre', of 'Chenavard', of 'Vanderbilt', of 'Doctor Guyon', and of 'Stanford'. He also collaborated with the painter Français in a picture of 'The Park at Saint Cloud'.


Leland Stanford: 1881

Leland Stanford: 1881


In 1838 Meissonier married the sister of M. Steinheil, a painter. Meissonier was attached by Napoleon III to the imperial staff, and accompanied him during the campaign in Italy at the beginning of the war in 1870. During the Siege of Paris in 1871 he was colonel of a regiment de marche, one of the improvised units thrown up in the chaos of the Franco-Prussian War. In 1840 he was awarded a third-class medal, a second-class medal in 1841, first-class medals in 1843 and 1844 and medals of honor at the great exhibitions. In 1846 he was appointed Knight of the Légion d'honneur and promoted to the higher grades in 1856, 1867 (June 29), and 1880 (July 12), receiving the Grand Cross in 1889 (October 29).

He nevertheless cherished certain ambitions which remained unfulfilled. He hoped to become a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, but the appointment he desired was never given to him. He also aspired to be chosen deputy or made senator, but he was not elected. In 1861 he succeeded Abel de Pujol as member of the Academy of Fine Arts. On the occasion of the centenary festival in honor of Michelangelo in 1875 he was the delegate of the Institute of France to Florence, and spoke as its representative. Meissonier was an admirable draughtsman upon wood, his illustrations to Les Conies Rémois (engraved by Lavoignat), to Lamartine's Fall of an 'Angel to Paul and Virginia', and to 'The French Painted by Themselves' being among the best known. The leading engravers and etchers of France have been engaged upon plates from the works of Meissonier, and many of these plates command the highest esteem of collectors. Meissonier died in Paris on the 31st of January 1891.

When the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts was re-vitalized, in 1890, Ernest Meissonier was elected its first chairman, but he died soon; his successor was Puvis de Chavannes. The vice-president was Auguste Rodin.

His son, Jean Charles Meissonier, also a painter, was his father's pupil, and was admitted to the Légion d'honneur in 1889.

From: Wikipedia


Other Examples of Meissonier's Work

A Cavalier Time of Louis XIII: 1861

A Cavalier Time of Louis XIII: 1861


A General and his Aide-de-camp: 1859

A General and his Aide-de-camp: 1859


A Musketeer - The Time of Louis XIII

A Musketeer - The Time of Louis XIII


A Sentinel Time of Louis XIII: 1851

A Sentinel Time of Louis XIII: 1851


An Abbe

An Abbe

Meissonier is known chiefly for painting small pictures, executed with a detailed but delicate touch. He seems to have based his style on the fine manner of the 17th-century Leiden painters but, as here, often took his subjects from 18th-century everyday life. There are a number of similar single figures in Meissonier's work, dating from the 1850's.


An Artist Showing his Work: 1850

An Artist Showing his Work: 1850


At the Relay Station

At the Relay Station


Colonel Felix Massue: 1867

Colonel Felix Massue: 1867


Coup De Vent

Coup De Vent


Courtyard of the Artist's Studio

Courtyard of the Artist's Studio


Horseman

Horseman


Isaiah: 1838

Isaiah: 1838


Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier Self-Portrait

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier Self-Portrait


Looking at Paintings by Jean-Louis Ernest

Looking at Paintings by Jean-Louis Ernest


Marshal Ney on Horseback Fighting the Wind

Marshal Ney on Horseback Fighting the Wind


Musketeer: 1870

Musketeer: 1870


On a Terrace: 1867

On a Terrace: 1867


Portrait of a Woman

Portrait of a Woman


Soldier Playing the Theorbo: 1865

Soldier Playing the Theorbo: 1865


Study of a Seated Cavalier Reading

Study of a Seated Cavalier Reading


Sunday in Poissy: 1850

Sunday in Poissy: 1850


The Card Players: 1872

The Card Players: 1872


The End of the Game of Cards: 1856

The End of the Game of Cards: 1856


The Guide: 1883

The Guide: 1883


The Halt: 1870

The Halt: 1870


The Hired Assassins: 1852

The Hired Assassins: 1852


The Lovers of Painting

The Lovers of Painting


The Painter in his Studio: 1872
(aka Lovers of Paintings)

The Painter in his Studio: 1872


The Officer

The Officer


The Philosopher: 1878

The Philosopher: 1878


The Print Collector

The Print Collector


The Reader in White

The Reader in White


The Recital: 1853

The Recital: 1853


The Roadside Inn: 1865

The Roadside Inn: 1865


The Ruins of the Tuileries Palace after the Commune of 1871-1877

The Ruins of the Tuileries Palace after the Commune of 1871-1877


The Siege of Paris: 1870

The Siege of Paris: 1870


The Scholars Eye

The Scholars Eye


The Sign Painter

The Sign Painter


The Sign Painter (Detail)

The Sign Painter (Detail)


The Traveller

The Traveller

Hunched over his horse's neck, struggling against the wind and lashed by the rain, The Traveler is probably the most remarkable of all the statuettes made by the painter Meissonier and certainly the most romantic. The powerful modeling of the animal, the taut lines of the horse's legs and the man's torso heighten its intensity. But the model is also impressive for its attempt at realism, seen in the use of real material for the coat and the miniature leather reins.

It was not until after Meissonier's death, during two posthumous exhibitions in 1893, that the public discovered his work as a sculptor. He had apparently begun to model about 1840 to prepare his paintings and, being an extremely conscientious artist, he always regarded sculpture as part of the painting process. However it is not always clear which came first in his mind, the statuette or the painting. Several paintings by Meissonier, executed between 1879 and 1885, reproduced this 'Traveler'.

Meissonier himself said that he took great pleasure in modeling. He worked almost solely in wax because it was so malleable. "It is instant burst of creativity… You cannot imagine how absorbing and exciting it is to make a model…" Although he liked the flexibility of wax, he nonetheless prepared his models with excessive meticulous care, modeling the horses over the tiny skeletons sold in art supplies stores.


Two Soldiers

Two Soldiers


Un Homme D'Armes Et Son Cheval
(aka A Man of Arms and his Horse)

Un Homme D'Armes Et Son Cheval (aka A Man of Arms and his Horse)


Young Man with a Book

Young Man with a Book


Source: Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier - Online

Source: Art Renewal Center

Source: Web Gallery of Art


This page is the work of Senex Magister

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