Art at the Exposition


Art at the Exposition

M. Julien Dupre must not be confounded with Jules Dupre, who was the friend of Rousseau and Miller and who died in 1889. Jules Dupre was a countryman who commenced his artist's career by painting on china, but later devoted himself solely to landscape and marine. He and his friends of the Barbizon school in France and Con-stable in England were at the head of the new movement in landscape painting. They revolted from the conventional, historic landscape and became ardent disciples of nature and had for their object the deliverance of captive nature from the bond-age in which she had so long been held by the academical painters. "Dupre loves to paint the scenery of western France, where barren hillocks, low-lying plains overgrown 'with heather, stagnant pools of water and ragged shrubs are found at the base of the rocky mountains. Sometimes he shows us cattle in a meadow near a wood, sleeping under an oak, or wading through a shallow ford; at ether times some dreary and desolate hovel under the lea of wind-tossed trees; or he leads us across a sunburnt common, by the side of a hit of forest, toward the deserted village, when the atmosphere overhead is dry and oppressive in the heats of midsummer. He is always true in his rendering of the atmosphere, of the cooling moisture in it that rises from saturated vegetation after a storm, or the sultry glare of drouth, or the dance of a sunbeam, or drift of a cloud, or the mirror of the sky in a pool; it is always the air—real air that you seem to breathe, that fascinates you, and gives! life and reality to the canvas."

Thus writes a critic of Dupre's work, yet compared to the Dupre of today his pictures seem brown, thick and heavy as one can see from the two examples a the exposition—Nos, 142 and 143. Julian Dupre, while not a painter of light as was Bastien Lepage or Manet, or many of his fellow artists of today, shows a knowledge and power of representing aerial perspec tive, a grasp of chiaroscuro of which the other Dupre knew but little. He is above all a painter of cattle and of simple farmyard subjects. His pictures are not ideal. nor philosophical, nor especially intellectual, they are realistic portrayals of the unaffected incidents of the humble country folk. He is content in depicting a peasant woman watching her cows drink from the tubful of water, with sheep browsing near by—No. 145—a commentary on the quiet peaceful life of the country woman. Or he represents her at her busy hour—The Milking Time—a picture exhibited here several years ago, and ahich most of us remember with pleasure. In No. 144 he shows what a master he is of the anatomy of the cow. The picture depicts a conflict between the cow, in her efforts for freedom and her mistress' will. The peasant woman has just driven in the tether-stick with the maul, which always lies in the pasture for that purpose; she is about to leave the cow to graze there, when in its longing to join some cattle in the middle distance, it breaks the tether. She grasps the broken rope and with the full weight of her body braced backward she pulls in one direction, while the cow strides on. This is not a drawing-room animal like the sleek creature of William Howe—No. 267—it is shaggy and dirty, strong and natural. It is difficult matter enough to paint the figure of a woman in such violent action, but as a cow will not pose it is necessary that the painter should be a master of the anatomy to represent so forcibly its movement. The whole composition is interesting. In the distance a cottage with smoking chimney nestles among the trees; in the middle distance some cattle are comfortably lying in the pasture, through which flows a little stream. In the foreground the peasant in her wooden shoes struggles with the cow. While the picture is not vibrating with the light which many painters make the first object and many critics demand as the first requisite of a good picture, it is atmospheric, the drawing is masterly, incomparably firm and the general impression quite of the first order. Others may have greater ingenuity and subtlety and have carried qualities of execution much further, but Dupre observes the character, both human and animal, with an unfailing truthfulness and shows quiet good taste in the arrangement of his simple subjects.

He is not an idyllic poet, as Jules Breton is; neither does he depict the more serious aspect of country life, as does Dagnan-Bouveret, nor the pathos of the toilers, as did Bastien Lepage, nor the endless labor of the peasantry, which Lhermitte paints.

He is rather a bucolic poet, content with the small, everyday incidents and affairs of country life, which he paints in a straightforward, frank manner.