Monday, March 23, 2015

Ary Scheffer

The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil
oil on canvas
172.7 × 238.8 cm
Walace Collection, London, UK

Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) was a French painter of Dutch origin. He was the son of a distinguished painter who was a court painter of King Louis Napoleon of Holland.  His paintings of literary and religious subjects made him one of the foremost romantic painters. His compositions reflect a mystical inspiration and dreamy. He often painted subjects from literature, especially the works of Dante, Byron and Goethe. His style has been described as "cold classicism."

He was taught by his parents and attended the Amsterdam drawing academy from the age of 11. Early Scheffer paintings received little attention, but in 1817 he won his first medal at the Salon and was recommended as art teacher of Princess Marie of Orleans, daughter of King Louis-Philippe, itself talented sculptor.

Scheffer, a republican at heart, was much engaged in politics. He was promoted to Commander of the Legion of Honor in 1848. As a captain of the Garde Nationale he escorted the royal family in their escape from the Tuileries and escorted the Duchess d'Orleans to the Chambre des Deputes where she in vain proposed her son to be the next monarch of France. He fought in the army of Cavaignac during the popular uprising in Paris, but he was so shocked by the cruelty and hatred from the government's side and the misery of the lower classes that he withdrew from political activity and refused to make portraits of the family of Napoleon III.

After 1846, he ceased to exhibit and withdrew increasingly from public life. In 1850 he became a French citizen. He continued his frequent travels to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and England, but a heart condition slowed him down and in 1858 took his life in his summerhouse in Argenteuil. He is buried in the Cimetiere de Montmartre. In general, he had been an immensely popular artist, working in various styles; at times, however, he was criticized for overt sentimentality and lack of technique.