Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret

Biography of Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret ( 1852-1929 )

A painter of mythological, allegorical and religious subjects, genre scenes and portraits, Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret started his artistic career in 1869 with his admission to the Fine Arts Academy in Paris, where he initially worked in the studio of Alexandre Cabanel. His training was temporarily interrupted by the historical events of that period,  the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune in 1871. In 1872 he pursued his education with the artist Jean-Leon Gérôme.
Having lost his mother at the age of six, he was brought up by his grand-parents within a small and wise bourgeois and provincial surrounding, attending classical studies in Melun. At a very young age he was showing high skills in drawing, and very soon he decided to devote his life to painting, refusing to join his father in his business in Brasil. The latter, furious, would cut off all allowances to his son, so, aged 16, Dagnan-Bouveret moved to Paris pennyless. He settled in an attic-room in the street  of Faubourg Poissonnière where, by chance, he became the neighbour of  Jean-Baptiste Corot. He befriended the great lanscape-artist who used to welcome him, giving him artistic advices that Dagnan-Bouveret would always remember.

In 1875, for the first time he exhibited in the French Artists Salon with « Atalante », a depiction of the Greek heroine who had won a footrace against all her male competitors. This subject suited the spirit of the time still filled with war memories, and, following this presentation, Dagnan-Bouveret was comissionned by the State to decorate public buildings like the Sorbonne and the Odeon .
In 1876, he received a second Prix de Rome and exhibited two allegorical paintings at the Salon, « Orphée et les Bacchantes » and « Bacchus enfant adoré ».
Soon the  value of his work was recognized  and  he was awarded with  many distinctions and prizes : a third medal in 1878 for « Manon Lescaut »,  a first medal in 1880, a Honour medal in 1889 and a Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in 1889. Last but not least, he was knighted in 1900.
From 1878 onwards,  his works would reveal a shift of subject and « La Noce chez le Photographe » (1878-1879), now in the Fine Arts Museum in Lyon, or « L’Accident », (1879), in the Walters Museum of Baltimore, are paintings which reveal a fusion of classical academic training with subject matters based on the everyday life of ordinary people.
Under the influence of his very close friend, the artist Jean-Bastien Lepage, he adopted a new style of narrative painting easier to be appreciated by a wider public . Through images of  rural life or of contemporary Parisian street scenes  he became   « a painter of modern life » offering pictures like  « The bird Charmer in the Tuileries Garden » (1879), at the Chrysler Museum of Art, or « The laundress » ,(1880), a painting inspired by Emile Zola’s novel « Nana ».

Following his wedding, in 1879,  he approached more personal subjects through  portraits of his friends, family,  and mainly of his wife, a cousin of his best friend, Gustave Courtois.

His career was now launched with success when, in the years 1880-1890, he decided to add religious painting to the  wide panel of his work. In 1886 he began a series of paintings based on the custom of the « Pardon Breton », a theatrical rural custom  which had been illustrated by several artists travelling in Brittany  at  the end of the 19th century, among which Paul Gauguin, Paul Sérusier , Maurice Denis, and the Nabis.
In November 1900, Dagnan-Bouveret was elected to the Fine Arts Academy of the French Institute, one of the youngest painter to ever receive this honour. and, at the Universal Exhibition of 1900  his status of a respected artistic leader allowed him to showcase his paintings , including « The Last Supper », in a separate installation.
Recently, his talent has been rediscovered and celebrated through an exhibition held in 2002 at The Dahesh Museum of Art in New York.

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