Nantes : Acquisition of a Maxence and Publication of the Catalogue of 19th century Drawings and Engravings

Edgard Maxence (1871-1954)
Woman Reading, 1906
Pastel - 73 x 54.4 cm
Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Galerie Alexis Bordes

11/5/12 - Acquisition, Publication - Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts - A native of Nantes, Edgard Maxence was recently highlighted in his hometown and in Douai in a retrospective underscoring the importance of portraits in his work. Catherine Méneu, in her review published on the French site, considered that British influence on the artist should not be underestimated. Although this is no doubt a pertinent observation, the beautiful pastel just acquired by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes (ill.) from the Alexis Bordes gallery in Paris evokes the art of the English pre-Raphaelites while also referring to more academic French artists such as Luc-Olivier Merson. While he participated in the Salon Rose+Croix from 1895 to 1897 and is generally considered a Symbolist painter, as shown by the magnificent Soul of the Forest from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, it cannot be restricted to this current alone.
The work acquired by Nantes represents an unidentified young woman holding a book in her hand, posing in the park of a château glimpsed in the background on the top left. Dating from 1906, this is probably the work exhibited at the Salon in 1907 with the title of Woman Reading.
After the acquisition of a masterpiece by David (see article), this pastel by Maxence is a welcome addition to an already rich collection, relatively unknown until now, but which was featured in a publication appearing after the exhibition presenting its most beautiful sheets, just recently closed.

This catalogue, by Cyrille Sciama, curator in charge of the 19th century, provides a complete listing of all of the drawings and engravings produced between the very late 18th and the early 20th century, except however artists for whom there are over one hundred works (mainly Luc-Olivier Merson, Henri Picou and James Tissot) which will be covered in another publication (although they are mentioned here). The extensive Elie Delaunay holdings have already been published for the most part on a specific internet site which we mentioned previously.
Nineteenth century drawings (and engravings) found in French museums are so rarely catalogued that we must commend the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes for having taken this initiative. Given the number of works, this could not be a catalogue raisonné and only a few sheets have a detailed entry. However, we find it unfortunate – though we fully understand the restrictions and cost of such an exercise – that not all of the drawings are reproduced. They should appear on the very complete database for the collections at the Musée des Beaux-Arts available here (but, no doubt due to a passing bug, the day we published this article no photographs came up). Another, this time benign, but nevertheless real, drawback is the use of the same “flashy” colors (this is an apt description in our opinion [1]) as the ones found in an overly systematic manner on the museum walls, today under refurbishment. May we express the hope that they will not be used for the reopening ?

In concluding, we would like to point out the following remarks :

N° 233 and 236 - Auguste Galimard, Saint John and Saint Philomena. This is clearly the same drawing, probably Saint John (Saint Philomena has disappeared and thus seems to be unknown).

N° 237 – Auguste Galimard , Saint Dominic. This drawing, the cartoon has, alas, also disappeared, represents in fact the rare Saint Domnole and is preparatory for a stained-glass window in the church of Saint Laurent in Paris.

N° 268 – Auguste Hesse, Study for Saint Genevieve. Curiously, this drawing is assigned to Auguste Hesse when in fact Cyrille Sciama writes, correctly, that the style recalls rather that of his nephew, Auguste Galimard. It was donated by the latter (with also several of his drawings, including the ones quoted above, and a Portrait of a Young Woman by Auguste Hesse) and bears the inscriptions “Eglise Sainte Clotilde, Paris. 1854/Ate Galimard” and “Etude pour Sainte Geneviève d’après ma chère fille [Study for Sainte Geneviève after my dear daughter]”. Now, Auguste Galimard – who indeed had a daughter – is the author of a cartoon for a stained-glass window of Saint Genevieve in the church of Sainte Clotilde. This is no doubt a preparatory study for this work (but we did not check it out personally).

N° 272 – Alexandre Hesse, Old Man, Fallen, with Hands Joined. This is a study for the figure on the lower right in Transfer of the Relics of Saint Gervais and Saint Protais, a mural painting in the chapel of Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais in the church of the same name in Paris.

N° 425 to 428 – Théophile Vauchelet, Saint John, Saint Luke, Saint Mark and Saint Matthew. These are no doubt studies for the four Evangelists painted by Théophile Vauchelet for the ceiling of the chapel inside the Senate building, constructed by Alphonse de Gisors and today deplorably turned into offices and sectioned off. We had seen the Saint John some time ago and it is indeed a tondo.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 15 mai 2012


[1] Suffice it to look at the catalogue cover.

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