Springtime in Paris brings the annual Salon du Dessin, which includes intriguing exhibitions showcasing masters from the 16th century to the 20th century
Huon Mallalieu previews this year’s Salon du Dessin in Paris
Last June, floods led to the temporary closure of the Louvre and the Musée d’orsay, but, luckily, they were unscathed. Not so, however, the Musée Girodet sited between the River Loing and a canal in Montargis, 70 miles south of Paris. as it happened, the museum had been largely emptied for restoration, but not only was it flooded, so too was the temporary store in a former bank vault.
the museum celebrates the town’s most famous artistic son, anne-louis Girodet de Roussytrioson (1767–1824). Girodet was a highly theatrical and mildly sensual painter who managed to balance on the opposing artistic and political stools of neo-classicism and Romanticism; he was a fine draughtsman and many of his drawings were lost or damaged in the flooding. so too were other works of art, including paintings by Géricault and Zurbarán and plaster works by Henry de triqueti, a major but insufficiently celebrated 19thcentury sculptor.
Most appropriately, Girodet’s preparatory drawings for his famous 1806 painting Scene of the Deluge (Fig 2) will be on display at this year’s salon du Dessin at the Palais Brongniart in Paris from March 22 to 27, which is raising funds for the museum. there has also been a successful crowd-funding appeal.
a further loan exhibition at the salon will be of 40 of the 100 or so works acquired over the past 10 years by a friends’ association, Le Cabinet des amateurs de Dessins de l’école des Beauxarts. the École des Beaux-arts in Paris, which will celebrate its bicentennial this year, owns one of the most important collections
100 Country Life, March 8, 2017 of drawings in France. Despite limited means and a challenging market, the association has been able to buy important 16th- to 20th-century drawings from the Italian, spanish and scandinavian as well as French schools.
at least 17 museums in the greater Paris area will be holding special exhibitions or openings during the salon, including the Musée Condé at the Château de Chantilly, which is opening five new rooms for its graphic-art department. there are two major shows at the Fondation Custodia, one bringing together preparatory drawings and their paintings in the age of Rembrandt and the other of German
drawings. There will also be two more at the Petit Palais, which together constitute a comprehensive survey of 18th-century French drawing.
This year’s Salon boasts 39 exhibitors, the same as in 2016, although there may be one or two fewer from abroad. One is Jean-luc Baroni of Mason’s Yard, St James’s, who, although a highly respected authority on Italian and French Old Master drawings, deals more widely in both paintings and works on paper, with a connoisseur’s eye for quality. This is very evident in a 41⁄3in by 27⁄8in brown-ink and wash drawing of a man, in a grotesque mask, perhaps representing a green man or satyr (Fig 6).
The artist, Parmigianino (1503– 40) has managed to convey humanity, expressed by the eye, which makes it far less disturbing than, say, a Politico or clown mask. A temporary export stop, incidentally, is still in force for Parmigianino’s £24.5 million
Virgin and Child, which has been in Britain for 250 years.
Mr Baroni’s brother JeanFrançois has his gallery in Paris, the city where the family first set up in the art business in 1919. Among his offerings will be a very handsome 15in by 12¾in pencil-and-charcoal portrait of a young man (Fig 3), perhaps a member of the Decazes family by Alexandre-marie Colin (1798–1875), who was a friend of Bonington and Delacroix— and a pupil of Girodet.
There are several possible sons and nephews of the first duc Decazes, Liberal prime minister under Louis XVIII; the signet worn on his ring finger is a token of French nobility.
From much later in the 19th century comes a 14½in by 6½in pencil, watercolour and gouache Symbolist work, Persian Poet (Fig 1), by Gustave Moreau (1826–98), which is with Talabardon & Gautier, two dealers who have proved their eye by discoveries of paintings by Rembrandt and Caspar David Friedrich among others.
Moreau made a more elaborate and finished version of the Omar Khayyam-like subject in 1886.
This year is the centenary of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and so, surely, time for artists to move beyond the lazy idea that we can still be shocked by his Dadaist mantra that anything that the artist says is art is art. The Hélène Bailly Gallery has a pencil-and-ink drawing with touches of gouache, an 115⁄8in by 81 ⁄8in sketch of a young girl adjusting a stocking (Fig 5).
It is dated 1912 and is a reminder of how effectively he could draw, as well as paint, before he gave up such traditional ways of art-making.
Every year, one finds that several stands have examples by an artist of whom one may not have been aware before. I suspect that, this year, it may be the portrait painter, illustrator and etcher Bernard Boutet de Monvel (1881–1949), as, last year, there was a large sale of his very varied work at Sotheby’s, Paris. Certainly, Galerie Terrades has one of his early 1930s Art Decoabstract pencil drawings of New York buildings (Fig 4), measuring 17¾in by 103 ⁄8in.
Also in Paris, between March 23 and 26, there is the Salon du Dessin Contemporain, otherwise, Drawing Now, which, on last year’s form, should be well worth visiting at the Carreau du Temple, a former market building. There will be 72 exhibitors and a great deal to enjoy. Next week The Plague to end all Plagues—or not
Fig 2 top: This study for Girodet’s Scene of the Deluge will be on display. Fig 3 above: Portrait of a young nobleman by Alexandremarie Colin. With Jean-françois Baroni
Fig 1: Persian Poet by the Symbolist Gustave Moreau. With Talabardon & Gautier
Fig 5: Marcel Duchamp’s 1912 sketch of a young girl adjusting her stocking. With the Hélène Bailly Gallery
Fig 4: Pencil drawing of New York by Bernard Boutet de Monvel. With Galerie Terrades
Fig 6: Parmigianino’s masked mann. With Jean-luc Baroni