Everyone has heard of Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh, but have you heard of Charles François Daubigny? If you haven’t its most probably because he has become overshadowed by those that he mentored and inspired, who often painted in more vivid colours. Daubigny was the master of modern landscape painting, innovating in a time when methods and techniques were changing.
Born 1817 in Paris into a family of artists, Daubigny was first taught by his father, the artist Edme François Daubigny. Studying Dutch landscapes at the Louvre, Critics later dubbed, “his paintings are fragments of nature cut out and framed in gold.” His earlier works were realistic and endeavoured, like every other painter, to depict the romanticised scene before them but before long he began focusing on specific elements within a scene, a quiet beauty can be seen in ‘Spring’ 1857. Attempting
broad strokes to capture the far distance ‘The Harvest’ is a perfect example of Daubigny’s intentional impressionistic strokes in a garish pink and blue, quickly garnered by Conservative critics exclaiming that “it looks as if its been applied with a trowel!”
Daubigny continued integrating realism with hints of Impressionism. We probably wouldn’t take notice now but at the time it was revolutionary, and artists such as Pissarro, Sisley, Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh looked up to Daubigny with reference. He discovered and adopted new pigments ahead of most of his contemporaries. By the late 1850s after having several of his paintings accepted into Le Salon he was named a member of the Committee. This proved vital for the Impressionist movement enabling artists such as Claude Monet to exhibit there for the first time. Daubigny proved so incredibly useful he even put Monet in touch with all the important art dealers in London.
We all know Monet’s famous paintings of river scenery. Following in the footsteps of Daubigny’s river boat ‘Botin’ (The Box), set along the Seine and Oise rivers near Auvers, seeing how successful Daubigny was by being able to ‘get in the scene’ and paint directly from life. Monet even took inspiration from Daubigny’s recording of the transitory aspects of nature – weather, light, atmosphere. His beautiful ‘Haystack’ paintings were as a result of looking at what Daubigny was creating. Monet’s ‘Sunset’ 1880, of a wintry twilight, once again took its spark of originality from the paintings by Daubigny. ‘Sunset at Villerville’ 1874 is an example of this.
Vincent Van Gogh identified with Daubigny’s concern for naturalism and the “truth of life” so much so that he considered Daubigny a pioneer of the modern landscape. Van Gogh’s ‘Farmhouse’ 1980 alludes towards this considered subject choice. So enamoured was he with Daubigny, Van Gogh frequently referenced him and painted his garden following his death. He even copied his ‘double-square’ format – a diptych in panoramic vision allowing for a wide-angle arrangment, ’Wheatfields nr. Auvers’ was painted not long before his death.
‘Inspiring Impressionism’ maintains a meaningful narrative, one that shows Daubigny’s clear influence on an artistic movement forging new paths in terms of composition, painting technique and stylism. Comparisons between the exhibition’s paintings reveal Daubigny’s impact on two subsequent generations of artists — Monet and Pissarro and the Post-Impressionist Van Gogh, a great insight into the forefathers of Impressionism.
|Van Gogh’s ‘Wheatfields nr. Auvers’|
On until 2nd October
Edinburgh, EH2 2EL