Posts in Forgotten Master
The Forgotten Master Project

Have you ever had the experience seeing a remarkable work of art and after reading the name of the artist, wondering "Why haven't I ever heard of her before?!" This happens to me all the time. As I travel around the world to major and provincial museums, attend auctions, and visit private collections, I see astounding masterpieces by artists whose anonymity defies the quality of their work. I write down their names and do my best to find out who they are. Often I learn that these sculptors and painters are well known to seemingly everyone but me. But, in some cases, I find that there is little known about them. I call these artists "Forgotten Masters." And I have a list of more than 300 so far.

These artists range from the fourteenth century to the present. Some are the equivalent of one-hit wonders — making an award-winning work and never quite reaching that level again. But many were consistently skilled and hugely influential. They have been left out of the standard narrative of the history of art through various circumstances (e.g. dying young, working in provinces, becoming teachers, being out of step with the zeitgeist, or being women).

Last year, I gave a lecture series on the development and careers of several well-established Old Masters. The lectures were attended in person by professional artists, who added their remarkable perspectives to my art-historical approach. We recorded several of these and put them online. (You can access them here.) Some of these online recordings were visited more than 150,000 times.

This Fall, when our lecture series begins again, rather than revisit the careers of well-researched artists whose works have been examined and broadcast many times — and for good reason — my plan is to bring much needed attention to these Forgotten Masters. Because these artists are, by definition, difficult to find in museums, online, or libraries, I would like to create a collaboration between me, those who are attending the lectures, and anyone who wishes to participate online.

Balthasar Denner (German, 1685-1749) Portrait of an Old Woman (c. 1725) Oil on copper. 14 5/8 x 12 3/8 in. Hermitage Museum.


I have narrowed my list of 300+ to about 50 names. But I know that my list is probably woefully incomplete. If you have thoughts on how it can improve, Please:

  1. Look through the list
  2. Tell me who I have missed. (Put their names in the comments or send me an email.)
  3. Berate me if I have included anyone unworthy of the list.
  4. Share the list with others who you think will be interested.

Lemuel Everett Wilmarth (American, 1835-1918) Still life with oranges and raisins (1890) Oil on canvas. 9 1:8 x 13 1:8 in. Private collection.


Once we have a good amount of feedback and a solid list, I will start working on the lectures. Each lecture will discuss a Forgotten Master, his or her training, major works, influence, and place within the well-remembered artists of the time. Each lecture will be recorded, put online and accompanied by a post on These posts will be a major resource, where those who have additional information relating to the artist can share their findings.


About ten years ago, I posted a few Forgotten-Master-themed posts on Bearded Roman. (You can see them here). By far, they have been the most visited posts on this site and are still the top links for Google searches for each of those artists. In particular, the post about Hugues Merles (French, 1823-1881) led to lively discussions online and off, and to one exhibition.

Over time, I hope that the artists we select together will be better known and that we can provide a resource for future studies.

Pompeo Leoni (Milanese, 1533-1608) Emperor Charles V & the Fury (1549) Bronze. 251 x 143 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.


You may recognize some of the names on this list. Some of them may be well known to you or the larger world for a single work of art; but, unknown for the rest of their oeuvre or other contributions.

My criteria for being "forgotten" is no major catalogue or exhibition in the last 50 years OR not being discussed outside a small region (i.e. many artists are well known within their small community; but, little or no information appears outside of their native language).

My criteria for being a "master" is less scientific. It depends on whether or not their work is exceptional compared to their peers (e.g. fellow artists, collectors, critics) and whether or not their work had a lasting influence on others.

Theo van Rysselberghe (Belgian, 1862-1926) Maria Sethe at the Harmonium (1891) Oil on canvas. 46 1/2 x 33 1/3 in. Koninklijk Museum, Antwerp.


Click on the green dot next to each artist's name for my one-sentence description of the artist and a link to a representative work of art.

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Real Basílica de San Francisco el Grande in Madrid

  Ricardo Bellver (Madrid, 1845-1924) San Andres (Saint Andrew) Marble. Basilica de San Francisco el Grande, Madrid.

