Carolus-Duran, Prince of Colour (1837-1917)
From 28th June 2003 to 29th September 2003
Born Charles Auguste Emile Durant, he changed his name early on in his painting career to the more resonant and exotic-sounding Carolus-Duran.
Originally from Lille, our artist is one of those painters who have been neglected for many years because of his flamboyance.
Nevertheless, this retrospective is not for the purpose of rehabilitating him but is intended rather to provide visitors with a varied display of work by a painter who has too often been summed up as a painter of society portraits only. Here, visitors can abandon their prejudices and see and appreciate his work in all its facets. It is true however that he excelled in the field of portraiture, which he helped re-establish, for as Théodore Duret said, "Mr Carolus-Duran has done for portraits what the naturalist masters did for landscapes."
His portraits were composed of lights and shadows, stamped with Hispanic influence and orientated towards a clean-cut realism inspired by Courbet, and they reveal him as a master of technique and a talented colourist. The works of Carolus-Duran, called the "Prince of Colour" by Toulouse-Lautrec, were famous both in France and abroad for their free technique and their colouring. They show the influence of Velasquez, Rubens and Delacroix, as well as Manet. In addition Carolus-Duran displays a profound sensitivity and great freedom of expression in a number of landscapes and studies. An aesthete, but above all a free and resolutely modern man, he witnessed the emergence of the Impressionist movement and became the close friend of avant-garde painters of the era like Manet and Fantin-Latour.
This monographic exhibition devoted to Carolus-Duran, produced in conjunction with the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, brings together sixty major works - portraits, landscapes, interiors, religious and mythological paintings - from Europe and the United States. It is the first exhibition since the retrospective held in 1919 at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris after the death of the artist. A review of Carolus-Duran's work undertaken on the occasion of the exhibition has not only confirmed his quality as a portrait painter but also revealed little-known facets of his work as a historical and landscape painter, coupled with accents of modernity that are at times convincing. Besides the pleasure of rediscovering an artist who had fallen into obscurity, the goal of the exhibition is to try to measure the true calibre and originality of the talent of an artist who was one of the stars of his day. All the more so as several of his works are exhibited here for the first time.