Monday, August 03, 2009

Rene Princeteau

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.


Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Microdot,
Loved the artwork very much. This is a very good posting exposing us to your local culture.

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful. Thank you.

Carol Engles said...

Thank you for your review on Princeteau. I saw a magnificent painting of his in the Van Gogh Museum in 1994. It was of a cavalry soldier on his horse pointing a pistol! Do you know of this painting? I unfortunately can't find my small notebook from that trip where I wrote down the title etc. I am also an artist, and I was so moved by the power of this painting. I have been unable to find much info about Princeteau. Are these any books out there with his paintings, especially his equine paintings?
Carol Engles

microdot said...

Carol, even in France, he is reather unknown, more through anecdotes of his relationship to Toulouse-Lautrec and his handicap...deaf and dumb.

I learned of him because I spend a lot of time in the area of Libourne, near Bordeaux, where he is from.

I have a friend who is a passionate lover of his work who is an expert in the history of Libourne and Bordeaux.

There are many works by Princeteau in the Libourne Museum and in the Museum of Bordeaux. Most of the work on him is in French.

Google him and take some time to check out the links. There is not a lot of visual material on line, but there are links to books.

The pictures I posted were scans of postcards I bought at the exhibition I attended in Libourne in May. There was quite a lot of his more banal equesttian portraits, which were his bread and butter so to speak, but they were charming and unusual, none the less.

His major works are among some of the most powerful depictions of men and beasts...there is one that depicts a team of oxen backing up with a wagon of grapes...
I think it called "Le Pressoir".
Pictures cannot do it justice, it has to be experienced.

Good Luck, I am going to find out more about Princeteau in the future and post it when I do.

Jennie said...

I was fortunate to visit Amsterdam two years in a row. On my 1st trip my husband was reluctant to visit the Van Gogh Museum. To my surprise he fell in love with one of Rene Princeteau's paintings. "The Dragoon on Watch." It was of a soldier (Prussion War) on a horse and it was snowing. I went again one year later and I could not find it. Someone in the bookstore was kind enough to find a small photo of it in an art book. That is how I found the artist and name of the painting. I have since been looking for a print or larger photo to have it painted in oil as a surprise for my husband this Christmas. I cannot find one. Can anyone help?

Thank you,


Dennis said...

jennie, i also was mesmorized by that painting. it is so magnificent. i learned it was on loan from The Hague, Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst. The size and presence of this painting is breathtaking. if you do ever find where a copy can be had, please anyone let me know also. my email is dennyjames at g mail dot com i would love to have a print, postdare etc of it. i am glad there are others out there who feel as i did about it. i am in michigan, usa. so it is a long trip, but someday i hope to see that painting again.

Mo said...

The Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst changed its name to Instituut Collectie Nederland (ICN). You can contact them at, or use their "contact us" page. I asked about the painting and they confirmed they own it (inventory no. E428), it's still on loan to the Van Gogh Museum, and they even sent me a jpeg of it. They gave me their photographer's e-mail address so I could ask about getting a print, but I haven't heard anything back yet. Good luck!

Nin said...

Yes "Dragoon On Watch" also stood out to me as probably my favourite painting in the entire Van Gogh Museum. I don't think a print would really do it justice but I'd certainly like one anyway.

Anonymous said...

reading you, I understand how lucky I am looking at the print of "Dragoon on watch" on the wall of my living room ! Its format is 180 x 90 cm : I wanted it equal to the original, I was so in love with this painting at the very first look... After 5 years of researches and visits to Van Gogh's Museum, I finally found a way to get a print (30 cm x 20 cm) through the postcards seller who stands between Rijcksmuseum and Vna Gogh's : he's friend with a photographer who's got this painting in his data base ! Two years later, for my birthday, a dear friend took this little picture, and offered me its printed version in original size...
I sincerely wish you all to have the opportunity to meet this postcard seller and to deal through him with this photographer : I totally share with you your true love for this amazing painting. bonne chance !