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An important painting by Alexandre Gabriel Decamps (1803-1860) depicting women bathing and taking water from a fountain at sunset. The work is unlined on its original canvas and signed lower right to the edge of the fountain base. A superb painting with beautiful ligyt and colour and in very good original condition. The artist is very highly regarded and examples of his work can be seen in dozens of museums around the world including The Louvre, The Hermitage and the Metropolitan Museum.
Title: “By the Fountain - Sunset"
Signature: Signed to edge of fountain basin
Medium: Oil on original canvas
Provenance: Private french collection
Alexander Gabriel Decamps was born in Paris on 3 March 1803. In a letter he says humorously that his parents were suspected of not registering his birth promptly because of his 'huge size', but goes on to say that this did not prevent him from 'being sickly and puny.' Part of his boyhood was spent at the foot of an almost deserted valley in Picardy, and Decamps' early experiences are reminiscent of the rambles of Diaz in his forest. He amused himself by carving rough figures in chalk as the local peasants did. 'In these efforts,' he explained, 'would you believe, I followed the accepted rules, but genius was not in evidence. The spirit of innovation had not yet cast its venom upon me.'
After three rustic years, he returned to Paris. In later life he often evoked the memory of this happy time in the woods and pastures of his valley in Picardy. 'Little by little the inclination for daubing came upon me and has not left me since.' He studied briefly with Étienne Bouhot and then joined the studio of Abel de Pujol, who was absorbed in his own works and took little interest in conveying the usefulness and importance of studies to his pupil. Decamps found the time long and tedious, so he left in search of freer artistic expression. 'I tried a few small paintings at home and sold them, but after that my artistic education was lacking.' However he did benefit from the advice and encouragement of an enlightened amateur, Baron d'Ivry, who rescued him from the crises of self-doubt he felt from time to time.
Decamps developed a passion for travel that took him to Switzerland, then to the south of France, the Orient, Asia Minor and finally Italy. When, with Gameray, he was sent on an official mission to Greece and Turkey to collect documentation on the victory at Navarino, he returned with enough sketches and souvenirs to sustain his whole career as a painter of oriental subjects. He never returned to the East.
Following his initial lack of success, which threatened to discourage him, a satire of Charles X, The Pious Monarch enhanced his reputation. Then he attempted different genres 'without direction, without theory, like a navigator without a compass, trying sometimes to pursue the impossible to the point of exhaustion'.
Decamps participated in the Salon until 1855, though with some irregularity and with varying fortunes. When he returned to Paris after his travels in the Orient Decamps exhibited at his first Salon in 1827, Hunting Lapwings, and when this went unnoticed he considered abandoning painting for lithography and caricature. He had his first success as a painter at the 1831 Salon with Cadgi-Bey, Chief of Police in Smyrna, Doing his Round, which gained him a second-class medal. Exhibited at the same time were View Taken in the Levant; Two Children Frightened at the Sight of a Dog. Thereafter he exhibited quite regularly. In 1833 he showed Turkish Subject; Hunting Herons; Studio Interior; Turkish Landscape; Perfect Harmony; Disagreement (watercolour). In 1834 he exhibited Marius defeats the Cimbri on the Plain Between Balsanettes and La Fugère; Turkish Village; Troop of Guards on the Road to Smyrna; Magnesia; Reading of a Firman at the Home of a Village Aga; Bathers (watercolour); Defeat of the Cimbri in a Provençal landscape, but his scenes of oriental life gained him a first class medal. He became a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in 1839 when he exhibited Samson Taken from the Cave in Etam Rock; Joseph Sold by his Brothers; View Taken in Syria; Torture with Hooks (Turkey); Street in a Village of the Roman States; Café (Asia Minor); Experts; Memory of a Villa; Children Playing Near a Fountain (Turkey); Torturer at the Dungeon Gate; Turkish Horsemen- Salon 1842; Siege of Clermont (in Auvergne); Episode from the Defeat of the Cimbri (drawing); Coming Out of School (Turkey, watercolour). In the 1845 Salon he exhibited the story of Samson in nine drawings, Sacrifice of Manoah, Samson Setting Fire to the Harvests of the Philistines, Samson Removing the Gates of Gaza, Samson Slaying the Lion, Samson Defeating the Philistines, Samson and Delilah, Samson Taken Prisoner, Samson Upsetting the Festival Hall, Samson Turning the Mill Wheel); School for Young Children or Retreat (Asia Minor); Return of the Shepherd; Rainfall; Memory of Asian Turkey.
