Charles-Francois Daubigny (1817-1878)
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Charles-Francois Daubigny was the son of a classical landscape painter. He initially worked as the decorator of trinkets for a clockmaker, and then as a restorer of paintings at the Louvre. He began painting near the Forest of Fontainebleau in 1834, and was part of the Barbizon School. He had his first success in the Salon in 1837 and began exhibiting repeatedly after that.
He is one of the great landscape painters of the time and is held in as high esteem as Camille Corot. Initially he painted in a traditional style but this changed in 1834 when he met Camille Corot. This meeting was said to change his artistic life, as he was to be one of the major influences on him. He had considerable success in the Salon in the 1850’s and by 1859 he had collected three First Class medals. He was also awarded a major commission to decorate the Government office in the Louvre and in 1855 the French State bought a painting of his entitled, ‘Lock at Optevoz’ which now hangs in the Louvre. He was also made a Knight of the Legion of Honour.
It is said that he produced his finest paintings between the years of 1864 and 1874 when he produced carefully completed landscapes of trees and rivers. Apparently; if he was happy with the painting, he added ducks. If we look at a painting by Daubigny, in theory we should be able to work out what he thought of the quality of his painting by the number of ducks that are on the canvas! It is said that the riverscape scenery that he depicted was highly influential on the paintings that Monet produced during his time at Vetheuil, a small village by the Seine. He was also a talented etcher at a time when this art was experiencing a revival and contributed a large number of etchings to the Gazette des Beaux Arts.
Aside from the etchings he also produced illustrations for advertisements, romantic novels and religious publications. These regular commissions were an ‘insurance policy’ against the uncertainty of relying on the sale of his paintings as the source of a steady stream of income.
In 1857 Daubigny launched his floating studio in a boat that he called ‘Botin.’ From the boat he recorded the landscapes along the Seine, Marne and Oise rivers under varying atmospheric effects. He was to settle in Auvers-sur Oise, its lush green valleys were a favourite spot for nature lovers. Friends such as Cezanne, Corot and Berthe Morisot spent holidays there with him whilst painting at the same time. He is quoted as saying ‘The best paintings never sell.’ It seemed that the paintings he thought worthy of the most admiration were never the ones that people bought.
In 1890 Van Gogh who was a great admirer of Daubigny went to Auvers-sur -Oise and he painted on a number of occasions the garden to the house in which he lived.
He liked to travel and traveled to London where he met Whistler and traveled to the Netherlands with Monet. Daubigny had a great influence on the Impressionists and on Monet in particular.
Daubigny later became a Salon jurist and in 1870 when Monet’s paintings were turned down, both him and Camille Corot resigned in protest.
Daubigny’s paintings were actively collected by several Bostonians, so it is possible that there are some forgotten paintings in America. The value of his paintings and other works such as his etchings varies enormously and they have been sold for amounts ranging from $2,000 to nearly $120,000. As one of France’s most reputable landscape painters, his paintings are certainly in demand.
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