Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Alfred Stevens

The Japanese Parisian (La Parisienne japonaise)
oil on canvas
105 × 150 cm
Musee d'art moderne et d'art contemporain, Liege, Belgium

Alfred Stevens (1828-1906), Belgian painter, was born in Brussels. His father, an old officer who had fought in the Napoleonic wars in the army of William I of the Netherlands, was an art collector who owned several watercolors by Eugene Delacroix, among other artists. His mother's parents ran Cafe de l'Amitie in Brussels, a meeting place for politicians, writers, and artists.

After the death of his father in 1837, he left middle school to begin study at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Following a traditional curriculum, he drew from casts of classical sculpture for the first two years, and then drew from live models. In 1843, he went to Paris and was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the most important art school in Paris, where Ingres was then professor.

He was an early enthusiast of a fashionable taste called japonisme. During the 1860s, he became an immensely successful painter, known for his paintings of elegant modern women. His exhibits at the Salons in Paris and Brussels attracted favorable critical attention and buyers.

In 1863, he received the Legion of Honor (Chevalier) from the Belgian government. In 1867, he won a first-class medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris and was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor. His friends included Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Charles Baudelaire, Berthe Morisot, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Frederic Bazille, and Puvis de Chavannes, and he was a regular in the group that gathered at the Cafe Guerbois in Paris.