Located a short walk from the Royal Palace, the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande is not on most tourists' itineraries. It should be. Even when tourist visit, it is to see the Capilla de San Bernardo (Chapel of Saint Bernard) where a large painting by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828) hangs. Goya's work is worth seeing; but, it is hardly the most impressive in the Basilica.The site for the building was chosen in 1214 by none other than Francis of Asisi (1182-1226). It became the capital's hub for religious Royal and national events. Several weddings by Bourbon rulers took place there. However, after invading French troops used the Basilica as a military barracks, the building fell into disuse. (Both because of the cost of restoration and its association with the French.) During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Spanish government commissioned the country's best native artists and architects to retore the Basilica. (By the way, a basilica is different from a Cathedral or church in many ways. For one, a Cathedral is dedicated to a particular saint. Basilica's are dedicated to the Virgin. They also represent different hierarchies within the Catholic Church. A priest says Mass in a church, a Bishop in a Cathedral and the Pope in a basilica.)

Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande (Royal Basilica of Saint Francis the Great) Madrid, Spain.

The Basilica's principal dome–one of the largest in the world–was painted by Casto Plasencia Mayor (). Plasencia had studied in Rome, where he did extensive studies of Raphael's frescoes in the Pope's apartments. He also drew inspiration from the eighteenth-century frescoes done by Tiepolo for the Royal Palace, just down the street.

Casto Plasencia Mayor (Spanish, 1846-1890) Cupola for the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande, Madrid

There are six chapels, each dedicated to a different saint and featuring epic-sized paintings. However, my favorite works in the Basilica, by far, are the twelve sculptures along the perimeter of the cupola, representing the original twelve apostles in larger-than-life carera marble. These were done by artists whose names are now forgotten and whose other works are almost all gathering dust in the basement of national and regional museums. (Please excuse my poor photographs. The light conditions in the Basilica are not great.)

Ricardo Bellver (Spanish, 1845-1924) San Mateo (Saint Matthew) Marble. Basilica de San Francisco el Grande, Madrid.

The Basilica and its artists deserve a great deal more attention. (I hope to write an extensive paper, perhaps a book, on it someday.) For more images, go to this album.

Forgotten Master: Federick Cayley Robinson (British, 1862-1927)

The recent exhibition, Acts of Mercy, at the National Gallery has brought well-deserved attention to Federick Cayley Robinson (British, 1862-1927). Despite his remarkable abilities and relationship with still-celebrated artists, the majority of Robinson's works are in museum storage or private collections. Federick Cayley Robinson (British, 1862-1927) Acts of Mercy: Orphans II (c. 1915) Oil on canvas. Wellcome Collection, London.

(Like works reproduced on this blog,  these paintings are three dimensional objects. In person the vibrancy of Robinson's colors and his painterly skills are undeniable and electric.)

Robinson studied at the Academy of St. Johns Wood before being accepted to London's Royal Academy under Frederic Lord Leighton (British, 1830-1896). He continued to develop his abilities, first at the Academie Julien in France for three years and, then, in Florence.

Federick Cayley Robinson (British, 1862-1927) The Old Nurse (1926) Oil on canvas. British Museum, London.

Robinson moved back the UK to take a teaching position at Glasgow University, where he became a friend and collaborator with members of the Glasgow Boys. But, before taking his post, Robinson travelled to Newlyn, England at the peak of Stanhope Forbes' (British, 1857-1947) career. Like Forbes, Robinson's work was dominated by fisherman, farmers, and shepherds. But, unlike the Newlyn School, which took inspiration from French Naturalism and Jules Bastien Lepage, in particular, Robinson was heavily influence by the Symbolist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (French, 1824-1898).

Federick Cayley Robinson (British, 1862-1927) To Pastures New, or Dawn (1904) Watercolor, graphite, and bodycolor on board. 28 by 35 1:2 in.

In To Pastures New, Robinson creates an homage to the French artist by reversing Chanvannes' composition in The Poor Fisherman.

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (French, 1824-1898) The Poor Fisherman (1881) Oil on canvas 155 by 192.5 cm. Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Robinson's greatest work was a series of paintings commissioned for the Middlesex Hospital. Spanning more than 15-feet each, the four panels of Acts of Mercy are a tour de force of skill, demonstrating Robinson's enormous arsenal of skills and classical vocabulary. He combines the sensibilities of a classicist–deriving poses and motifs from greco-roman sculpture and compositions borrowed Giotto's frescoes–and the subjects from contemporary life. His subjects are orphans and veterans of World War I cared for by the hospital. Aesthetically, it is both contemporary and timeless. A

Federick Cayley Robinson (British, 1862-1927) Acts of Mercy, Detail (c. 1915) Oil on canvas. Wellcome Collection, London.

s commentary on charity, Acts of Mercy is, as my friend and mentor Dr. Tom Gretton commented, a masterclass in receiving charity: how it is given and how it is received. Robinson captures a large spectrum of human relationships in this and in all his works I have been able to see. While Middlesex Hospital has been torn down and the show has now ended at the National Gallery, Acts of Mercy has a new home: the Wellcome Collection.

