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Monday, July 11, 2016

Charles Angrand

The Western Railway at its Exit from Paris, 1886, Charles Angrand

When we hear the word "anarchy" today we often think of terrorism, or at best a state of total chaos. We think of revolutionaries intent upon overthrowing a government by violent means. Indeed, down through history, anarchists have used violence in pursuit of their aims; but it's not an integral part of the definition. Anarchism (as opposed to anarchy) is a political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions. These are often described as stateless societies by those who consider government to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful. Anarchists generally believe that human beings are capable of managing their own affairs on the basis of creativity, cooperation, and mutual respect. When making individual decisions they will take into the account the welfare of others. Surprisingly, the whole concept has its roots in Old Testament history during what has come to be termed the "Patriarchal Age" when the people of Israel had no king but were, instead, a loose confederation of tribes and families. Thus, when I mention that the French Neo-Impressionist painter, Charles Angrand, was an anarchist, don't bring to mind a firebrand terrorist, but instead, one of many overly idealistic utopian thinkers much more closely aligned with what we call today the "far right" than being some brand of leftist socialist.
Le Pont De Pierre, 1880, Charles Angrand
Of course, the inherent weakness in the entire Anarchist philosophy is capitalistic greed. Man seems to be hard-wired to put self and loved ones first with the rest of society left to fend for themselves. However, the fact is, such stateless simplicity didn't work for a primitive society like ancient Israel and would have meant total chaos (anarchy) even in the late 19th-century Paris world of Charles Angrand. Today, as the "Brexit" era dawns in Great Britain, a variation of that political lesson is about to be learned again. In Paris during the 1880s and 90s, the "mouthpiece" for anarchist philosophy was the newspaper, Les Temps nouveaux (The New Times, below) and Angrand was one of several avant-garde artists of the time including Paul Signac, Maximilien Luce, and Théo van Rysselberghe, who contributed illustrations in support of Anarchism.

A July, 1905 copy of Les Temps Nouveaux announcing
the death of the writer and political theorist, Élisée Reclus.

Charles Angrand
Self-portrait, 1892
Charles Théophile Angrand was born in 1854 near the Normandy town of Criquetot-sur-Ouville, to a French, schoolmaster and his wife. He began his art training in Rouen at the Academy of Painting and Design. His first visit to Paris came in 1875, when Angrand went to see a retrospective of the work of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot at the École des Beaux-Arts. Corot was an in-fluence on Angrand's early work. Although Angrand was denied entry into École des Beaux-Arts, he nonetheless moved to Paris in 1882, where he began teaching math-ematics at Collège Chaptal. He lived near the Café d'Athènes, Café Guerbois, and Le Chat Noir, hangouts of many of Paris' intellectual elites. Angrand joined the Paris avant-garde art world, becoming friends with such leading painters as Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Signac, Maximilien Luce, and Henri-Edmond Cross. His avant-garde artistic and literary contacts had a profound influence upon him. In 1884 he co-founded Société des Artistes Indépendants, along with the artists mentioned above and others.

Feeding the Chickens, 1884, Charles Angrand
Angrand's Impressionism of the 1880s, generally depicting rural subjects such as his Feeding the Chickens (above) from 1884. They contained broken brushstrokes and light-filled coloration, reflecting the influences of Monet, Pissarro, and Jules Bastien-Lepage. Working closely with Seurat, Signac, and others in the mid-1880s, Angrand's style evolved towards Neo-Impressionism. By 1887 his paintings were thoroughly Neo-Impressionist, his drawings incorporating Seurat's tenebrist style. Angrand worked to instill a visual poetry from the most banal suburban scene. In 1887 he met van Gogh, who proposed a painting exchange (which ultimately did not take place). Van Gogh was, however, influenced by Angrand's thick brushstrokes and Japanese compositional asymmetry. Also in 1887, L'Accident, his first Divisionist painting, was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants. Angrand also joined Seurat in plein air painting on La Grande Jatte island.

As the result of having studied there, and having been born in the nearby
Normandy area, Angrand had a long association with the Rouen Museum of Art as seen in his 1880 view on the interior. Many of Angrand's paintings can still be seen
there today. Notice the difference between the hangings of 1880 and those of today.
Angrand's Pointillism differed from that of Seurat and Signac. He painted with more muted colors as seen in Couple in the street. (below). Angrand used dots of various colors to enhance shadows and provide the proper tone, thus avoiding the violent coloration found in the work of many other Neo-Impressionist. His monochrome conté crayon drawings, as seen in his self-portrait, demonstrates his refined handling of light and shadow. In 1896 Angrand moved to Saint-Laurent-en-Caux, in Upper Normandy. There he developed his own unique methods of Divisionism, using larger brushstrokes. This resulted in rougher optical blending than small dots causing him to compensated by using more intense colors. Some of his landscapes from this period are almost non-representational. After World War I, Angrand moved back to Rouen, where he lived for the rest of his life. He was very reclusive during his last thirty years, but remained a dedicated correspondent. Charles Angrand died in April, 1926, at the age of seventy-two.

Couple in the Street, 1887, Charles Angrand


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