Monday, November 11, 2019

Fortuny Watercolor Study

Mariano Fortuny's father and mother had died by the time he was 12, so he was raised by his grandfather, a craftsman who showed the boy how to make wax figurines. He took his grandson on the road from town to town, presenting the figures they sculpted.

Watercolor study by Mariano (or Marià) Fortuny (1838-1874)
Young Mariano showed early promise in drawing and painting. In Paris, he studied with was inspired by Ernest Meissonier and Jean Leon Gérôme, both of whom made careful studies from costumed models with watercolor.

Fortuny died young, but his influence was felt by many younger artists, who carried on his tradition of traveling and adventuring, painting people in exotic costumes.

Please see the additional biographical detail provided by Ramon in the comments.


Vladimir Venkov said...

He was very, very good. Thanks James!

Ramon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Gurney said...

Ramon, if you would be willing to put your comment back, I would be grateful. You had a lot of information that I didn't know, and I thank you for it.

Lester Yocum said...

Okay, I'm confused. Mariano Fortuny, either father or son. Was there another? The father was a well-known Spanish painter, the son a fashion designer. I couldn't find reference to the marvelous Fortuny war drawings I remember from your blog. Had to be Mariano, I guess, but I remember him having another name, not Maria.

Ramon said...

Hi James,

Fortuny is in some ways, shrouded in little mysteries, so I didn't want to post anything without substantiation and I opted to delete the message until I had time to research some of the things I remembered.

Some sources list Fortuny as a student of Gerome and/or Meissonier, but by the time Fortuny went to Paris, he was already a fairly mature painter. As far as I understand, and what I've seen from Spanish sources, his only formal training was with Claudi Lorenzale and Pau Mila i Fontanals at the Escola Provincial de Belles Arts in Barcelona (he and his grandfather had to walk there from their home in Reus, because they couldn't afford anything else).

Fortuny was the most promising pupil, and a Rome prize was organized more or less so he could win it, which he did in 1857. Once in Rome, he frequented Gigi's academy, which was really just an open model session. Gigi's attracted an international group of students and each session had 2 hrs of clothed modeling and 2 of nude modeling. Students voted on whether they would like the pose for 3 or 4 evenings. Crucifixion poses were apparently popular and there was a large wooden cross there for the purpose.

I don't recall about how many times Fortuny visited Paris, but I believe his major visit was around 1868 when he was working on La Vicaria. Gerome lent him a studio and Meissonier insisted on posing for one of the main figures (man with a saber). Fortuny was not a pupil, but he had studied Meissonier's work. His friend Zamacois had, however, studied with Meissonier.

Meissonier apparently claimed that he would give his left hand (some say just the little finger) to paint watercolors as well as Fortuny. I remember reading that, when someone told him Fortuny was copying him, he said something like "if a genius like Mariano Fortuny were to copy me, it would be the greatest compliment of my professional career". Unfortunately, I haven't been able to track down the quote.

We also don't know exactly what he died of (some say malaria, some say stomach ulcer) and many American sources inexplicably refer to him Mariano Fortuny y Carbo, which is bizarre, since his mother's maiden name was Marsal, thus his name in Spanish sources is Mariano Fortuny y Marsal or Maria Fortuny i Marsal in Catalan.

By the way, I'd like to take the chance to thank you for your articles and scholarship over the years. I started reading your blog about 10 years ago and in the interim, 19th century academic research has become a huge part of what I do.

Thank you again!


Lester Yocum:

Maria is the Catalan variant of Mariano. Fortuny the father was Catalan, so in Spanish scholarship, it is common to refer to Fortuny the father as Maria, although everyone called him Mariano during his life.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Ramon, for those fascinating details about Fortuny. I was working from a machine translation of the French biography, so the info I had was a bit confusing.
Lester, yes, as I understand it, both father (watercolorist) and son (fashion designer) were named Mariano Fortuny, but the father is also known as Mariá.