Forgotten Master: Fanny Fleury (French, 1848-1920)

Fanny Fluery (French, 1848-1920) Woman Readon (n.d.) 24 1/4 X 17 1/8 in. Oil on canvas. Private collection. With art historians earnestly looking for prominent female artists, it is surprising that so little is written about Fanny Fleury (French, 1848-1920). With the exception of Rosa Bonheur (French, 1822-1899), Fleury was perhaps the most successful female exhibitor in the history of the Paris Salon, having works accepted consistently from 1869 to 1882, and in many afterwards. She also exhibited at the Salons of Saint-Etienne and Dijon, and received an honorable mention at the Exposition Universelle of 1889.

Fanny Fluery (French, 1848-1920) Les Enfents de Jean-Marie (n.d.) Oil on canvas. Unknown Collection. Lithograph reproduction of original.

Fleury's academic credentials are impeccable. She studied with Jean-Jacques Henner (French, 1829-1905) and was later accepted to the École des Beaux-Arts as a student of Carolus-Duran (French, 1837-1917), where she was a classmate of John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925). (Speaking of her work at the 1884 Salon, one critic said Fleury had "equalled her masters," Henner and Duran.)  Highly regarded by her peers, Fluery was elected an Officer of the Academie and an associate of the Société des artistes français.

Fanny Fluery (French, 1848-1920) Portrait of an Unknown Woman (n.d.) 32 X 25 3/4 in. Oil on canvas. Private Collection.

Yet, for all her accomplishments in well-documented institutions and events, there is surprisingly little information currently available about the life and work of Fleury. (This is another instance where I am writing about an artists in hopes that it encourages others to contact me with additional information.)

Fleury was born outside Paris in either 1843 or 1848–most sources agree on the latter. It is possible–I stress "possible" for lack of form documentation, yet a great deal of circumstancial evidence–she is the daughter of Joseph Nicolas Robert-Fleury (French, 1797-1890), a successful history painter and on-time director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and Rome; and, his son, the painter Tony Robert-Fleury (French, 1837-1912), who was also successful painter and who replaced Bougeureau as the Director of the  Société des artistes français (If anyone can shed additional light, it would be greatly appreciated.) When she married, Fanny Fluery became Fanny Laurent Fleury; but, never included "Laurent" in her signature. So, whether or not there is an actual genetic connection between the three Fluerys, they must have come into contact with one another through the Acadamie.

It has been difficult to piece together a continuum of Fleury's production with the few works and accounts left to us. It appears that for a time–presumably early in her career–she created a number of still lives.

Fanny Fluery (French, 1848-1920) Still Life with Flowers (n.d.) 20 1/2 X 17 1/2 in. Oil on canvas. Private Collection

Under Carolus-Duran, Fleury distinguished herself as a portraitist. Her large-scale work Bebe dort (1884) exhibited in the Salon of 1884 along with Madame X by her classmate John Singer Sargent. Both pieces belie the the influence Corolus-Duran, who often combined monumental human figures in contemporary settings.

Fanny Fluery (French, 1848-1920) Bebe dort (1884) 83 X 57 in. Oil on canvas. Anthony's Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT

In Bebe dort (1884), a mother–perhaps a self-portrait of the artist–cradles her child, sitting together next to a cradle. Behind the figures, on the wall Fluery places a print of a business being ransacked by a mob. No one would imagine that scene actually being hung in a child's room. It is a clever use of a picture-within-a-picture, used often by Netherlandish painters in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to create greater or multiple meanings within a work. The juxtaposition of the two scenes contrasts security and comfort of home with a threatening world.

Fanny Fluery (French, 1848-1920) Bebe dort (1884) 83 X 57 in. Oil on canvas. Anthony's Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT DETAIL

At some point, Fleury set aside society portraits and dedicated herself to Breton scenes. In 1892, The American Magazine wrote:

Realism has likewise tempted another artists of great talent, Mme. Fanny Fleury. It is to the desolate lands of Lower Brittany that Mmde. Fleury goes for her subjects. She has painted som admirable marine scenes, but excels in depicting types of peasantry . . . every summer she goes to the seacoast, and in some retired cornes, unfrequentd by the tourist, prepares her picture for the next Salon. (The American Magazine, Vol. 34. New York: Frank Leslie Publishing House, 1892; p, 430.)

