The Spanish Smugglers, a painting by Gustave Doré joins the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts


Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
The Spanish Smugglers, c. 1876
Oil on canvas - 196.2 x 240.8 cm
Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Photo : Jack Kilgore Gallery

27/9/10 – Acquisition – Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – Last year, the Richmond museum had acquired a canvas by William Bouguereau (see news item of 4/6/09). Once again confirming its interest in French painting from the second half of the 19th century, the museum has recently purchased an important painting by Gustave Doré, The Spanish Smugglers (ill.) from the Jack Kilgore Gallery in New York.

Better known in France for his work as an illustrator rather than a painter, Gustave Doré in fact produced an extensive number of immense paintings several of which reside in French museums (notably Strasbourg, Musée d’Art Moderne ; Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts and Paris, Petit Palais). Having considered that he was poorly treated by his countrymen (he never won any kind of prize at the Salon despite his frequent contributions), the artist opened the Doré Gallery in London in 1868 which earned him a lasting reputation in England.

Although smaller than some of his other historical paintings, the work acquired by Richmond is an accurate reflection of Doré’s searches as a painter. Taking a subject often represented by French artists, he magnifies it in an unusual way for such a genre scene. Another of his innovations is that these bandits are not Italian but Spanish, a result of the growing interest in this country on the part of French painters. Gustave Doré made several trips to Spain in 1855, then again in 1861-1862 during which he found his inspiration for the illustration of Don Quijote (1869). He also treated this subject of Spanish smugglers in two engravings in 1876, a date which probably corresponds to that of the canvas here.


Didier Rykner, lundi 27 septembre 2010



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