A Biard Painting Donated to the Dallas Museum of Art

François-Auguste Biard (1798-1882)
Seasickness at the Bal on Board an English Corvette, 1857
Oil on Canvas - 87.8 x 131.4 cm
Dallas, Museum of Art
Photo : Didier Rykner

11/3/13 - Acquisition - Dallas, Museum of Art - Charles Baudelaire did not like François-Auguste Biard and signed his critical execution in a few lines when reviewing the Salon of 1846, once again proving that this great poet was a mediocre art critic. In fact, Biard was a multi-talented artist, a painter who liked to travel and who, in some of his works such as View of the Glacial Ocean, Walrus Fishing by Greenlanders at the Musée-château in Dieppe or Magdalena Bay, a View Taken from the Tombeaux Peninsula, North of Spitzberg, is almost sublime in the poetic sense of the term. There is really no equivalent in France and his Arctic landscapes evoke rather Friedrich and German Romanticism or (though later) exponents of the Hudson River School such as Frederic Church. Thus he holds particular interest for Americans and the Dallas Museum of Art (which already owns one of his masterpieces also representing a view of the Arctic) was lucky enough to receive a recent donation by Mr. J.E.R. Chilton.

This work is however of a different vein from his landscapes. Although nature is still present, we can only sense it, not see it in the storm buffeting an English corvette and its passengers. With the boat tipping dangerously, some of them, like the young woman in the center of the composition who is calmly reading, appear to ignore the furious elements, while others are obviously less fortunate, visibly seasick or even passed out.
The realism of the costumes and figures as well as the detailed manner employed by the painter reflect the influence of his training in Lyon (under Pierre Révoil and Fleury Richard) but also that of 17th century Dutch painting. In addition, this genre scene evokes English art, reminding us of Hogarth with whom he shares a sense of caricature and humor. At the Salon of 1857 where the work was presented, this comical aspect did not escape certain critics such as Louis Auvray. In short, here again Biard demonstrated his profound originality as compared to French production at that time.
This acquisition further develops a very important 19th century French collection which we will discuss shortly in an upcoming article on this museum.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 19 mars 2013

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