Fanny Fleury (French, 1848-1920) Pour la Chapelle (n.d.) Oil on canvas. Private Collection. Black and white, photograph from Paris-Salon by Louis Enau

The quality of her work combined with her credentials certainly raise questions about the current dearth of readily-available information on Fleury's life and the location of her works. All signs point to a productive career. From contemporary records, we know that her works were regularly purchased from Salon galleries, and that her works were found in various French and American museum collections–none of which currently list those works in their public inventories.

Whatever the reason for Fanny Fleury's undeserved, forgotten status, she will only gain prominence as her works are rediscovered.

Forgotten Master: Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881)

Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) Romeo & Juliet (1879) Oil on canvas. 67 X 51 in. Anthony's Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT, USA. If you saw the above work and thought "Bougeureau," you could be forgiven. Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) is in many ways a forgotten proto-Bougeureau. Merle and William-Adolphe Bougeureau (1825-1905) knew one another well and, for a time, were represented by the same gallery. Born two years apart, both graduated from the École de Beaux-Arts, were members of the French Academy and regulary exhibited at the annual Paris Salon. Their penchant for mythical, allegorical and literary scenes combined with mastery of the monumental human figure, made them competitors for the same pupils, positions, prizes and patrons. While Merle was only two years Bouguereau's senior, he died nearly a quarter century earlier. A strong argument could be made–and I may tackle it some day–that had Merle lived to Bouguereau's age, memory of his work would have not suffered such anonymity.

Two years ago, someone I know bought major work by Hugues Merle–Romeo & Juliette (1879). Since then, Merle has become a pet project that has taken me to France, England, Belgium and the United States in search of primary documents and published materials. There is disappointingly little available on public record.  By increasing awareness of his work, its my goal to encourage those who have information relating to Merle to raise their hands and help us all piece together the life and work of an artist to has a lot to offer.

Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) Susannah at Her Bath (Date Unknown) 51 1/4 X 35 1/2 in. Private Collection.

There is a precedent for this. Thirty years ago, Damien Bartoli (1947-2009) took up the cause of Bouguereau and worked to produce a catalogue raisonné for the artist. Sadly, Bartoli died last month; but, not before publishing dozens of articles and submitting his final manuscript of Bouguereau's complete works. (It will be this by the Antique Collectors' Club in London.) Over the same 30 years, Bougueraeu has experienced a revival. Although it would be hard to establish a causal relationship, since Bartoli picked up his pen Bouguereau has seen a dramatic increase in awareness, appreciation and prices for his work. I'm no Bartoli and Merle is not Bouguereau. But, as Bougeureau's star continues to rise, I believe it is only a matter of time until Merle's follows. The two were closely associated in life and deserve to be in death.

Hugues Merle was born in Saint–Marcellin in the region of Isère (i.e. Southeast France). Little is know about his family or upbringing. As a community, Isère was politlcally charge, known for strong Protestant roots and nearly uniform support for the Empire. Early in his career, Merle painting a number of pro-Empire works that may be a reflection of his origins.

Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) The Eagle's Flight (1857) Oil on canvas 51 X 35 1/2 in. Christies, NY 23 APR 2003

Merle was accepted as a student at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the nation's most prestigious school for aspiring artists. There he enrolled in the studio of Léon Cogniet (1784-1880). Cogniet had studied at the École under Pierre -Narcisse Guérin, at same time as Eugene Delacroix, Ary Scheffer and Theodore Géricault, with whom he maintained life-long friendships. While he distinguished himself by winning the Prix de Rome in 1817, Cogniet is largely remembered as a teacher. Of him, Baudelaire wrote:

If he does not aspire to the level of genius, his is one of those talents which defy criticism by their very completeness within their own moderation. M. Cogniet is as unacquainted with the reckless flights of fantasty as with the rigid systems of the absolutists. To fuse, to mix and combine, while exercising choice, have always been his role and aim; and he has perfectly fulfilled them.

(Charles Baudelarie. The Mirror of Art, rans. and ed. by Jonathan Mayne. New York: 1956, p. 21)

Cogniet students include some of the century's most respected painters, including Alfred Dehodencq, Jean-Louis Ernest Messonier, Jules Joseph Lefebvre, Léon Bonnat, Raimundo de Madrazo, and Jean Paul Laurens. As a teacher, Cogniet advocated vigorous and rough sketching above meticulous, time-consuming preparation. This became what Albert Boime described as "the sauce Cogniet [that] became a popular epithet to describe the technique of his disciples." (Art and the Academy, p. 104). This resulted in a fluid naturalism in Cogniet's own work, which influenced Merle's approach during the the 1840s and 1850s.

Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) The Good Sister (1862) Watercolor on paper. 8 X 5.75 Walter Art Museum, MD, USA.

Having seen nearly 200 of Merle's works (I have no idea how many he painted yet), ranging from the early 1840s to his death in 1881, I would divide his ouvre into roughly three periods:

  1. Multifigural History Painting (1840s and 1850s)
  2. Genre Scenes (1850s and 1860s)
  3. Monumental Romantic Figures (1860s t0 1881)


Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) Vendangeurs dauphinois dans les environs de Saint-Marcellin (1850) Oil on canvas 42 1/2 X 75 1/2 in. Piasa Auctions, Paris 14 DEC 2001

It is no surprise that works from early in Merle's career have more in common with Cogniet's work than his latter works. They  are politically-charged or mythological history paintings–the kind that students at the École were trained to produce. Like Cogniet, many of these works are romantic in coloring and stroke. The brushwork is loose and the palette is warm.

2. GENRE SCENES (1850s and 1860s)

Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) The Embroidery Lesson (Date Unknown) Oil on canvas 39 1/4 X 31 5/8 in.

It is my guess that once he had established his academic credibility, Merle had to make a transition into becoming a commercial success. In mid-nineteenth Paris, this meant appealing to the bourgeoisie. Rather than mythological or heroic scenes that appealed to aristocratic tastes or political agendas, the easy sell to the upwardly mobile French middle classes was domestic family life and narratives lionizing traditional French values. Merle painted pictures of mothers and daughters, family gatherings, country scenes and home interiors. According to one source, it during this period Bougeureau and Merle had the same picture dealer, and that dealer encouraged  Bougeureau to take up Merle's successful theme of familial grieving.

Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) The Widow (Date Unknown) Oil on Canvas. Private Collection

In this era, Merle developed his own technical approach that distanced him from Cogniet. He replaced warm colors with a high-contrast, jewel-like palette. His paintings became sparsely populated and the remaining figures grew in proportion to fill the canvas. As the figures grew, they became more idealized with an emphasis on line over color.


Merle's critical successes in the  Salons of the 1860s led gave him international recognition. Like many others, Salon prizes resulted in a lucrative business of painting portraits Brits and Americans.  But, it was Merle's work as an interpreter of major literary romantic figures that set him apart.

Hugues Merle (1823-1881) The Scarlet Letter (1861) Oil on canvas. 39 5/16 x 31 15/16 in. Walters Art Museum, MD, USA.

Upon seeing a photo of Merle's interpretation of the Scarlett Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne is purported to have said: "It is the most true representation of my work I have ever seen." Merle painted a number of biblical and literary figures, especially romantic couples, including Tristan & Isolde, Benedick & Beatrice, and Romeo & Juliet. These figures were painted as large as life. They dominated the canvas. Merle removed all unnecessary narrative devices, relying on his audience's familiarity with the subjects.

Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) Tristan and Isolde (1870) Oil on canvas. Private Collection.

In 1865, François-Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo's son) had translated the complete works of Shakespeare into French. For the next fifteen years, the French poured over and re-interpreted the Bard's narratives in ballets, operas, sculptures, and paintings. Merle's Romeo & Juliette depicts the couple's first meeting in Act I, Scene V. Here Romeo steals a "pilgrim's kiss" from Juliet who coyly responds "You kiss by the book."

The increased sophistication of Merle's subjects was rising mastery of the human form. While his treatment of the clothed figure indicate his skill level, it is in nude that we are able to see an artist's true mastery of the figure. Bougeureau's female nudes leave us in awe of his skill and ensure his immortality. There are accounts of several painting of nude figures by Hugues Merle that have not surfaced in the art market. For me, this is a major omission in his ouvre and one that will continue to dog him if he is to regain stature.

Forgotten Master: Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898)

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) La canal de Mancorbo en los Picos de Europa (1876) Oil on canvas. 168 x 123 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

While not forgotten in Spain,  Carlos de Haes' work has been little recognized elsewhere. As a teacher and award-winning artists, Haes is perhaps Spain's greatest  landscape painter.

Photograph of Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-1898) c. 1870.

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) was born in Belguim to Spanish parents. Due to financial troubles, the family was forced to return to Spain in 1835. There, Haes studied with Luis de la Cruz, a Court Painter to King Ferndinand VII and a member of the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.

