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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Raphaël Collin

Morning, 1884, Louis Joseph Raphael Collin, one of
the few works in which his model was not nude.
Sometimes artists have the misfortune of being born at the wrong time. Most often this involves a period some twenty to forty years before a major war in which they find themselves either as combatants or victims, and in either case prone to dying young. However, there are wars and then there are "wars." Perhaps we use the word in a figurative sense too frequently and too lightly. Whatever the case, whether the conflict is military or philosophical, artists have and do get caught up in the resulting disturbances. The French painter, Louis-Joseph-Raphael Collin was one such artist. He was born in 1850, which would make him of military age during the Franco-Prussian war and the five-month siege of Paris in 1870-71. However, that was such a stupid, pretentious, little dustup as to be easily avoidable by any artist with half a mind to do so.
Collin struggled to adapt as Academicism fell into
disfavor during the later years of his career.
Portrait of Paul Victor
1880s, Raphaël Collin
No, the "war" Raphael Collin found himself in the midst of had to do with art, and particularly the conflict between French Academic art and the various avant-garde movements developing during the final decades of the 19th-century. Collin studied first at the school of Saint-Louis, then moved on to Verdun. From there he journeyed to Paris about 1867 where he studied in the atelier of Bouguereau and later that of Alexandre Cabanel. Collin painted still-lives, nudes, portraits, and genre pieces; thus he became thoroughly indoctrinated with Academic values, content, and painting styles. During his early years as a painter, Collin found himself on the "right" side of this art conflict--the winning side--as he developed a modest following and a comfortable lifestyle. However, he was also bright enough to realize that what and how he painted was gradually falling out of favor, seen as old-fashioned, trite, and tiresome.
Summer, 1884, Raphael Collin.
The postcard version is in black and white.
It began with Impressionism. Collin adopted some of the major color tenets into his work as his palette lightened and brightened. His style, and more importantly, his academic infatuation with the female nude however, did not change. His tastefully chaste paintings of lovely naked ladies, long the staple of the Paris salons, became the subject matter for the infamous "French postcards"--in no way obscene--but certainly salacious by 19th-century standards. They appeared especially erotic printed in monochromatic hues and passed around between "gentlemen" of all ages like baseball trading cards. In due time, Collin found himself illustrating erotic works, such as Maurice Ravel's "symphonie ballet," Daphnis and Chloe around 1890 (bottom), and later the lesbian poetry of Pierre Louÿs' Chansons de Bilitis (1906).
This painting has been known by two titles.
The postcard title, Florial, is probably the one preferred.
Collin figured prominently in artistic exchanges between Paris and Tokyo during the late 19th-century as Kuroda Seiki, Kume Keiichirō, Okada Saburōsuke, and others, studied in his studio and at the Académie Colarossi where Collin was associated. Kuroda and Kume, who subsequently assumed professorships at the Tokyo Fine Arts School, were especially instrumental in introducing to Japan Collin's academic teaching methods as well as the lighter palette, brushwork, and the plein air approach he espoused. This mentorship of the first generation of Japanese oil painters contributed to the special respect he continues to enjoy in Japan. Raphael Collins died in Paris in 1916 at the age of sixty-six.

The influence of Impressionism as well as the flowing
composition of Japanese painting can be seen above in
Collin's painting and preliminary drawing.

A Couple Embrace Tenderly Moments
after Making Love Together Forever,
an illustration from Daphnis and Chloe

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