A Marine by Penguilly L’Haridon for the Petit Palais

14/4/13 - Acquisition - Paris, Petit Palais - The Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris has just acquired a view of the coast at Belleville, in Seine Maritime, a masterpiece by Oscar Penguilly L’Haridon (ill. 1) from the Vincent Lécuyer Gallery in Paris. The painting dates from 1868 and was exhibited at the Salon in 1869. Another version, showing a very similar view with two seabirds in the foreground, was displayed at the same Salon with the title The Spoonbills for the museum in La Rochelle [1] (ill. 2).

1. Octave Penguilly L’Haridon (1811-1870)
The Coast at Belleville, 1868
Oil on Canvas - 76.5 x 90 cm
Paris, Petit Palais
Photo : Petit Palais

2. Octave Penguilly L’Haridon (1811-1870)
The Spoonbills, 1868
Oil on Canvas
La Rochelle, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
Photo : D. R.

The son of an Assistant Quartermaster in the army, Octave Penguilly L’Haridon, a student of Charlet, in fact led two careers : painter and military officer. Highly appreciated by Napoleon III (who acquired several of his paintings for personal enjoyment (civil list) or for the State), he was appointed curator for the Musée de l’Artillerie as well as for the Emperor’s armour collection at Pierrefonds. He drew his inspiration from very different genres : history, genre scenes, landscapes..., and was also appreciated notably by Baudelaire who wrote, concerning the Salon of 1859 : "An exhibition which has many works by Delacroix, Penguilly, Fromentin, cannot be dull" [2].
In his history painting, Penguilly L’Haridon favored original subjects : rather than painting the Adoration of the Magi, he preferred to choose the moment before, The Arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, with an almost fantastical composition and treatment, bathed in a luminism which is rarely found in his contemporaries (the painting resides in Reims). In the same way, there are very few instances in art of The Death of Judas. Penguilly L’Haridon represents the renegade apostle just before he takes his own life by hanging, the rope around his neck, in a desolate landscape, the three crosses of Calvary standing out in the background, barely visible, against a reddening sky (Nantes).

As in the case of the paintings mentioned above, the style of this marine is hard to determine. The landscapes we know by Penguilly L’Haridon are neither Impressionist, Neo-classic, nor even Realist and are extremely original for the period. On the subject, we would like to refer our readers to the (unsigned) text describing another magnificent work held at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes (The Little Seagulls) on the museum’s website : "The smooth work, the composition, the wealth of details and the backlighting of the rocks contribute to the strange, almost fantastic rendition of the site. This canvas [The Little Seagulls] was noticed by Charles Baudelaire at the Salon of 1859 who spoke of "surnaturalim" already. The almost unreal precision and the sense of eerie curiosity emanating from this painting evoke the surrealist work of Magritte."
A painter who is not often studied, Penguilly L’Haridon no doubt deserves to be looked at more closely by researchers and be published further.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 15 avril 2013


[1] Strangely enough, the documents in the archives are mistaken, indicating that the painting purchased for La Rochelle was the one just acquired by the Petit Palais.

[2] Quoted by Catherine Granger in L’Empereur & les Arts. La liste civile de Napoléon III, 2005, p. 213.

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