Plaster sculpture of a man dressed in a Civil War military uniform; arms are broken off at mid-bicep.
At the end of the Civil War (1861–65) there was an effort to promote an American Renaissance and to beautify cities with civic monuments and public sculpture. Sculptors, including Randolph Rogers, were commissioned to produce memorials that addressed themes of war and slavery and to commemorate military heroes, from the common soldier to President Abraham Lincoln himself.
This plaster cast was likely a maquette for one of the soldiers that made up the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil War monument in downtown Detroit.
This portrait painting shows a full-length, life-size figure of a man. He is standing on the top of a mountain against the background of a sky with dark clouds and a rocky mountain range. He is facing the viewer but his gaze is directed to the right. He is dressed in a French military uniform of the Napoleonic time period, including black leather riding boots, a sabre and a large black cloak that billows in the wind. He holds his hat in his hands. His uniform decorations and medals are shown in great detail.
Gérard painted this portrait of General Maximilien Foy after the death of the sitter, who was the painter's friend, in 1825. Maximilien Foy was a distinguished French general and statesman during the early 19th century. He served in several campaigns, including the Pennisular War and Waterloo, and was named a Baron by Napoleon in 1810. After the fall of the Empire, Foy retired to civilian life to write a history of the Pennisular War. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1819 where he became a popular orator. Gérard presented this painting to Foy's widow and refused payment for it.
March 28, 2009
François Gérard was one of the leading painters of the Napoleonic era in France. Throughout the 1790s he regularly exhibited at the official Salons and won a reputation as an outstanding portrait painter; he received many important commissions for paintings from Napoleon, his family, and his circle. This posthumous portrait of Maximilien-Sébastien Foy, a distinguished general and statesman, shows Gérard at the height of his powers. Foy is depicted standing, in full military dress—the very embodiment of an heroic leader—on a precipice in front of a dark and brooding landscape. The light in the painting emphasizes Foy’s face, capturing his features as well as the exquisite gold braid of his uniform. The general, who led Napoleon’s campaign in Spain, looks to the right, with an assurance that suggests he is in complete possession of the surrounding territory. His bold stance is matched by the freedom of the brushwork, particularly that of the landscape. The cloak that both envelops and animates his figure is reminiscent of the one used by Jacques-Louis David—one of the premier artists in France and Gérard’s former teacher—in his famous portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps at the St. Bernard Pass. Though the portrait was commissioned by Foy’s widow, Gérard, who had been friends with Foy, refused payment from her.
This work in graphite and watercolor on off-white wove paper is vertically oriented. There are six male figures portrayed in the uniforms of éclaireurs, or scouts, of nineteenth century France. Only the second and third men from the left are colored in, the four others are graphite outlines. The men wear military jackets with belts, trousers, and black shoes with tall, white spats. Their hats have brass emblems and tipped up bills. The largest man who was been colored in has a blue sash over his gray uniform and holds a rifle at his side. There is a pale blue rectangular border around the men with the artist’s name in the bottom center.
Tissot depicts six male figures portrayed in the uniforms of éclaireurs, or scouts, of nineteenth century France. Tissot was born in Nantes, France, and moved to Paris in 1856. Although his first works were literary and historical, he started painting modern subjects in 1856, focusing on detail and costume (Les Éclaireurs de la Seine was painted ca. 1870-1871). Tissot was in Paris and helped defend Paris from the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War. These are likely portraits of people he knew and perhaps served with. He fled to England after the fall of the Commune in 1871, where he proceeded to paint portraits and was linked to the aesthetic movement. He lived with a mistress and muse until her death in 1882, when he returned to Paris. He converted to Catholicism three years later and mainly focused on ambitious religious themes.
Gallery Rotation Fall 2010
Les Éclaireurs de la Seine
Graphite and watercolor on paper
Museum purchase, 1966/2.4
Tissot is best known for his genre paintings of fashionable and elegant women in London and Paris; this sketch of figures in military attire is something of an anomaly in his work. During the summer of 1870, France declared war on Germany and in autumn and winter of that year Paris was under a state of siege for four months. A number of artists—including Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, and Tissot—joined the National Guard and remained in Paris to defend the capital. The shortages, isolation, and starvation robbed Paris of its customary attractions, particularly for those used to depicting the modern subjects of cafés and boulevards.
Tissot’s sketch of men in his company is evidence of his skills as a portraitist. Although only two of the figures have been identified, each of the somber figures is a study in seriousness and recalls portrait photographs of soldiers in uniform from the mid-nineteenth century.