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François-Marie Firmin-Girard 

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François-Marie Firmin-Girard 

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Biography of François-Marie Firmin-Girard  ( 1838-1921 )

History painting, genre scenes, still lifes, landscapes, orientalist subjects, or naturalists: the diversity of themes addressed in the work of François-Marie Firmin-Girard makes him an unclassifiable artist. Indeed, enriched by these multiple influences, the painter has not developed a genre, a theme, or a style of his own. However, having trained with Charles Gleyre and Jean-Léon Gérôme, Firmin-Girard is nevertheless in line with the academic and neo-classical painters of the second half of the 19th century.

This neo-classical tradition tended to disappear from the 1830s onwards, under the influence of painters such as Gustave Courbet, leader and theoretician of realism, and Camille Corot. Firmin-Girard therefore sought his way, torn between the work of the neo-classicists, impregnated by the ancient canons; and the work of the emerging impressionists.This artistic context undeniably marks the artist's production.  

Firmin-Girard was born in 1838 in Poncin, in the Ain, a region of France, and moved to the Paris region with his parents in 1845. He was then placed with the Lassaliens brothers, at the heart of a lay male congregation established in a private mansion in the city of Paris.

In this context, his plastic abilities are detected: he reveals his talent for drawing and begins a classical career. In 1853, Firmin-Girard began his artistic training at the Imperial and Special School of Drawing, Mathematics, Architecture and Ornamental Sculpture, applied to the industrial arts. One year later, at the 16, he chose to join the studio of Charles Gleyre, before being admitted to the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He borrowed this academic precision of drawing from his master and reused the light and nuanced shades of his palette, which were particularly prized. In 1859, at the age of 21, he exhibited his first painting at the Salon, a figuration of Saint Sebastian. He initially chose the path of history painting. In 1861, he was awarded the second prize of Rome.

Thereafter, accompanied by his classmates from the School of Fine Arts, Firmin-Girard chose to paint on the motif, in quest of new colours. During his stays in Fontainebleau, Barbizon, or Marlotte, his touch is released. In 1873, his work includes an exotic parenthesis: Two orientalist canvases are produced, as well as a few canvases of Japanese inspiration.

From 1870 onwards, Firmin-Girard settled in a villa studio in Ault Onival, where he stayed most of the summer. The artist then favoured the representation of the landscapes of this region. He then tended towards a certain naturalism, which grew stronger over the years: his palette became less vivid and more nuanced. The impact of Impressionism can be seen in his work. Indeed, the precision of his touch fades away to make way for light and colour.

Landscapes, seashores and villages make up a large part of his artistic production. The artist strives to transmit and document this authentic life in the heart of the countryside: it includes work in the fields, local crafts and traditional activities. Turning away from history painting, he turned towards figurations of scenes of rural life, which were expected to disappear at the dawn of the 20th century, turned towards this growing modernity. 

 

 

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