Tuesday, January 05, 2010

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #14 - Young Jewish Woman of Algeria

Young Jewish Woman of Algeria, Seated, 1846, Théodore Chassériau (French, 1819–1856), Watercolor over graphite, sheet: 11 3/4 x 9 1/8 in. (29.8 x 23.3 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Théodore Chassériau (called the Unknown Romantic in an exhibit at the Metropolitan) has quite an artistic lineage. He entered the studio of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres at the age of eleven. (Remember that Ingres was a former student of David and was a classicist) which resulted in Chassériau having a strong classical approach to his work. But that was not the only influence he had - he also was interested in the rich colors and romantic themes of the work of Delacroix. He ended up, like Delacroix, traveling to exotic places like northern Africa and the Middle East.

He died young at the age of 37 after an illness, but he produced a large number of paintings, murals and drawings, many of which were portraits or studies of historical, religious or literary subjects. Before his death, the new movement of Realism was on the rise and his work began to be viewed as establishment. His reputation declined and perhaps this contributed to this nomenclature of "the unknown romanticist".

This work, Young Jewish Woman of Algeria, Seated is a small work of graphite on watercolor paper. There are some notes on the right side of the drawing leading one to think they may have been for a later work. I love this piece. The young woman is looking directly at the viewer, and is in an informal posture. Her face is drawn with more detail than the rest of her body. Her clothing and the environment she is in is handled in a sketchy way. The fact that she is sitting on the floor is unconventional for French thinking - it would have been unseemly for a woman to be sitting on the floor; in French society she would have been sitting on furniture. This scene, which is somewhat voyeuristic, would have been appealing to those interested in romantic subjects. To my eye, it is beautiful and she is lovely. I am enchanted with so much beauty described in so few lines.

1 comment:

Joan Breckwoldt said...

What a great blog! Thank you for taking the time to post so much info about various artists. I especially like this sketch with watercolor, this artist is a new discovery for me and there's not much better than discovering a new artist!
p.s. I'll be back for more lessons. :)