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Th?odore Caruelle d'Aligny, 1798-1871


Description:Read An Essay On This Drawing

By 1855, when this drawing was exhibited at the Exposition universelle, some critics considered the paysage historique outdated and an academic exercise relevant only at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.1 Contemporaries of Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny considered him a reformer of the landscape genre not because of the subject matter but because of his approach to nature. Pastorale is a good example of the artist's regard for nature as an organization of mass and form rather than as a study of atmospheric conditions. Although he does not specifically cite this drawing in his review of the exhibition, Théophile Gautier opined that the artist's "incontestable grand style" was characterized by "a severity of line, a sobriety of detail and a firmness of execution that is perhaps too absolute, giving one the idea of nature as marble reproduced in bas-relief; he is a sculptor more than a painter."2

Nowhere is this more evident than in Pastorale. Aligny gives us a technical tour de force executed in charcoal. Using different types of charcoal, the artist built up the surface of the sheet, sometimes with a rag charged with the medium, only to dab away much of it with stumps. In the margins of the sheet, he experimented with various colors, including a cool black and a warm brownish-black, which may be an oil- or resin-impregnated charcoal. The articulation of vertical branches at top left was achieved with a pulverized or powdered charcoal, possibly mixed with a resinous fixative, applied with a brush during the process of drawing. While the planar arrangement of the composition intimates the flats of an opera set,3 there is, nevertheless, a successful integration of foreground, middle ground, and background. The tangle of trees to the left and the sweeping underbrush in the foreground at right lead into the background trees, whose limbs bend to encircle the shepherd and nymphs at center. The effect is one of protective Nature embracing Humanity.

Until the 1840s, artists used charcoal for underdrawings on canvas or for preparatory studies because they could quickly lay out a composition and easily make corrections with their fingers, a stump, or even a piece of bread, so fugitive is the medium.4 The instability of charcoal meant that it was rarely used for highly finished works, such as Pastorale, and even more rarely used on a monumental scale. Moreover, it was a medium generally reserved for landscapes, although Alexandre Bida (cat. nos. 10 and 11) is said to have submitted Orientalist scenes in charcoal to the Salons.5 Maxime Lalanne, who is better known as a printmaker, maintained that charcoal was superior to other drawing media because of the power of its values, the transparency of its tones, and its freshness and richness. In his treatise on the subject, he wrote, "It [charcoal] is the kind of drawing that approximates most closely the effects of painting, all the color and shimmer of which it has."6 Anticipating Impressionism, Lalanne especially appreciated the speed with which one could capture an effect and the vivacity that could be achieved only by working en plein air; but he was quick to point out that this property of charcoal did not preclude its use in more studied and precise renderings. Aligny's Pastoraleis certainly one of the latter, neither intimate nor impressionistic, carried out in a studio and imitating an engraving by the seventeenth-century artist Francisque Millet in the tangle of trees at left.7 Cheryl K. Snay

1. M. du Camp, Les Beaux-Arts à l'Exposition de Universelle 1855 (Paris, 1855), 238.

2. T. Gautier, Les Beaux-Arts en Europe (Paris, 1856), 127-28.

3. C. Ives and E. Barker, Romanticism and the School of Nature: Nineteenth-Century Drawings and Paintings from the Karen B. Cohen Collection (New York [?], 2000), 54.

4. For the fullest discussion of the medium and its properties, see V. and T. Jirat-Wasiutynski, "The Uses of Charcoal in Drawing," Arts Magazine 55 (October 1980): 128-35, and T. Jirat-Wasiutynski, "Tonal Drawing and the Use of Charcoal in Nineteenth-Century France," Drawing11 (March-April 1990): 121-24.

5. "Lalanne, peintre, dessinateur, graveur-aquafortiste (1827-1886)" [extract from La Gironde littéraire et scientifique du 29 août 1886] (Bordeaux, 1886), 8.

6. M. Lalanne, Le fusain(Paris, 1869), 7. "le fusain reste le maître de tous les genres de dessins par la puissance des valeurs, la transparence et la finesse des tons la fraîcheur et l'ampleur du travail. C'est le mode de dessin qui se rapproche le plus des effets de la peinture, dont il a toute la couleur et l'éclat." See J. L. Tirpenne, Le paysage au fusain (Paris, 1867), and A. Allongé, Fusain (Paris, 1873). It is also worth noting that Allongé's manual was translated and published in the United States, Charcoal Drawing(New York, 1876).

7. M.-M. Aubrun, Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny, 1798-1871: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, dessiné, gravé (Paris, 1988), 411.

Medium: Charcoal with stumping on cream, medium-weight, moderately textured wove paper
Dimensions: Sheet: 559 x 838 mm. (22 x 33 in.)
Date: before 1855
Category: landscape
Inscriptions and Markings: RECTO: LR: "Th. Aligny"
Exhibition History: Jay Fisher et al, 'The Essence of Line: French Drawings from Ingres to Degas,' The Baltimore Museum of Art, June 19-Sept. 11, 2005; circulated to Birmingham Museum of Art and Tacoma Art Museum through Sept. 2006. Exposition Universelle 1855, No. 2416
Bibliography: Th?odore Caruelle d'Aligny, M-M Aubrun, Paris 1988, No. 425
Provenance: BMA by purchase, 2003; David and Constance Yates, New York.
Collection: The Baltimore Museum of Art
Credit Line: The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Bequest of Mabel Garrison Siemonn, in Memory of her Husband, George Siemonn
Object Number: BMA 2003.81