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Jules Louis Philippe Coignet

(1798–1860, Paris)

Vue prise à Guignonville près de Paris. Oil on paper, mounted on canvas. 36 x 33 cm. Inscribed and dated “Jardin de Charles / Guignonville / 8br 1838” in the artist’s own hand.

This delicate and fluently treated study is a genuine example of open-air painting in France as it was practised from the early 19th century onwards by artists such as Corot and the painters of the Barbizon School. In its closeness to nature and sensitive rendering of the fleeting appearances of light and atmosphere this oil study is of universal validity. Every genre-like element has been dispensed with. A gentle breeze wafts through the lush foliage of the majestically tall tree; only the roof of a summer house provides evidence of a human presence on this late summer’s day.

Trained by the landscape painter, Jean-Victor Bertin, Coignet gradually discarded the strict classicism favoured by his teacher. The artist was considerably successful in the 1830s with his romantically picturesque landscapes, for which he collected subject matter on his journeys to Greece, Egypt and the Orient. The spontaneous, unstilted observation of nature in this tree study reveals a personal and more private aspect of his art, however. The finely gradated values of the foliage and the cloudy sky have been rendered subtly and sensitively with accurate and succinct strokes of the brush. The prevailing mood is one of mediation testifying to a deep-seated respect for the eternal vitality and beauty of nature.

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