Friday, May 23, 2014

Gaston La Touche

Since my return from Chicago a couple weeks ago, I've had a chance to do a bit of exploring with regard to the French late 19th Century painter, Gaston La Touche, whose marvelous painting, The Pardon, Brittany (see my postings from May 10th) , astounded me when 'discovered' at the Art Institute of Chicago. Having not been familiar with the artist prior to my visits to the Art Institute, I was eager to find out more about him and his work. 

Today, I'll post some of my favorite images I've found on line of his body of work. This first work, above, The Relics, painted in 1899 (several years prior to his The Pardon), struck me as encompassing a lot of what was to come in the work that stopped me dead in my tracks in Chicago. Here he has introduced a beautiful luminosity with candle light and reflected light as well as that coming in through the window and, as in the later work that I stood in front of in Chicago, it captures attention by drawing you into the scene just where those candles sparkle. 

As I've come to be aware, apparently in his earlier paintings, prior to the early 1890s, his works took on a subdued tone, as he depicted the daily life of the 'average man'. His palette was somber and his brush work was more defined with fewer lost edges as seen in the earlier work below, The First Born, painted in 1883. It is still a beautifully composed image that infuses the scene with a similar luminosity as seen in his later, more colorful and energetic work.

In the next two works, both painted in 1889, one can see the beginning of a slight shift in color palette as well as subject matter. In Peonies (on the left) and Phlox, La Touche shows a lighter, more airy take on life and his brush work has begun to take on a bit looser feel in some parts of the work, introducing a more impressionistic feel.

 In the two works immediately above, both scenes from the ballet, just as Degas and others of the Impressionist cadre had been taken with the energy and excitement of the ballet, La Touche took his turn to portray in his way, that interesting subject matter. And, it is easy to see that these works now begin to move his brush work to a softer touch, more lost edges appear, less definition to the forms and more of the modeling being taken care of through great value shifts and loosening of details. 

And speaking of Degas . . . in the two images below (Degas on the left and La Touche on the right) I found an interesting connection between the flurry of activity in both, the swirls of clothing and general indications of movement throughout each work though both based on different gatherings. As I was looking through images of La Touche's works on line, when the one on the right, The Ball, popped up on my computer screen, I immediately saw an image of the Degas work in my mind's eye and upon finding it in a saved file on my computer, I was quite taken with the similarity of feel to both works (though the La Touche was painted quite a bit later than the Degas, they struck me as having the possibility of having been done within the same year).

Another interesting pairing of two of La Touche's works, above, (Carnival on the left and L'Entr'Acte on the right) continue to show swift brush strokes and modeling based on strong value shifts.

In the trio of works below, there is again, an interesting connection between works by La Touche (on both left and right) and that of Maxfield Parish (center) all painted within several years of each other. The Parish, one of his iconic images of The Lantern Bearers was painted in 1908, the La Touches painted a couple years earlier, yet interestingly all have the same sort of feeling of luminosity and focus on lantern light.

To end this little tour of some of La Touche's works that struck a chord within me, A Maiden in Contemplation painted in 1893, about the time that La Touche was beginning to turn away from the somber depictions of his earlier output and move toward a more soft, harmonious and light filled world on his canvases, is another work I would like to stand in front of in person as it certainly has caught my attention in its simplicity and stark beauty. For future exploration and further reading, I've ordered Selina Baring Maclennan's book on La Touche and can't wait to dig into it.

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