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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Charles-Francois Daubigny

There is an old saying that says, "Some are born to greatness, the rest of us have to work at it." One might think that being born the son of an artist into a family with numerous other artists would put you in the first category. For Charles-Francois Daubigny, (pronounced DOE-bin-yee) it wasn't quite that easy. Born in Paris in 1817, the son of Edouard Francois Daubigny, young Charles realized at an early age he was destined to become an artist, if not for greatness. His father was a working artist, though by no means a well-known or really a very successful one. The same was true for several of Charles' cousins as well. Though not impoverished, Daubigny grew up with a very strict understanding of ethics and money. When he was twelve, his mother died and the boy found himself plying the family trade at a very young age, doing what he could to earn money. Besides assisting his father and various odd jobs, Daubigny took to painting fans and bonbon boxes to earn a small return from his talent. It was good training especially in creating interesting, innovative artistic compositions.

By the age of 17, Daubigny and a friend, who was also a painter, had managed to save about three-hundred dollars for a trip to Italy, then considered the ultimate educational experience for any would-be artist. With his friend, Mignon, and all their worldly possessions packed up on their backs, the two painters set out on foot, no less, for Italy where they studied for a year in Rome, Florence, and Naples (and no doubt wrote the book on seeing Italy for less than a dollar a day). A year later, back in Paris, broke, the trip had nonetheless changed their lives. Mignon realized he was not cut out to be a painter while Daubigny found a job as an assistant conservator for the king's art collection. It was, however, a job in which he was not happy at, and after months of quarreling with his boss, he was fired.

But rather than being distressed at his dismissal, Daubigny felt free. Using the keen feeling for pigments, colors, and techniques he'd gained in studying the king's collection, and the great art of Italy, Daubigny applied himself to painting. In 1838, he entered in the Salon competition a painting of the Chancel End of Notre Dame, though it attracted little attention. However the next year, in spite of his lack of academic training, his St. Jerome in the Desert was a serious contender for the Prix de Rome. However, he lost out to what he considered an inferior, academic painter. Daubigny switched to landscapes, finding refreshing solitude in joining the so-called Barbizon painters who liked to work outdoors in and around that small town on the edge of the Fountainbleu Forrest. He eventually settled in another small town not far from Paris, Auvers-sur-Oise where he lived and painted. He was a never-ending source of support and inspiration for the next generation of out-of-doors painters--the Impressionists.
Rising Moon in Barbizon, is typical of Daubigny's
Barbizon "in plein air" work.
(Photos of Daubigny's Solon entries, mentioned
above, seem not to be available.)

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