Saturday, May 9, 2015

Vibert's Gouaches

One of the masters of gouache painting was the French academician Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902). All the paintings in this post are in watercolor / gouache.
Jehan Georges Vibert The Ant and the Grasshopper, 1875
Vibert had a special gift for storytelling. Here he interprets the classic folktale of the wanton "grasshopper" falling on hard times and asking for a handout from the industrious "ant." Notice the heavily laden pack animals, the broken shoe of the troubadour, and the dismissive gesture of the monk.

Jehan Georges Vibert Peeping Roofers
Roofers pause from their work to peep inside a building. The figures are carefully studied from models who were probably real roofers.

Jehan Georges Vibert Spanish Saddlemaker (correction --this is in oil)
He traveled to Spain and took inspiration for many of his paintings from there. The careful drawing is reminiscent of Meissonier or Gérôme.

Jehan Georges Vibert Cardinal Reading a Letter
Vibert is best known for his gently mocking paintings of cardinals. This one seems to be reading a love letter; the one below is reading some baudy bit from Rabelais.

Jehan Georges Vibert Reading Rabelais
It is deliciously ironic that one of the largest collections of his work was given by the Maytag heiress to a seminary (the St. John Vianney seminary in Florida).

Jehan Georges Vibert On the Ramparts (correction --this is in oil)

Vibert was equally comfortable with historical and costume pictures. As a playwright and dramatist, he had access to a large supply of costumes. I'm not sure exactly what period this depicts, but I'm guessing 17th century Holland, around the time of the Tulip Wars?

Jehan Georges Vibert Trial of Pierrot
The Art Institute of Chicago owns this painting of "The Trial of Pierrot," but it's not on display. The original gouache is about 18 x 24 inches. He also painted it in oil. The painting is based on a farce about spurned lovers, and Vibert peoples it with characters from the commedia dell'arte. 

The paint appears to be fairly thin and transparent in the outer areas, but built up in opaques in the faces.

Jehan Georges Vibert
Vibert also had a love of the fantastic and bizarre. Note the pet tarantula and the rider of the bat-winged creature.

Jehan Georges Vibert At the Breakfast Table
Wikipedia on Jehan Georges Vibert
Article on Vibert in the Aldine
There's a double page spread of Vibert's Gulliver in my book: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
Previous Post: Vibert's Cardinals


Anonymous said...

Wow, his "The Ant and The Grasshopper" is a brilliant interpretation!

HNK said...

I really like his «Spanish Saddlemaker». About gouache, when will the new «Gouache in the Wild» air? (Thank you)

James Gurney said...

HNK, thanks for asking. I've got all the segments edited, and am working on introductory and transitional content. This will be a pretty lavish, detailed production. Should have it in a month or so.

Rotm81, yes, I love that one too, and it reminds me of the similar Pyle painting: "At the Gate of the Castle"
or E.A. Abbey's "The Bridge":

Rich said...

"Vibert had a special gift for storytelling": very true: Each one of these pictures tells a story.
For instance those "peeping roofers". What are they peeping at? I would say they discovered some hidden nesting animal. But one can imagine lots of other things, different stories...

Besides: these two dogs are so magnificently rendered, wow, all that in water soluble gouaches more than hundred years old; they must be taking real care to preserve them.

Anonymous said...

James, do you know of anywhere one could find high-res scans of these Vibert painting and the one by Pyle?

Ramon said...

Rich, the peeping roofers picture is part of a pair, the other picture shows a women's bathhouse.

Nancy Allen said...

I saw The Ant and the Grasshopper and The King of Rome along with other Vibert paintings at the Joslyn Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. His light and color are wonderful and the paintings have so many amusing things happening in them. Thanks for reminding me of this masterful painter.

अर्जुन said...

"Spanish Saddlemaker" & "On the Ramparts" are both oils.

James Gurney said...

अर्जुन, yes, I think you're right. I've made the correction.

ErickStaal said...

The costumes in "The trial of Pierrot" point more to a French, than a Dutch setting (for Dutch costumes, see e.g. the paintings of Rembrandt, Vermeer, etc.). Furthermore, happily, there never have been afaik Tulip wars, only Tulip Mania. ;-)