Charles Emile Tournemine

Charles Emile Tournemine

Biography of Charles Emile Tournemine ( 1812-1872 )

Tournemine was born from an aristocrat father who does not recognize his child legally and barely accepts to play a role of uncle. The child grows in an extreme poverty. When he is 13 years old, he enrols the French Marine School and serves in the schooner "l'Amaranthe. He then visits Greece, Turkey (Smyrna), Egypt (Alexandria), Cyprus and Syria. He serves in the Marine until 1827 and discovers the orientalist world of the Danube and the Black Sea, keeping on the way to Niles and Suez Canal. The young man is deeply impressed and mesmerized by the landscapes he crosses and will later depict them with affection.

In 1831, he enlists the 11th the regiment of artillery while is father being colonel and stays there until 18th March 1840. Then Tournemine changes course and heads for another destination: art.

At the age of 28 he joins the Eugène Isabey's studio and starts a long-time friendship with Auguste Raffet. At that time, he moves in romanticist clubs of the Parisian youth. He begins a carrier of official draughtsman at the War Office in 1843 and undertakes several trips in Picardie, Normandy and then Brittany with his master Isabey.

Inspired by his work, Tournemine becomes more and more famous as a landscapist and in this framework exhibits for the first time at the Salon of French Art in 1846. He befriends with Hildebrandt, Dupré et Joyant and collects their works. The artist's carrier will have two major periods: Brittany landscapes from 1846 to 1855 and the orientalist paintings from 1855 to 1872.

In 1852 and in reward of his Bonapartist convictions, he is appointed by Napoleon III curator of the Luxembourg Museum. He obtains State's commissions, among them "Ebb tide beach" exhibited in 1853 at the Salon. A year after and following his friends Fromentin, Raffet et Dauzats, the artist leaves for a tour around the Mediterranean Sea. His stay in Algeria is a sustained revelation and will marks a conclusive turn for his favourite subjects. He rediscovers the Alger's shores in Bône and the Lower Danube in 1860, as well as Asia Minor in 1863 and Egypt in 1869.

The 1855 Exposition Universelle is dedicated to orientalist painting and Tournemine exhibits there four works "Danube's banks” being one of them. At the 1857 Salon, he exhibits the painting we display "Café on the Lower Danube bank" and in 1859 two other paintings "Café in Asia Minor" and "Houses near Adalia" which meet a tremendous success.The artist turns out to be an eager observer of light and he describes is as an " opalescent fog". Clear or hazy, dazzling or subdued, accurate or blurring the landscapes, whatever the light's nature, it is indeed the actual subject of Tournemine's paintings.

About the light in Turnemine's works, the author and French Academy member Maxime du Camp writes: "Mr Tournemine is a talented light-maker, the manner he spreads the light is tirelessly wise and straight, the remote horizons fade within the deep aerial perspectives, he paints with rigor and never omits the details that all create the final outcome, he knows all the secrets of the light […] A wit and bright brushwork.

In 1863, the State buys the "Walk of the Turkish women in Asia" and "Café in Adalia". Unlike other orientalist artist, the Orient Tournemine depicts is not violent, neither picturesque or sparkling. He approaches this world from the inside and with an intimate feel. The artist affectionate the winding alleyways, the semi desert landscapes, the verdant oasis, the tranquility of the café and the imposing whiteness of the mosques. This open Orient is home for characters, animals and overall birds, one of his favourite subjects.

These Orient's depictions are based upon three main elements: air, ground and sea. His paintings may feature an impressionist touch thanks to the effect created by the light's shimmering over still waters.

Art critics all agree to say Tournemine knows how to convey the entire charm of Orient. His work wins his moderns recognition through subtlety of his palette. His works still attract the attention.

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