Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Playful Moment, by Gustave Leonard de Jonghe

We had so much fun last week looking at a picture by Gustave Leonard de Jonghe (1829 - 1893), that we could not help but revisit him.  De Jongh was a painter and watercolorist of figures and genre scenes. He started his artistic training with his father, Jean-Baptist de Jonghe. After his parents died, the young de Jongh was granted a small pension by the Corporation of Curtrai to aid him in his study of art. He studied under François-Jean Navez at the Academy of Brussels, though his painting style was most strongly influenced by his friend, and fellow Belgian painter, Louis Gallait, who also advised de Jongh on many of his career decisions. Although de Jongh started his career painting historical and sacred subject matter, he is most famous for his genre paintings with bourgeois themes and rich materials. In 1855, he became in the direct successor of the renowned Belgian painter, Alfred Stevens, in Paris. He exhibited at the Royal Academy with his painting, The Birthday Wishes, in 1875.

Today’s picture features another society lady interacting with her pet.  But whereas L’admiratrice du Japon involved a moment of inter-species tension, today we simply have cats being cats.

Our society lady is in an opulent room treated with green leather, perhaps as a nod to Whistler and his famous Peacock Room.  Japanese screens, a vase and an urn help to makeup the décor, indicating again that our gentle aesthete is current with the fin de siècle fad for Japanese bric-a-brac.  The green upholstered chair behind the book table (stacked with complimentarily-colored red leather volumes) and the gilt embossing on the wall to compliment the screen unify the color scheme. 

The cat, playing with the pendulous folds of the lady’s dress, is elegantly and casually rendered.  The folds of the lady’s dress are carefully crafted without being fussy – and readers should remember that mastering the folds of drapery or clothing were something that the 19th Century Masters drew and re-drew in order to master their form.

The fabric of her dress – alternately satiny and velvety – has a wonderfully tactile quality.  And the picture is, perhaps, ever so slightly … naughty.  Our lady lifts her skirt while playing with her cat, exposing the gauzy whiteness of her petticoats.

Marvel, if you will, for a moment on de Jonghe’s mastery of drawing.  The intricate leg of the table, the leaves of the wall sconce, the graceful curve of the woman’s body, the almost casual brilliance of her hands --this is a control drawing that has been long missing from most of our contemporary artists.

More de Jonghe tomorrow!

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