In 1850, at the age of 24, Haes traveled back to Brussels to study Flemish landscapes. There he competed and regularly placed in Belgium's annual Salons. Six years later, Haes returned to Spain.

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) Tejares de la montaña del Príncipe Pío (c. 1872) Oil on canvas. 39.2 x 61 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

His international experience carried a great deal of currency in Spanish painting circles, and immediately set him apart from his peers who rarely studied beyond Spain and Italy. His dedication to landscape also changed the Spanish Academy's attitude towards landscape painting.

Despite having been accepted as a major genre in other European countries, during the first half of the nineteenth century, Spain had not widely  participated in Romantic and Sublime landscape painting. Instead, landscapes were considered a second-rate genre, a necessary part of an artist's education insofar as it related to the composition of history painting.

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) La vereda (1871) Oil on canva. 93.7 x 60.4 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Haes' work Cercanías del moasterio de Piedra (1858) was the first landscape painting to win a First Place medal at the Exposicion Nacional, Spain's equivalent of the Paris Salon. The award represented a giant leap forward in the estimation of landscape painting as a stand-alone discipline. Shortly afterwards, Haes was made a member of the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the nation's most prestigious art school. His appointment in 1860 to the Academia de San Fernandoand and subsequent teaching there effectively caught Spain up with other schools of landscape painting in Europe. As a teacher, Haes fathered a dynasty of Spanish landscape artists that continues today. Among Haes's more prominent students are Martín Rico y Ortega (1833-1908), Jaime Morera (1854-1927).

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) La Torre de Douarnenez (c. 1880) Oil on canvas. 39 by 59 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

It could be argued that Haes' one of most important contributions to Spanish painting was with non-landscape painters. Through him, history painters, whose work enjoyed the widest attention at the Exposiciones Nacionales, developed a new appreciation and approach to landscapes, arguably bringing it on par with their figural work. Artists like Francisco Pradilla, José Casado del Alisal, Placenscia Maestro, were required to take Haes' course at the Academia de San Fernando considered a serious part of their large history paintings, sometimes producing numerous studies devoid of figures.

In particular, Haes brought to Spain an increased emphasis on three aspects of landscape painting: luminosity, porportion and direct observation from nature.

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-1898) Picos de Europa (c. 1875) Oil on panel. 37 x 59 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Traditionally, Spanish artists favored the use of sandy-colored grounds for use in painting. This created a unifying effect in their works, but resulted in the overall dampening of light. While Haes continued to use sand-colored and reddish grounds in his works, he would incorporate large patches of lead white and subdue the quantity of sandy grounds.

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) Cercanías de Villerville, Normandy (c. 1877) Oil on canvas. 26.2 x 39 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Very few of Haes' works exceed 150 by 200 centimeters. This was at a time when history paintings, often exceeding 6 by 10 meters, were competing for top prizes at Exposiciones Nacionales. Haes' landscapes, though bold in composition and epic in subject matter, maintained comparatively modest proportions. This set a precedent in landscape painting throughout Spain, which more or less continued throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, even when history paintings became more ambitious in size.

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) Un bardo naufragado (c. 1883) Oil on canvas. 59 by 101 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Haes was a proponent of direct observation from nature and led several expeditions. This resulted to an almost nationalistic fervor for Spanish landscape painting, that featured Iberian natural wonders.

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) Desfiladero, Jaraba de Aragón (c. 1872) Oil on canvas. 39 by 60 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.


Photograph of Jaraba de Aragón, Spain (2005) by Juan Devis (

Today, Carlos de Haes' work can be found in nearly every major Spanish museum. However, the largest body and greatest works from his ouvre are held in the Prado Museum and not currently on display. A new wing of the Prado, dedicated to Spanish nineteenth-century art, is planned to open in 2012.

(Click here for a list of works and biography of Carlos de Haes by the Prado Museum.)

Carlos de Haes (Brussels, 1826-Madrid, 1898) Playa de Villerville, Normandy (c. 1880) Oil on canvas. 22 by 40 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.


