Alexandre-Jacques Chantron (1842-1918)
La Cigale/The Cicada.
Pastel on canvas.
Signed and dated 1911. Original frame.
H : 39 ; L : 31 cm.
This charming pastel by Alexandre-Jacques Chantron develops a rare iconography relating to La Fontaine's Fables. Clutching her mandolin, the half-naked young frileuse embodies the opening lines of La Cigale et la Fourmi:
"La Cigale, ayant chanté / Tout l'été, / Se trouva fort dépourvue / Quand la bise fut venue".
Chantron had already used this subject at two previous Salons: 1885 (of which only a lithograph has survived) and 1911. These last two works are reproduced in the accompanying photos.
Our work, a pastel variant of La Cigale from the 1911 Salon, was almost certainly commissioned after the exhibition.
Born in Nantes in 1842 and trained at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Alexandre-Jacques Chantron's mentors included William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. He was influenced by the Symbolist school and the freedom of touch expressed by artists of his generation. He was awarded an honorable mention in 1893, a third-class medal in 1899 and a second-class medal in 1902. He is known and appreciated for his depictions of poetic, intimate nudes, some of which are similar to those of Bouguereau. However, his freer touch also combines modernist accents. This is the case of our pastel, which depicts a young girl with her body halfway up a timeless landscape, captivated by her intense gaze and her position arrested in the moment, like a photograph.