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Alexandre Gabriel Decamps (1803-1860)

Alexandre Decamps was one of the first French painters of the Romantic and Oriental school. His brother was Maurice Alexandre Decamps, the art essayist and critic. Their father was relatively wealthy, and in their youth he sent them both to the countryside, to Orsay, in the region of Picardy. The purpose of this was to enable them to learn about the realities of peasant life. Their father was quoted as saying, "in order to learn to rise early, and know about the hard life of the fields."

Duck Shooting

It was while in Picardy that Decamps developed a love for nature, and for art. After leaving Picardy he went to study with the painter of architectural scenes, Etienne Bouhot in Paris in 1816. In 1818, he left to go and study with Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujol, and spent time copying Dutch Masters in the Louvre. However, he did not stay long with Abel de Pujol, and he left his studio to set himself up as an independent artist.

At a relatively young age, he set off for the Orient, and in 1828 he traveled to Turkey, Greece, and Northern Africa. He was one of the first distinguished French painters to go to the Orient. He was to return to Paris from his trip with sketches, and material which were to provide him with inspiration, and material for the rest of his life. He was very talented, and successful, and was ranked amongst such painters as Delacroix and Vernet. His range of subjects was huge, and a favourite of his was genre scenes of everyday French and Algerian life. His Oriental scenes were marked by the dramatic contrasts of colour, light and shade.

In 1835, he traveled to Italy where he studied the work of Raphael, and Nicholas Poussin. On his return he produced a number of biblical scenes, set against convincing depictions of Near Eastern scenes which were based on his earlier travels to the Orient.

He also produced historical scenes. One of his most famous, is the painting entitled, "The Defeat of Cimbri," which hangs in the Louvre. This painting depicts a conflict between a hoard of Barbarians, and a disciplined army. The Cimbri were a Teutonic tribe, who were the first of a long line of Teutonic invaders in Italy.

Deafeat Of The Cimbris

Decamps also had a number of very rich, and important patrons, including the Duc D'Orleans, and the Barons de Rothschild. Decamps loved animals, particularly dogs, horses and monkeys. In fact he is well known for his depiction of monkeys, and one painting in particular, entitled, "The Monkey Connoisseurs." This painting is a satire on the jury of the French Academy of painting.

The Monkey Painter

He was a good friend of the Barbizon school painter, Jules Dupre, and in 1843, and 1844 he spent time in the Forest of Fontainebleau. In 1857, he bought a house there.

He loved riding, and all field sports, but sadly died from a fall from a horse while riding in the Forest of Fontainebleau.

His work can be found in museum collections all over the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The Wallace Collection in London, and the Louvre have a particularly large collection of his work.

The Villa Doria - Pamphili, Rome

Albanian Dancers