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 Paul-Albert Besnard

"Les Morphinomanes ou Le Plumet"

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"Les Morphinomanes ou Le Plumet" (1887), etching and drypoint, 9 1/4" x 14 5/8";  234x370 mm, state i/I (of one state), plate destroyed, signed in pencil by the artist, lower right.  A superb, dark and clean impression [Delteil 65].

Albert Besnard (1849-1934) was born in Paris to parents who were both artists;  his mother was a distinguished miniaturist.  Besnard began his art studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts at age 17 studying under Cabanel.  In 1874, Besnard was awarded the Grand Prix of Rome.  After marrying Mlle Charlotte Dubray, daughter of a sculptor and sculptress herself, Besnard began developing his own unique style departing from the methodologies learned at the Academy.  Between 1881-1884, Besnard exhibited at the Royal Academy.  The exhibition of his portrait "Le Portrait de Madame Roger Jourdain" at the Salon of 1886 demonstrated his new use of light and shadows which became his defining style.  In 1889, Besnard's "Woman Warming Herself By the Fire" was exhibited and is now in the Musee d'Art Moderne.  Besnard went on to a successful career and was appointed Member of the Academy des Beaux-Arts, the Acadamie Francaise, Grand-Croix de la Legion d'Honneaur, Director of the Villa Medici at Rome and the Director of the Ecole Beaux-Arts.

It was during this period (1884-1889) of rapid success and emerging style that Besnard created two of his most celebrated etchings;  "Les Morphinomanes" and "La Robe De Soie" (both 1887).   During this period Besnard was enchanted and inspired by the art of the East (Japan) following the example of the artist Ukiyoye.  He was engaged in many studies of geishas and famous courtesans of which "Les Morphinomanes" is a celebrated example.  It is a mysterious image full of latent sexuality and innuendo.  The audacious fixed gaze of the courtesan in the forefront confronts the viewer much in the same manner as Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (1862-63) while the dreamlike vacuous countenance of her companion juxtaposes their threat of modern 19th century feminine sexuality with a darkly disarming malaise;  the viewer is made an uncomfortable voyeur.

This Albert Besnard is in a leaf-patterned mahogany with light gray wash Imperial French styled 22 5/8" x 27 3/4" frame.  The wood fillet repeats the overlapping leaf pattern of the frame.  The outer mink colored silk and inner deeply beveled hand-wrapped wine colored suede mats are acid and lignin free and are protected with Acrylite-AR OP3 (UV) by CYRO ........... SOLD

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