Saturday, April 4, 2015

Felix Ziem

year unknown
oil on canvas
70 × 30 cm   
Musee des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, France

The city of Istanbul has been known through the ages under a number of different names. The most notable names besides the modern Turkish name are Byzantium, Constantinople and Stamboul. Different names are associated with different phases of its history and with different languages.

Felix Ziem (1821-1911) is an artist of the pre-impressionist generation who has a style all his own. He will forever be connected to the immortal city-state of Venice. His view paintings of Venice were very successful amongst the collectors of the time and remain sought after icons of 19th century travel painting today. He once wrote that he never felt compelled to paint to please anyone but himself. His artistic output contains a breadth of technical and aesthetic elements, partially due to this personal philosophy. He excelled in inspired use of color, in a style very much his own, and the emotional presentation always as important as his factual content. His contemporaries; Theophile Gautier, Theodore Rousseau and Chopin all held him in great esteem.

Originally an architect student at the “Academie d’architecture” in Dijon, he was excluded from a scholarship there, and he decided to leave for Rome, on foot, exchanging sketches for food along the way. After a long stay in Nice, he finally arrived in Rome. He was disappointed by the city, so he continued on to Naples and finally Venice. There, his amazement and wonder at the otherworldly city never ceased. In 1845, he returned again to Venice for a three year stay. He rented a flat-bottom boat that he transformed into his atelier. He accumulated a multitude of sketches, drawing evening festivals, the quiet of early morning, and the historical monuments that made up the city. He returned to Paris and successfully exhibited his view paintings of Venice at the Salon of 1849. From 1860 he lived in Montmartre in the winter and in Nice in the summer, and in 1864 Princess (later Queen) Victoria was his pupil. He also was a visitor to Barbizon where he purchased the house that had once belonged to the Barbizon school painter Charles Jacque. Close to other landscape painters of his generation, he painted there. The naturalist approach of the Barbizon School influenced his later paintings and he became a renowned and successful artist. He won many medals for his oil paintings and was created Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1857, ascending to an Officer in 1878.