Decamps, as painter to the House of Orleans, unfortunately experienced the backlash of the events of 1848 and did not reappear at the Salon until 1851 with Eliezer and Rebecca; Turkish Cavalry; Asiatic Fording a River; Albanian Soldiers Guide Seraskier's Horse across the River (drawing); Flight into Egypt; Greek Pirates; Courtyard Interior; Troupeau de cannes; Albanians Resting in Some Ruins; Holy Family at Rest. In 1855 he was represented at the Exposition Universelle with 50 paintings and drawings and won one of the three medals of honour. Decamps has left behind details of his childhood and his youth as well as some indications of the development of his career, but nothing of his technique as a painter or of its origins. The only characteristic which he claims as his own was 'never to have copied one square inch of any painting, not simply through prejudice but rather as the result of some sort of incomprehensible vague instinct of revulsion, as I loved painting above all else and I often reproached myself for this gap in my studies. I have always taken the greatest pleasure in looking at any painting and it would have to be a very unworthy one that did not contain some element which gave me pleasure. It was this passion for paintings alone that inspired me to work as I was born lazy.'
The four most outstanding characteristics of his work are as follows: firstly the thickness of the paint, which is the most important feature, then orientalism, thirdly the importance he attributed to still-life through which he became influential, and lastly, the reduced dimensions of his works. As far as the uncertain origins of his style are concerned, these may be discernible in the pigment thickness. The origins of Decamps' style may be found in Rembrandt and particularly in Chardin, both of whom used the technique of thick impasto with exceptional effect. To quote from a letter by him:
'The only detriment is the absence of any principal. Each master proceeds from a theoretical basis and Rembrandt was perhaps the only artist who was able to formulate both theory and practice in the first instance without any learning and although he may not be the greatest he can certainly be considered the most extraordinary of painters.'
Decamps confessed to being opposed to any classical Davidian influence. He also declared himself 'Having bounded forth from the school of David I found myself naked and helpless, in spite of the powerful and incontestable talent of this painter, the absence of any serious observation, the scorn and forgetting of any tradition denied the future to the error of his ways.'
These are the only references Decamps makes to Rembrandt in the 17th century and to Chardin in the 18th century, the only painters to be involved in construction. The style of painting used in construction would be passed on to Millet, Courbet and Cézanne. His choice of still-life and its importance to him is sufficient indication of the extent to which his intention was to give priority to the execution of his works over the evocation of actual objects. The pupils of David who, like their master, had preserved some of the traditions of the 18th century were the only ones to paint light colours, with the exception of Ingres (for whom Dechamps professed profound admiration by expressing his bitter regret at not having been able to profit from his 'precious lessons' at the right time). The painting of David's disciples, including that of Abel de Pujol, the master of Decamps, was so flat that he was instinctively prompted to react by adopting a contrasting style. Decamps' dream was to paint 'great historical pieces - he sincerely believed that he was meant to cover huge surfaces. The success, which he achieved very quickly, was also the reason he did not set out to rival Delaroche or Horace Vernet. Decamps made no secret of this state of soul and explained it simply:
'When I exhibited the great sketch of Defeat of the Cimbri, which I submitted together with Turkish Guardroom (1834 Salon) it was my intention to convey an idea of what I could conceive or create. A few members of the community approved wholeheartedly, but the multitude, the large majority who lay down the law, saw only a mess, a mish-mash according to a painter who was well-known at the time, an expression which France now regrets, according to what I have heard.'
