Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret

Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret, “Orpheus’s Sorrow”, 1876, Oil on Canvas, Dahesh Museum, New York City

Born in Paris in January of 1852, Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret was one of the leading French artists of the naturalist school. The son of a tailor, he was raised by his grandfather and later took his grandfather’s name, Bouveret, as his own. Beginning in 1869, Dagnan-Bouveret studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under historic and religious painter Alexandre Cabanel and Academic painter and sculptor Jean-Léon Gérôme. 

Dagnan-Bouveret began exhibiting in 1875 at the Paris Salon where he won the 1880 first-class medal for his painting “An Accident”, an everyday life scene of a doctor tending to a wounded boy. In 1885 he won a medal of honor for his painting “Horses at the Watering Trough”. Beginning in the 1880s, Dagnan-Bouveret maintained a studio with Gustave Courtois in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris considered the most affluent and prestigious of the residential areas. 

Adolphe Dagnan-Bouveret was considered by the 1880s as a leading modern artist known for both his peasant scenes and mystical-religious compositions. Like many of his contemporaries, he was fascinated by the religious customs of Brittany in northern France. Throughout the 1880s, Dagnan-Bouveret painted a series of portraits and scenes depicting the women of Brittany wearing their traditional regional dress and white head coverings. He was one of the first artists to use the new medium of photography to bring a greater realism to his work.

After his initial visit to Brittany in 1885, Dagnan-Bouveret turned his attention to that most westerly part of France, a complete change from his earlier works from the Franche-Comté region in the far east of the country. He painted a series of modern interpretations of religious work. One of these is the 1888 “Madonna of the Trellis” which depicts the Virgin Mary embracing the infant Christ under the dense foliage of a trellis. The Madonna is not dressed in the traditional blue but rather in white and has a contemporary appearance. 

Adolphe Dagnan-Bouveret painted some modern history works, the most notable being his 1889 “Conscripts” which depicts young men, just conscripted into the army, marching behind a drummer and a boy carrying the national flag. Dagnan-Bouveret did not exhibit it for two years. He entered it in 1891 at the re-organized Salon run by the Societé Nationale des Beaux-Arts, where the painting’s successful reception made it the focus of French nationalism. In 1891, Dagnan-Bouveret was made an Officer of the Legion of Honor, one of the highest French decorations,

After 1893, Dagnan-Bouveret abandoned naturalism and devoted his efforts to religious works. He exhibited his painting “The Last Supper” at the Salon de Champ-de-Mars in 1896. Probably Dagnan-Bouveret’s most spectacular religious painting, it followed the artistic tradition but contained more contemporary styled figures lit from a  source of golden  light not indicated in the painting. 

Adolphe Dagnan-Bouveret became a member in 1900 of the Institut de France, a learned society encompassing the five academies of arts and science. He died at the age of seventy-seven on the third of July in 1929. 

Dagnan-Bouveret’s work is housed in a number of private collections, including that of art collector George McCulloch, and in several public collections including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum in London, the Art Institute in Chicago, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and the Musée d’Orsay. 

Top Insert Image: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, “Woman from Brittany”, 1886, Oil on Canvas, 36.2 x 27.9 cm, Art Institute of Chicago

Bottom Insert Image: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret “Breton Women at a Pardon”, 1887, Oil on Canvas, 125.1 x 141.1 cm, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Spain

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