Monday, August 03, 2009
I spend about 2 months a year working around Libourne, France and have become aware of a great 19th and early 20th century artist from Libourne, Rene Princeteau or actually formally named Pierre-Charles-Marie Princeteau. I attended a great show of his work in Libourne in April and was very moved by this artist I had never really known before. After viewing the massive, powerful canvases on the walls of the museum in Libourne, which is a converted 16th century baroque church, I wanted to find out more about him.
He was born in 1843 to a wealthy vineyard owning family. The child, Rene, was deaf and dumb from birth, but the position of the family enabled him to be raised by teachers who enabled him to learn to communicate and to read. At an early age, Rene showed signs of becoming a talented artist.
After initial training in Bordeaux, he left for Paris in 1865 and recieved a formal, classical education at the Imperial School of Fine Arts.
From 1868 until 1904, Princeteau exposed art regularly at the Salon. His popularity and commercial success was gained by his depictions of sporting activities such as hunting and riding. As an equestrian painter, he was unexcelled.
His artistic career spanned a time of change in the nature of styles. He began to paint in the pre impressionist era and emulated the great Barbizon school of naturalists.
Looking at his simple landscapes you are reminded of Corot in his handling of trees and love of nature.
At the same time, you begin to see the birth of the impressionism, the loose handling of color and the implication of motion. In some paintings there are some rather startling sophisticated effects ; the transparency of mist rising from a freshly plowed field, looking as if it had been airbrushed, the reduction of figures and animals in a lanmdscape to become almost calligraphic.
He was able to convey the brute force of man and animal. Many of his massive canvases depict the seemingly mundane tasks of everyday country labor. The massive canvas, The Pressoir, which depicts men forcing a team of oxen backwards with a cart load of grapes for the press is almost overwhelming. It is immense, as many of his great country works, measuring over 6 x 12 feet
He became the friend and teacher of the Count Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. They remained friends and often worked and traveled together until Lautrecs death.
Princeteau became a teacher as well and was a mentor to many other artists through the 1870's. In 1880, he spent more time in his estate of Pontus in Fronsac, between Libourne and St. Emilion where he painted until the end of his life in 1914.
The reproductions of his work here are unable to convey the power of the huge paintings this deaf, mute genius created. The simplicity of his brushwork, the eloquence of his understanding and ability to convey color and light reflect a hightened ability to communicate beyond language.