  • Carlos de Haes (1826-1898) en el Museo del Prado, cat. exp., Madrid, Museo del Prado, 2002.
  • Cid Priego, Carlos, Aportaciones para una monografía del pintor Carlos de Haes, Lérida, Instituto de Estudios Ilerdenses, 1956.
Eve After the Fall by Eugène Delaplanche (French, 1831-1892)

Lately, I have been looking at my collection of images by theme, grouping Biblical and mythological subjects in categories. (It becomes helpful to have these groupings, which would normally not be seen in museums, when giving lectures or teaching children.) It was while piecing together my images of Eve that I found several photos I had taken of Eugène Delaplanche's (French, 1831-1892) work Eve After the Fall (1869). Eugène Delaplanche (French, 1831-1892) Eve After the Fall (1869) Marble. Musée dOrsay, Paris.

I will never forget the first time I saw it, years ago, at the Musée d'Orsay. Although I was familiar with Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit and her subsequent expulsion from Eden, I had never considered her feelings and, especially, the moment of realization she must have had after eating the Forbidden Fruit. The sculpture filled me with sympathy for Eve and remorse for my own bad decisions in life. Only great art can do that.

Eugène Delaplanche (French, 1831-1892) Eve After the Fall (1869) Marble. Musée dOrsay, Paris (Side View)

Delaplanche studied under the neoclassical sculptor Francisque Joseph Duret (French, 1804-1865) . In 1864, Delaplanche was awarded the Prix de Rome and, subsequently, went to Italy where he studied Greco-Roman works and the sculptures of Michaelangelo and Bernini. He returned to Paris with an approach his work that combined classical idealism with natural forms. The result in Eve After the Fall (1869), done shortly after returning from Rome, is almost Hellenistic, but much larger in scale than most Greek statues.

Eugène Delaplanche (French, 1831-1892) Eve After the Fall (1869) Marble. Musée dOrsay, Paris. (From Behind)

Eve is beautiful, yet forceful. Her features are idealized, yet her figure, almost drawn into a fetal position from horror, is sinuous, organic.

Eugène Delaplanche (French, 1831-1892) Eve After the Fall (1869) Marble. Musée dOrsay, Paris (Detial of Snake)

All of the elements of the story are here: the discarded, bitten fruit from the Tree o Life, the serpent coiled around the tree, and Eve, full of horror and realization of her transgression.

Eugène Delaplanche (French, 1831-1892) Eve After the Fall (1869) Marble. Musée dOrsay, Paris (Detail of Eyes)

Delaplanche went on to do a number of works and recieved a number of prizes. Unfortunately, like many of his contemporary sculptors and unlike many contemporary painters, little has been written about his work and life.

Forgotten Master: Vasily Polenov (Russian, 1844-1927)

Ilya Repin (Russian, 1844-1930) Portrait of Vasily Polenov, Detail (c. 1880) Oil on canvas. 80 BY 65CM. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Vasily Polenov (Russian, 1844-1927) was 17 years old when Alexander II freed the serfs of Russia. The Tsar's Emancipation Manifesto of 1861 was an acknowledgement of democratic changes in Western governments. The decree changed the political and economic landscape of Russia, forcing landowning aristocrats to pay for labor and contributing to a rising middle class.

Art academies in St. Petersburg and Moscow catered to the classical tastes of old Russia, represented by the aristrocracy. Shortly after the emancipation of the serfs, a group of artists, named Peredvizhniki, or The Wanderers, believed it was time "take art to the people." With their first exhibition in 1870, The Wanderers rejected the classical ideals taught in official school in favor of Realism. They painted earthy, everyday peasants and took their exhibitions to rural areas of the country where a wider public could appreciate it.

Polenov was an adopted as a member of The Wanderers, yet maintained his ties with the Russian Academy. He studied in the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg from 1863-1871. Polenov was perhaps the most traveled Russian artist of his generation. During his studies, he was pensioned in Italy and France, where he experienced first hand the contemporary movements of Realism and Impressionism. He returned with a love of plein air, and was one of the first to introduce the approach to other Russian painters. Using the technique he created numerous landscapes of his native countryside.

From 1877-1878, Polenov served as a military artist in the Russo-Turkish war. Shortly thereafter, he dedicated his work to religious scenes, especially from the New Testament.

His painting, Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (a. 1886) is considered by many to be his masterpiece. It is drawn from the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, verses 1-11, where a woman caught in the act of adultery is taken to Christ. Hoping trick Christ, a group of his enemies brought the woman to him:

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

In preparation for the painting, Polenov had made sketches of people, architecture, and landscape in the Middle East and Greece, where he travelled from 1881-1882.

During his lifetime, Polenov was widely acclaimed for his work by both the Russian Academy and those that had broken from it. In 1893, he was made a fellow of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, and taught at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture until his death in 1893.

