Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bouderie (Sulking)

A painting with an intriguing bit of storytelling has surfaced in Sotheby’s auction preview, currently on view in New York.


The scene by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929) shows Dagnan’s friend, the painter Gustave Courtois slumped on a colorful studio sofa, still holding his brushes and palette as if he’s taking a break from painting.

At the other end of the sofa, a woman in mourning veil sits aloof and dignified. She might be a model keeping her distance, or a patron commissioning a portrait of her deceased husband. Why isn’t she making conversation with the artist? Is she unhappy with the likeness in the portrait he’s painting?


And why is the artist ever so slightly grinning? Dagnan teases but doesn’t give the story away. The obvious thing would have been to show the easel and the portrait. But by concealing, by showing enough and not too much, he invites the human interest of the viewer.

The auction preview continues from 10:00 to 5:00 at Sotheby’s on 72nd and York.

7 comments:

PAF said...

He believes he has finished the painting - she's not sure he has.

Michael King said...

I've never seen this painting before and just love it!

Erik Bongers said...

Perhaps the painting reflected in the mirror above the painter might give a clue...

Victor said...

I was admiring this painting at Sotheby's yesterday, wondering if Bouveret was influenced by Velazquez's Las Meninas.

In the picture, we see Gustave Courtois taking a break from painting, but we don't see the actual painting on the easel. In contrast, the snapshot-like quality of the moment draws attention to the fact that the entire image itself was created in the same space and time, but in this case it is the artist who we don't get to see.

Also, the painting in the mirror is likely that of Anne Marie Dagnan, the wife of the artist.

http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/2002/Great_Artist_Timid_Reviewer/large/Courtois_Gustave_Portrait_Of_Anne-Marie_Dagnan,_1880.jpg

So the artist and two important figures in his life are present in the studio in three different forms. The artist, who has translated the interior into an image; Courtois, who has been included as part of the image while creating an image of his own; and the artist's wife, who is an image (part of Bouveret's painting) of an image (a reflection in a mirror) of an image (a portrait painting) created by another element of the image (Gustave Courtois).

It is interesting to note that the intermediate step between the Courtois image and the Anne-Marie Dagnan image would be an actual painting depicted in the same space, but not as a reflection in a mirror. Indeed, there is a small portrait painting included just to the left of Courtois's head, but it is mostly obscured by the oriental screen. Wouldn't it be interesting if this happened to be a portrait of Dagnan-Bouveret himself?

A.Decker said...

Very intriguing, entertaining piece. Thanks for sharing.

James Gurney said...

Victor, thanks for sharing all those other levels of meaning.

Richard said...

Some lightheartedness versus a serious mood.