A Scholarly Exhibition in Dijon on Gustave Moreau’s Song of Songs


2/11/11 - Publication, exhibition, acquisitions - Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts - The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, currently undergoing an extension, is nonetheless partially open to the public and is now offering a scholarly exhibition devoted to one of the establishment’s masterpieces, The Song of Songs by Gustave Moreau (ill. 1).


1. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
The Song of Songs, 1853
Oil on canvas - 30 x 31.9 cm
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Dijon


2. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Study for a Soldier, 1853
Graphite - 21.9 x 29.4 cm
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Dijon

This small show, which we have not seen but whose catalogue we were able to study, provides Dijon with the chance to present eight preparatory drawings for the painting, seven of which were acquired in 2008 and an eighth donated by Edwart Vignot, the "inventor" of this ensemble which he discovered and correctly attributed to Moreau after hesitating for a long while between the latter and Théodore Chassériau. [1]
These drawings are not unfamiliar as they had been displayed, along with others of the same provenance but produced for different canvases, at the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in 2005 [2] and had been reviewed by us here (see the news item of 18/10/05 (in French)).


3. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Study for the Sulamite, 1853
Graphite - 29.2 x 21.9 cm
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Dijon

4. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Study for a Male Nude, 1853
Graphite - 29.2 x 21.9 cm
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Dijon


5. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Male Nude, Seated, 1853
Graphite - 29.3 x 21.9 cm
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Dijon

6. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Groups of Sleepy Characters, 1853
Graphite - 21.9 x 29.4 cm
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Dijon


It is easy to see why Vignot hesitated between the names of the two artists. At the time, "Moreau signed Chassériau", according to the expression coined by the collector himself [3], reflecting the fact that the drawings as well as the definitive oeuvre, were disturbingly marked by a sort of mimicry of Chassériau’s manner on Moreau’s part, an influence which he would soon abandon but which impregnated his art in a lasting way.


7. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Groups of Characters, 1853
Graphite - 21.9 x 29.4 cm
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Dijon

8. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Groups of Sleepy Characters, 1853
Graphite - 21.9 x 29.4 cm
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musée de Dijon


For the occasion, the catalog explores the ties between the two artists thanks to an essay by Christine Peltre, Sophie Barthélémy looks at the figures of the Biblical heroine in the work of Moreau and other 19th century painters, while Marie-Cécile Forest and Matthieu Gilles explore the genesis of the Cantique des Cantiques. The latter, who analyzes the role of the drawings in the elaboration of the painting, notes correctly that "Moreau’s process is not that of a ’classic’, who starts with composition sketches before doing studies of separate figures and then finally executes the picturial piece, [rather] he elaborated several paintings at the same time [while] constantly going back and forth between the composition sketches and studies of details, some of which are often rough, unfinished drafts." This is in fact the main lesson which visitors to the exhibition or those who read the accompanying catalog will bring away with them.

Collective work, La Sulamite dévoilée. Genèse du Cantique des Cantiques de Gustave Moreau, Gourcuff-Gradenigo, 2011, 72 pp., 17€. ISBN : 9782353401147.


The exhibition is showing at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon from 15 October 20111 to 16 January 2012.

Version française


Didier Rykner, mercredi 2 novembre 2011


Notes

[1] We pointed out these acquisitions in a news item of 10/6/09, but reproduced only the sheet donated to the museum.

[2] At that time Edwart Vignot had donated four drawings to the Ensba.

[3] In a talk at the Académie des Beaux-Arts on 12 November 2003.



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