Today, Polenov's home in Borok, near Moscow, has been made a museum and placed in the national trust.

Forgotten Master: Adolf von Menzel (Polish/German, 1815-1905)

"Not a day without drawing," was a motto often repeated by Menzel and recalled by his students at the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin.

Portrait of Adolf von Menzel (a. 1880) Image published in Newcomb, A; Blackford, K.M.H.: Analyzing Character, 1922. Photographer Paul Thompson.

While Menzel is well remembered in German-speaking countries--a few books on him have been published in that language--his legacy has been largely forgotten by the rest of the world. This is despite the impact that he had on a number of painters including Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, Ernest Meissonier, with whom he was friends, and a following of artists in France.

Adolf von Menzel (Polish/German, 1815-1905) The Artist's Sister, Emille, Sleeping (c. 1848). Oil on paper. 46 BY 60CM. Kunsthalle, Hamburg.

Short biography Menzel was born in Breslau, Poland. In 1830, his father moved the family to Berlin and founded a lithgraphy business, in which Menzel worked from the age of fourteen.

Adolf von Menzel (Polish/German, 1815-1905) View from a window in the Marienstrasse (1867) Gouache over chalk. Oskar Reinhart Foundation, Winterthur.

Shortly after moving to Berlin, Menzel's father died unexpectedly leaving a young Menzel as the sole provider for the family. Eventually, Menzel was able to involve other members of the family in the business and pursue an education and career in art.

Adolf von Menzel (Polish/German, 1815-1905) A Study of Castes. Oil on canvas. Private collection.

He accepted at the prestigious Royal Academy of Art, where he was discovered by a wallpaper magnate, Carl Heinrich Arnold, who would be become Menzel's patron, promoter, and friend.

His graduation from the Academy was followed by a series of lithographic commissions, including works by Goethe and a history of the Frederick the Great.

Adolf von Menzel (Polish/German, 1815-1905) Meissonier in his studio at Poissy (1869) Oil on panel. 8 1/4 BY 11 3/8IN. Private collection.

In 1855, Menzel traveled to Paris for the first time. The occasion was most likely the influential Paris Exposition Universelle, with thousands of artists' works on display in series of pavilions organized by nationality. There Menzel saw Gustave Courbet's "Pavillon du Réalism," which led to a more naturalistic approach to his paintings. From that time forward, he would make regular trips to Paris and came to know some of the city's most important artists.

Adolf von Menzel (Polish/German, 1815-1905) Aufbewahrungssaal während des Museumsumbaus (1848) Pastel on paper. 46 BY 57CM. Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

By the end of his life, Menzel was considered one of Berlin's greatest artists. He joined the Royal Academy of Art in 1853, and was a teacher at the school from 1875 until his death in 1905. He had been decorated as a Knight of the Black Order, given the rank of Privy Councilor with the title "Your Excellency," and awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Berlin.

This gave him a crowd of admirers and friends within government and other circles; in fact, one of his closest friends was the composer Johannes Brahms.

Adolf von Menzel (Polish/German, 1815-1905) Portrait of an Old Man (1884) Pencil on paper. 8 1/2 BY 5IN. Private collection.

Internationally, he had been honored with a show dedicated to his work in Paris in 1884, and was granted membership at the Royal Academies of London, St. Petersburg, and Paris. His works regularly appeared in the Paris Salon until his death.

"The Greatest Painter in the World" Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (French, 1815-1891)

"One of the un-constestable masters of our epoch." "All of us will be forgotten, but Meissonier will be remembered."

-Eugène Delacroix, Painter and Friend of Meissonier

-- "His presence will be assured in the museums of the future."

-Théophile Gautier, Nineteenth Century Critic

-- "One of the greatest glories of the entire world."

-Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (French, 1815-1891) Self-portrait (1889) Oil on canvas

In his book, The Judgment of Paris--which I have referred to on more than one occasion on this blog--Ross King explores how one of the world's formost painters could become nearly anonymous nearly 100 years after his death.

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (French, 1815-1891). The Siege of Paris (1876) Oil on canvas. Private collection.

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier was the highest paid painter of his day. His paintings, which often took years to paint, were unveiled to huge crowds and discussed in international newspapers. The list of people buying his painting reads like a who's who of late-nineteenth-century, European money and power.

Now, he is primarily remembered as a "costume painter."

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (French, 1815-1891). The French Campaign (1861) Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

In short video interview, Ross King talks about Meissonier and his fall into obscurity (Click here to see the video.)