Friday, April 2, 2010
Well, a nasty head cold kept me from returning to the Museum during my trip to San Antonio, but I shall return later this year and make the pilgrimage again. I have spent the ensuing time since the last post adding to my growing collection of Academic Nudes from European sources, two very nice mid-19th Century Academic Male Nude Drawings, an almost photographic, early 20th Century Male Nude drawing, and a superb painting of a Male Nude by Raoul du Gardier (1871-1952). (illustrated above)
There is a story behind this acquisition, its condition, and its future. My hunt for new acquisitions takes me mostly to European eBay sites (France and Germany) and to Auction sites in Germany and Hungary. By some miracle I recently found an obscure French site that lists works by working artists in France and a few individuals selling private antique works of art. When I saw this work listed I knew immediately that it was by the hand of a Master. I contacted the seller and talked her into a lower price. She was worried I would be disappointed in the condition of the painting, but I know a valuable gem when I see one, so the damage did not bother me.
There is just something in me which moves deeply when I see the work of a master. Mastering the Nude is a requirement of every Art School I know of, and believe me, it is not an easy task. I know that from personal experience in the studio. There is something so poetic and so beautiful about a well executed nude study.
Well it took a month of waiting to finally get the painting, but boy was I excited to see this painting finally in my happy hands. The seller had been given the painting by an elderly man who was a friend of her Grandfather's and who had been a collector for many years. He had been a Museum guard and had a small collection of works remaining as he neared death. The painting ended up in her attic for thirty years until she decided to list it and sell it.
If you look closely, you will see an inscription in china marker on the lower left side of the painting, which is an important clue to the identity of this unsigned work. In French, the inscription reads: "Raoul le Boucher, a pupil of G. Moreau in 1800, bought at the death of father Letraz, attendant at the museum." The seller had taken the painting to Drouot, one of the most important Auction and Appraisal Houses in France, and had it appraised and authenticated to the late 19th Century. No indication of who the artist may have been.
The seller, I believe, mistakenly thought the inscription on the painting referred to the model and subject of the painting. Well, from experience, I suspected immediately that the information actually referred to the name of the artist and could not figure out why no one at Drouot had picked up on that. The majority of models go into Art History anonymously, so that let that line of reasoning out. Back to square one. A quick Google search of Raoul le Boucher, of course, brought up nothing. Alright, the name Raoul is not usually a French name but the name G. Moreau (Gustave Moreau 1826 - 1898) is well known and could easily be researched and so could the identity of his pupils. Logic and the notation on the painting holds that this mysterious Roaul le Boucher was at one time, during the manufacture of this painting in particular, a student of the great master, most probably during the artist's youth. Back to research. This painting is obviously an academic work from the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris where Moreau taught, most probably from the mid-to late 1890's. A little research on Gustave Moreau indicated he was elected to the Academie in 1888, taught drawing and painting from 1892 to 1898, and was considered to be the last great instructor there. He taught many of the later French Masters, including Georges Rouault, Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Henri Manguin and Edgar Maxence. Logic holds that the mysterous Raoul le Boucher was amongst some pretty notable company. Admission to the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris was indeed prestigious and the artistic endeavors coming out of that institution had to be impressive.
My next search was pretty simple. I Googled "Raoul pupil of Gustave Moreau" and bingo up comes Raoul du Gardier (1871 - 1951). His resume is indeed impressive, although at one time he was almost lost to obscurity. Of French parantage, born April 1871 in Wiesbaden, he died October 16, 1952 at Pornic. He was a student of Theobald Chartran and Gustave Moreau. He exhibited at the Salon of French Artists in 1894, 1897, and became an Associate from 1900 on. The end of the Great War marked his first commercial success. He traveled to Egypt and the Indian Ocean and did illustrations for commercial magazines. He traveled extensively in the French colonies and became famous for his Orientalist paintings. In 1923 he was appointed "Painter of the Navy". He also specialized in Marine Paintings. He exhibited internationally in San Francisco, Munich, Amsterdam, Pittsburgh, Rome, and Paris. In the early 20th Century, du Gardier turned his attention to contemporary life and produced lively images of Socialites at play. Interestingly, he was one of the artists appointed to decorate the French Passenger Liner Normandy. After his death in 1952 his work slid into obscurity and it was not until the recent revival of interest in the Orientalist Movement paintings that his work is again appreciated and valued.
As far as the future is concerned, the painting will be on its way to a restoration laboratory next week, which will hopefully return it to its original glory and increase its value. You never know what you will find when you look in all the right places.