Eugene Isabey (1803-1886)
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Eugene Isabey was a French Romantic painter born Louis Gabriel Eugene Isabey. Isabey was well-rounded and created landscapes, portraits and historical scenes with equal grace and beauty. Isabey was the son of painter Jean-Baptiste Isabey, whom he initially studied under and worked with. Like so many other painters, he spent his formative years as an artist studying the masters at the Louvre and also spent a great deal of time in Le Havre on the northern coast of France where he perfected his technique painting seascapes.
It was his talent for creating unparalleled landscape and seascapes that helped Isabey earn his place in the art world. Isabey became friends with Delacroix and Bonington, who both were influential on the young artist. His first exhibition was in 1824, and in the same year, he won a medal for his marine and seascape paintings.
Besides his oil paintings of the sea, Isabey also worked in watercolors. He even traveled to England to continue his study of watercolor and perfect his technique. Isabey became known for his watercolors and his style of painting on light ground as opposed to dark ground that was popular at the time. He loved watercolors throughout his career so much that he even assisted in starting the Society de Aquarellistes.
As his career advanced, he was often commissioned to paint historical scenes for the state and for individuals. In the 1830s, he was also named the official artist of a French excursion to Algiers, and he sketched and documented the entire trip. These oils and sketches failed to sell, and it was a minor setback for the artist. However, by 1831, he had successful exhibitions at the Salons, and his name was redeemed.
Despite the fact that he was highly skilled as a landscape painter, Isabey was also sought out by the court to paint family portraits. His attention to detail creating the tumultuous waves of his seascapes was echoed in the folds of the fabric of aristocratic dress. His Romantic, pre-Impressionist style brought him great praise and notoriety in his lifetime though he remains lesser-known outside of the art community today.
Toward the end of his career, Isabey’s compositions became increasingly violent, and he often painted scenes of duels, massacres and fights in bright, vibrant colors.
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