Adolphe Appian (1818-1898)

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Jacques-Barthelemy who was born in Lyon changed his name to Adolphe Appian and at the age of fifteen studied art at the School of Fine Arts in Lyon which specialized in training pupils to decorate fabrics produced by the local silk industry. Whilst there the landscape painter Jean-Michel Grobon encouraged him in this art for which he seemed to have a natural aptitude. His success at the school in the domain of landscape paintings meant that he was able to travel to Paris to conclude his studies. He studied, and became friends with the two great landscape painters of the time Camille Corot and Charles Francis Daubigny.

Adolphe was also a printer and together with this skill, his art took its form in a multitude of mediums such as paintings, charcoal and pencil drawings, watercolors and etchings.


Port de Genes

Adolphe Appian loved nature and throughout his life he was to paint remote regions in France such as the Pyrenees and the Auvergne. It was with Corot and Daubigny that he perfected the technique of plein air, that is, working outside in nature. It is said that what made Appian a great artist is the way that he handled the light both in his paintings and his etchings. It was also under these two great Masters that he studied etching and he was to become one of the great etchers of the time. It was because of his talent for handling the light that later on he was to have an influence on the Impressionists.

He exhibited almost continuously from 1853 and in 1954 made his first visit to the Forest of Fontainebleau where he continuously returned. In 1888 he was awarded the Gold medal at the Paris Salon which firmly established his reputation.


L’Etang de Frignon, 1862

The etching entitled ‘The Port at San Remo’ which can be found at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco is a perfect example of why he is said to be one of the most talented etchers of the time.

The 1860s saw etching being hailed as a major artistic form and Appian was to embrace this technique wholeheartedly when he returned to Lyon. He was regularly commissioned to contribute his etchings to journals of the time and in particular the Gazette des Beaux Arts.

He also contributed regularly to the annual albums of the Society of Aquafortistes which allowed printmakers to experiment and create artistic forms using the skill of printing. The sponsorship he received from them enabled him to create one hundred etchings mainly of desolated beaches and isolated streams.

Appian’s paintings were rather somber until 1871, but after that he became a remarkable colorist and it has also been said that his landscapes have been influenced by Japanese art. A number of his works can be seen at the Cleveland Museum of Art.



Towards the end of his life he began to have trouble selling his paintings and his son Louis Appian also a painter and printer died before him.

Adolphe Appian’s work is certainly collectable and particularly sought after are etchings published in the Gazette des Beaux Arts. As there was an interest in etchings in America at about the same time as there was in France it is possible that there are some prints of Appian’s etchings which have not yet been discovered in America. If you belive you have one of them, contact Art Experts. We perform  art authentications appraisals research and provide Certificates of Authenticity (COA) as well as consultations, for all works by Adolphe Appian.