Decamps is often represented in collective exhibitions, including Havemeyer Collection. When America Discovered Impressionism ( La Collection Havemeyer. Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'Impressionnisme), Musée d'Orsay, Paris, 1998. His works are also shown in personal exhibitions such as the retrospective at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown MA, 1984; Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, Paintings and Drawings ( Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, peintures et dessins), a small retrospective at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, 2000, and Watercolours by Decamps, The Wallace Collection, London, 2000.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Amsterdam: Truffle Hunter; Knife Grinder; Turkish Executioners; Neapolitan
Bayonne (Mus. Bonnat): Four Boats; Doe Lying on a Rock Stained with its Blood
Béziers: View in Holland
Bordeaux (MBA): Livestock Market; Landscape with Animals
Bucharest (Muz. National de Arta al României): Mosque
Caen (MBA): Orange Seller
Châlons-en-Champagne: Old Fisherman; Old Peasant
Chambéry (MBA): Landscape; Coming out of the Turkish School
Chantilly (Mus. Condé): Turkish Landscape (before 1833); Troop of Turkish Guards on the Road to Smyrna in Magnesia (1833); Memory of Asian Turkey: Turkish Children Playing with a Tortoise (1836); Turkish Children beside a Fountain (1846); Turkish Standard Bearer (c. 1839); Turkish School (1846); Rebecca at the Fountain (1848); Landscape; Bertrand and Raton (1846, according to the fable by Jean de La Fontaine); Child Feeding a Sheep (1847); Cavalry from Asiatic Turkey Crossing a Ford (1848); March of Bashi-Bouzouks (1846); View of Ebra in Palestine (watercolour and gouache)
Compiègne: Monkey Musicians
Frankfurt am Main: Yoke of Oxen
Glasgow: St Jerome
Lille (MBA): Hunting (1847)
London (Wallace Collection): Arabs Reposing or Eastern Figures Reposing (c. 1832-1833, oil on canvas); The Finding of Moses (1837, oil on canvas); A Well in the East (1847, oil on canvas); The Villa Doria-Pamphili, Rome (c. 1835, oil on canvas); The Bookworm (1846?, oil on canvas); The Roman Campagna (c. 1847, oil/panel); The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (c. 1853, oil on canvas); Joseph sold by his Brethren (1838, oil on canvas); Asses resting: A Turkish Scene (1833, oil on canvas); A Janissary or Soldier of the Guard of a Vizier (before 1827, oil on canvas); The Watering Place (c. 1831-1832, oil on canvas); The Turkish Patrol (c. 1828, oil on canvas); Eastern Women at a Well (1851, oil on canvas); The Punishment of the Hooks (1837, oil on canvas); The Witches in Macbeth (c. 1841-1842, oil on canvas); The Anchorage of Smyrna (c. 1847, oil on canvas); The Favourite of the Pasha (c. 1830, water and bodycolour/paper); Children Gathering Flowers (1844, water and bodycolour/paper); An Albanian Sentinel or A Turkish Gunner (c. 1830, water and bodycolour/paper); An Algerian Woman or An Odalisque (c. 1830-1832, water and bodycolour/Whatman Turkey Mill paper); The Reading of a Firman (c. 1833, water and bodycolour/paper); Crossing the River (c. 1841, water and bodycolour/Whatman paper); An Albanian Family or On the Roof of an Oriental House (1830, water and bodycolour/paper); Out of School (1841, water and bodycolour/paper); Albanians or Eastern Soldiers (c. 1830, water and bodycolour/paper); Arabs fording a River or Fording a River (1845, pastel and crayon/paper, laid down on millboard); Cart Horses (1830, water and bodycolour/paper/card); The Watering Place (c. 1832, water and bodycolour/paper/card)
Lyons (MBA): The Monkey in the Studio
Marseilles (Mus. Grobet-Labadié): Riverside at Sunset; Washerwoman; several drawings
Montpellier (Mus. Fabre): The Way to Toulon (or Monkeys in Disguise) (before 1860, watercolour)
Moscow (Rumiantsev Mus.): Beggars
Moscow (State Tretyakov Gal.): Hunting Ducks; Hunting in the Mountains; Boys Begging
New York (Metropolitan Mus. of Art): The Experts; The Night Patrol at Smyrne; The Good Samaritan
Paris (Louvre): Carthorses (1842); The Caravan; Landscape; Bulldog and Scottish Terrier (1837); Tiger and Elephant at the Stream (also know as Indian Desert) (1849); Farmyard (1850); Bohemian Encampment; The Rat; Betrand and Raton; Spaniards Playing Cards (also know as The Catalans); Beggars; Kennel. Dog Valet (1842); Dogs; The Monkey Painter (also known as Inside a Studio); Street in Smyrna; Hunting Dogs; Black and White Basset Hound in the Kennel (1849); Basset Hound; Knife Grinder (c. 1840); Bellringers (1841)
Paris (Mus. d'Orsay): Christ in the Praetorium (1847); Turkish Merchant Smoking His Pipe (1844); Landscape: Saul Pursuing David; Interior of a Rustic Courtyard in Fontainebleau (c. 1850)
Paris (Mus. des Arts décoratifs): Story of Samson (nine drawings)
Périgueux: Ruined Convent in the Orient
Rennes (MBA): Oriental Musician Seated (Musicien oriental assis) (charcoal)
Rouen (MBA): Fontainebleau Forest, Undergrowth; Inside a Stable (charcoal accentuated with chalk); Poacher from Behind (before 1860); Polyphemus and the Flight of Ulysses (before 1860)
Sens: Italian Woman; Italian
St Petersburg (Hermitage): Before a Mosque (Cairo); Self-portrait (c. 1830)
The Hague (Rijksmus. Hendrik Willem Mesdag): Smuggler; Napoleon in St Helena; Guard Dogs
Troyes (Mus. d'Art, d'Archéologie et de Sciences Naturelles): The Storm (Person against a Background of Rocks) (before 1860, attributed)
Valenciennes (MBA): Arab Warriors
Paris, 24 June 1988: Horseman (oil on canvas, 8¼ × 10¼ ins/21 × 26 cm) FRF 36,000
Strasbourg, 10 March 1989: Neapolitans (canvas, 22 × 18 ins/55 × 46 cm) FRF 36,000
Paris, 17 March 1989: The Bashi-Bazouk (oil on canvas, 12½ × 10 ins/32 × 24.5 cm) FRF 11,000
Monaco, 17 June 1989: Small Boy Resting near Two Asses (1845, oil on canvas, 5½ × 7¾ ins/14 × 19.5 cm) FRF 44,400
New York, 17 Jan 1990: Around Smyrna (oil on canvas, 11 × 13¾ ins/27 × 35 cm) USD 3,025
Amsterdam, 10 April 1990: Bird in a Cage (watercolour and gouache/paper, 5¾ × 5¼ ins/14.5 × 13.5 cm) NLG 4,140
Monaco, 15 June 1990: Landscape of Rocks and Rivers with Felines Fighting (watercolour, 9¼ × 14¼ ins/23.2 × 36.5 cm) FRF 44,400
Monaco, 16 June 1990: Sentries (oil on canvas, 12¾ × 16 ins/32.5 × 40.5 cm) FRF 88,800
New York, 19 July 1990: Neapolitan Inn (watercolour/paper, 14 × 18 ins/35.6 × 45.5 cm) USD 4,400
Stockholm, 14 Nov 1990: Postillion Galloping (oil on canvas, 19 × 46 ins/48 × 117 cm) SEK 18,500
