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Les Trois Chênes

CAT 177 Yves & Barret aftr Brun after Tesse. Les Trois Chenes BA 205.jpg

CAT 177. Photogravure by Yves & Barret after drawing by Alexandre Brun of painting by Paul Tesse. Les Trois Chênes, aux environs de la Motte-aux-Bois (Nord). In “La Peinture au Salon de Paris, 1879,” L’Art 5 (vol. 17, pt. 2) 1879: 185.

Paul Tesse was a landscape painter from Donai, near Lille, in northern France. His painting is one of many in the 1879 Salon from which Alexandre Brun made a drawing that was then reproduced in photogravure by Yves & Barret. Brun was a landscape painter who made his own Salon debut in 1877 and subsequently exhibited at the Royal Academy in London (Benezit 2006). Charles Tardieu in his review of 1879 Salon praised Paul Tesse’s painting of a female figure standing near the three oaks for its “taste and savor” (pp. 188-89). Tesse remains known today (on the websites of the British Museum and Washington’s National Gallery) for having owned artworks by Barbizon landscape painters Narcisse Virgilio Díaz (Venus) and Camille Corot (Rocks in the Forest of Fontaineblau).

The room next to Tesse’s at the 1879 Salon featured two paintings by a young American painter, twenty-three-year-old John Singer Sargent. Each was highly praised by Tardieu on the pages following his praise of Tesse (189-90). One was Sargent’s portrait of his teacher Carolus Duran, whose studio in Paris he had joined in 1874, a painting currently at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The other was “superb sketch” of a young woman Dans les oliviers à Capri (Italie) (fig. 1). Sargent exhibited another version of this painting in New York City during the same year. That version is currently at the Fine Arts Museum in Boston, whose commentary notes that Sargent was here making his own variation on “the conventional image of picturesque types so popular at the Paris Salon” with a “more lyrical composition, perhaps inspired by the late dreamlike forest compositions of the mid-century French painter Jean-Bapiste-Camille Corot” (“A Capriote”). 

sargent A Capriote oil painting 1878 MFA boston.jpg

Figure 1. John Singer Sargent. A Capriote, oil on canvas, 1878. Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Although neither painting by Sargent was reproduced in the 1879 volume of L’Art, the young American did receive a full-page reproduction in 1882 when he stunned the Salon with El Jaleo and Lady with a Rose—two years before the shock of his Portrait of Madame X (see Ratcliff, plates 55, 58, 90, 99, 118, and 120). One wonders whether Melville might have become aware of Sargent as a young American whose paintings were being discussed in France and exhibited in New York City as early as 1879.