Diaz de la Pena Narcissus-Virgil (1807 – 1876)
"Nymphs and Cupid in the forest", oil on panel.
Wax stamp of the "Diaz sale" lower left.
Narcisse Diaz de la Peña was a French landscape and figure painter, a founding member of the avant-garde Barbizon school. Born in Bordeaux in 1807 of Spanish parents, he became an orphan at the age of 10, penniless, and was entrusted to a priest in Bellevue near Paris. The young Narcissus, who, following an unfortunate accident, lost one of his legs due to blood poisoning, became famous with his "wooden stump" and served his apprenticeship in the workshops of Sèvres at the age of 15, where he painted porcelain. Hard work soon got the better of Diaz, and he began to paint his own compositions, mostly rich oriental subjects.
As was common practice at the time, Narcisse learned to paint by studying the masters at the Louvre, where he was drawn to the works of colorists. He was particularly inspired by Correggio, from whom he took up and interpreted the Antiope in his own Sleeping Nymph (at the Louvre) and in the two sketches in the Wallace Collection, Venus disarming Love and The Education of Love. He was also influenced by Prud'hon whose Venus and Adonis inspired a work by Narcissus of the same title (now in the Louvre). In his paintings, intended for a certain caste of the Second Empire, Narcisse also borrows from 18th century painters, notably Watteau.
Among his contemporaries, Narcisse was subject to two great influences: Eugène Delacroix with his Orientalist nymphs, Turks and Bohemians, and Théodore Rousseau, with whom he befriended in Barbizon in 1836 and who gave him a taste for the Dutch masters.
Narcisse exhibited for the first time at the Salon between 1831 and 1837. From 1837, he joined the Barbizon School group and painted landscapes in which we find the sites he was particularly fond of in Fontainebleau: Bas-Bréau, Apremont and the valley of the Solle. Díaz admires Eugène Delacroix and, as artists and writers, is fascinated by the Orient. The Orientales of Victor Hugo impress. He also uses nature as a backdrop to introduce allegorical, mythological or close to reality figures. His painting La Descente des bohémiens was a great success at the Paris Salon of 1848. From that date, he hardly exhibited under the Second Empire, so many orders must satisfy his collectors, in a colorful style, sometimes romantic, allegorical and orientalizing, or sometimes Barbizonian, for whom “Diaz has a role in the formation of Impressionism”. Figure of the Auberge Ganne, great talker and generous, he is surrounded by many students with whom he will paint in the forest. He joined forces with Théodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet and provided them with financial and moral support.
In 1849, he organized a sale of sketches and nature studies, while painters generally offered finished paintings for sale. Selling prices are quite low, but it will be necessary to repeat the experience in the following years and obtain higher prices. He paints by working the pictorial material, loaded with a knife, with marked contrasts of chiaroscuro which allow him to obtain luminous effects and in this he will influence the Impressionists. Often meeting Delacroix, the latter noted in his diary of October 7, 1847: "Remember the impression (...) of a painting by Diaz at Durand-Ruel, where everything came from the painter's imagination, but where memories are faithful, life, grace, abundance."
At the Salons, he regularly receives awards, but he is criticized for his ease of work, his virtuosity and his carelessness and he is considered a "charming colorist". It is this quality that Vincent van Gogh, his fervent admirer, appreciated most in him.
Having become a personality in the Parisian world, he was received by Princess Mathilde, from Nieuwerkerke, amateurs had to order their paintings from the waiting list. Diaz begins to collect furniture and precious objects, his shop is a rare luxury.
Art historians have tried to confine Narcisse to one school - Barbizon - but Narcisse was a free spirit and followed his own instincts.
In the 1870s, his works became fashionable and their value increased year by year.
All the experience of the colorist Diaz is concentrated in this delightful little painting: the forest lights up with the reddish hues of the sunset, on which the figures of a winged Cupid and three nymphs stand out. There is a kind of magnetism in this painting, observing it you feel transported to the forest, the red light envelops you.
In its original giltwood frame.
Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
panel cm 14 x 11
frame cm 27 x 24
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