Monaco, 8 Dec 1990: Study of a Peasant from Behind (charcoal and coloured crayons, 14¾ × 10 ins/37.5 × 24.5 cm) FRF 7,215
Neuilly, 3 Feb 1991: Expert Jokers (pen, 5 × 7 ins/13 × 18 cm) FRF 3,500
New York, 23 May 1991: Landscape with a Person Refreshing Himself by a Stream (oil on canvas, 13 × 16¼ ins/33 × 41 cm) USD 9,900
Paris, 19 Nov 1991: Turkish Standard Bearer (oil on panel, 10 × 6 ins/24.5 × 15 cm) FRF 17,000
Monaco, 20 June 1992: Turkish House (black chalk, ink and wash heightened with white, 8 × 12¼ ins/20.6 × 30.9 cm) FRF 11,100
Paris, 19 Nov 1992: Arab Soldier (lead pencil, with white heightening, 15 × 9¾ ins/38 × 25 cm) FRF 4,100
Paris, 25 Nov 1992: Farm in Lombardy (oil on canvas, 12½ × 18 ins/32 × 46 cm) FRF 19,000
New York, 16 Feb 1993: The Old Sage (oil on panel, 8¼ × 6½ ins/21 × 16.5 cm) USD 1,320
New York, 26 May 1993: Greek (watercolour/paper, 8 × 6½ ins/20.3 × 16.5 cm) USD 2,588
New York, 14 Oct 1993: Arab in a Sunlit Alley (oil on card, 12½ × 9½ ins/31.7 × 24.2 cm) USD 4,830
Paris, 23 March 1994: Soup, Peasant Italian Interior (watercolour, 14¼ × 18¾ ins/36 × 47.5 cm) FRF 30,000
London, 16 Nov 1994: Dogs in a Barn (oil on panel, 12½ × 15¾ ins/32 × 40 cm) GBP 2,300
Paris, 22 April 1996: Convoy of Armed Horsemen (oil on canvas, 22 × 17¼ ins/55 × 44 cm) FRF 23,000
London, 21 Nov 1996: Two Monkeys Poised to Shake hands Like Ushers; Monkey Poised to do the Cooking, Two Monkeys as Kitchen Boys in the Background (black chalk, watercolour and gouache, a pair, 10 × 7½ ins/25.2 × 19.2 cm) GBP 1,840
Paris, 14 May 1997: Janissary (oil on canvas, 11 × 8¾ ins/27 × 22.5 cm) FRF 18,000
Paris, 17 Nov 1997: Young Turk at the Tchibouk (1834, watercolour, 6 × 4¼ ins/15 × 11 cm) FRF 8,000
New York, 5 May 1999: Journey in the Levant (1831, oil on canvas, 21 × 29 ins/54 × 73 cm) USD 30,000
Geneva, 20 June 1999: Portrait of Kira Frossini in Greek Costume (1847, oil on canvas, 44 × 33 ins/112 × 83 cm) CHF 104,000
Paris, 23 May 2000: Self-portrait at the Age of 36 (1839, crayon/stump, 11 × 8 ins/27 × 20 cm) FRF 28,000
Copenhagen, 4 Dec 2000: Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still (charcoal/pastel, 27 × 76 ins/69 × 193 cm) DKK 150,000
Cannes, 14 April 2001: Turkish Fair (oil on canvas, 21 × 14 ins/54 × 36 cm) FRF 51,500
London, 21 June 2001: Woman with a Parrot. Man with his Water Pipe (pastel/ink, a pair, 12 × 10 ins/31 × 25 cm) GBP 8,000
Paris, 21 March 2002: Three Turkish Children Playing with a Tortoise (gouache heightened with gum arabic, 6 × 7 ins/14 × 18 cm) EUR 9,000
Paris, 9 Dec 2002: Walls of Jericho (oil on canvas/panel, 10 × 13 ins/25 × 34 cm) EUR 17,500
Paris, 21 May 2003: Oriental Landscape with Figures (watercolour/varnish, 6 × 9 ins/15 × 23 cm) EUR 1,500
Fontainebleau, 7 Dec 2003: Memory of Fontainebleau (oil on paper/canvas, 24 × 40 ins/61 × 102 cm) EUR 8,000
Paris, 19 March 2004: Study for the Battle of Cimbres (watercolour/charcoal heightened with oil varnish, 8 × 17 ins/20 × 43 cm) EUR 2,600
Paris, 30 March 2004: Hitching up the Waggon (oil on canvas, 7 × 9 ins/17 × 22 cm) EUR 3,200
Country Homes Antiques has clarified that the Alexandre Decamps Oil Painting (LA366229) is genuinely of the period declared with the date/period of manufacture being c.1840
Unlined original canvas - very good for age - a few tiny marks