Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vibert's Cardinals

While we wait for the cardinals at the Vatican to make up their minds about the new Pope, let's enjoy some paintings by Jehan Georges Vibert (French, 1842-1902).

Vibert was known for his gently satirical portraits of ecclesiastical life. This one is called "The Preening Peacock." Vibert entered the École des Beaux-Arts at age sixteen and then studied with the painter François-Edouard Picot

Here is "Cardinal by the Fire." In addition to being accomplished both in oil and watercolor, Vibert wrote a book about the science of painting, mostly about pigments and chemistry. He was also a dramatist, and wrote  several plays.

And he loved to dress up. At one ball hosted by the dealer Goupil, "He dressed up as a very convincing Napoléon I with an entourage, including Detaille as the duc de Reichstadt. When Vibert came face to face with his 'descendant,' Napoléon III, in the person of the painter Jundt, they proceeded to decorate everyone in sight, including the waiters, before ending the evening with a remarkable quadrille."

There was an exhibition of his work twenty years ago called "Cavaliers and Cardinals: Nineteenth Century French Anecdotal Paintings," which featured Vibert, Bargue, Meissonier, and Detaille. You can still find used copies of the exhibit catalog, which is the best recent source for biographical information about Vibert.

"The Diet."
Vibert's paintings were very popular with American collectors such as John Jacob Astor and William Vanderbilt. According to Wikipedia, "A large collection of works by Vibert was amassed by the heiress May Louise Maytag on behalf of then bishop of Miami Coleman Carroll, who greatly fancied them. This large cache was then donated to the Florida seminary St. John Vianney College in Miami. At this location the extremely impressive collection has had a somewhat checkered conservation history, as well as exhibition history due to the discomfiture of later bishops with the seeming anti-clericalism of the paintings."
More about that Miami collection from "Beached Miami's" Jordan Melnick (posted today) Thanks JeanPaul Mallozzi.
Free Google eBook: "The Science of Painting" by Vibert 
There's a Vibert painting of Gulliver in my book Imaginative Realism.


Connie Nobbe said...

I love these paintings! Especially the first one! So funny, yet also very beautiful. Thanks for sharing these!

Rob Rey said...

Such great pieces, such great satire. I've always wondered how he got away with these.

Wendy said...

I love his sense of humour and the way he deals with those red robes.

Celeste Bergin said...

I don't know where you find the time to research things like this...but I appreciate it. I'm pretty sure I'd never have seen these paintings ....unless you brought it up! Thanks!

James Gurney said...

Glad you enjoy them, Celeste. Lately I've been doing my posts while Jeanette makes the oatmeal. If there are a few misspellings it's because the first cup of coffee hasn't taken effect yet.

Wendy, yes, he was the master of handling reds. Red isn't an easy color to use in light and shadow, because if you make it too light it becomes pink or orange.

Rob, I think he pushed the boundaries a bit, even in his own day. His satire is mixed with affection in most of them.

Connie, he was known as an amazingly charming person. Everyone loved Vibert as a person as well as his paintings.

If you all like, I'll do some more posts on him. His watercolors will blow your mind.

Christoffer Gertz Bech said...

Oh, yes, please, more posts on Vibert! Unfortunately I haven't had the pleasure to admire any originals of his, but from reproductions the colours seem to be very fresh and vivid. As far as I recall, he favoured painting on a white ground to make sure the colours wouldn't become dull as the paint turns more transparent with time.

Brad Teare said...

Beautiful genre paintings Jim. Thanks for bringing them to our attention. Like Norman Rockwell Vibert had the ability to combine pathos and dignity. I wonder if Rockwell studied his methods?

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post - there are some really high quality images of his work on (my favorite is

JonInFrance said...

I'm up for more! (this blog blows my mind most days anyways)

poppylocke said...

Great post! Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful painter!

Felice Applauso said...

Felice Applauso
That "Cardinal by the Fire" painting looks incredible! the colors alone for the cardinal's uniform leave me speechless; also, the way he painted the pavement, it conveys such a believable depth of field!... too bad for that Rehs Gallery, Inc. watermark: is so distracting. I have looked everywhere on Google, Bing, and another couple of search engine for the same painting with no luck... Why are there so many few paintings of this remarkable artist available on-line?

James Gurney said...

Felice, I agree with you. It's hard to find much online about Vibert, but now that I know people are interested, I'll do more posts about him. And I agree also that it's an appalling practice to watermark artworks that are clearly in the public domain. It brings discredit to anyone who does it.

Rotm81, thanks, I love that piece, too.

Brad, I've often noticed the affinities between Rockwell and genre painters, and have asked the curators at the Rockwell museum about that. Rockwell was very interested in artists of the past, but the books he had in his studio were mainly about familiar old masters such as Rembrandt and Michelangelo.

CGB, Yes, I'll try to dig more into his working method.

For all others who are intrigued by Vibert, find out if your local art museum has his work in their collection, and mention in the museum's guest book that you want to see his work displayed. They will respond.

Rich said...

Perhaps Vibert took that opportunity to use all the vibrant reds his palette would offer?

Neither Modern Art did exist in those times, nor Fauvism nor anything uninhibited & unreined of that kind; colorwise;-)

Keith Parker said...

Great paintings = a great post! Thank you for sharing.

And count me amount the others that would love to see more.

Brenda Boylan said...

OMG! The Peacock is a gas! Never heard of this artist before, makes me wonder who else is out there whom we have not "heard of". Also, I agree with Celeste, just how do you find the time to blog so eloquently and packed with info?

Rebecca S. said...

Wonderful...a bit like Norman Rockwell, actually, to my mind. Thanks for sharing. I'd never seen them before.

Elena Jardiniz said...

What a marvelous post! Thank you so much. The paintings are so beautiful as well as delightfully friendly poking fun. I know my art classes were all about the experimental artists rather than the ones who were mainstream in the 1800's and beyond. I'd never heard of any of the great 'story telling' Victorian painters until I got out of school. Alma Tadema and all the rest were relegated to "oh, those were the boring mainstream painters." but they were anything but!

James Gurney said...

Elena, Rebecca, B Boylan, and all who are new to Vibert: I'm so glad you enjoy this artist who has been overlooked by the contemporary art establishment. He was really big in his day, and I'm honored to reintroduce him to new eyes. In fact it gives me the delightful feeling of being mildly subversive. The Internet forces everything out into the light, and lends itself to all sorts of wonderful discoveries.

Daniel Bejarano Casarino said...

Thank you for posting this James, incredible artist with sense of humor, taste ant talent all at the same time.

Rachel M. Gohlman said...

These paintings actually inspired my book series "The Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli" !

See also my blog: