Female Nude, in front of a mirror

Paul-Albert BESNARD

Femme nue aupres d’une glace – Female Nude, in front of a mirror 1889

etching on thin laid paper

107 x 138 mm (4 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches)

signed in pencil at lower right

Copier 72; Godefroy 85 second (final) state

Besnard was born in a family of artists. His mother, Louise Pauline Vaillant, was a prominent miniaturist, and his father, Louis Adolphe, a pupil of Ingres. Paul-Albert showed early on an aptitude for drawing and composition and, following stylistically in his father’s footsteps, studied with Alexandre Cabanel, perhaps the period’s foremost protagonist of l’art pompier.

His break with the academic tradition took place around 1880. Besnard now started to study the work of the Impressionists and their artistic exploration of color and light. He adapted this new concept of art to a variety of large-scale decorative works such as his frescoes at the Sorbonne, the École de Pharmacie, the ceiling of the Comédie-Française, the Salle des Sciences at the Hôtel de Ville, and the chapel of Berck hospital, for which he painted twelve Stations of the Cross in an entirely modern spirit. From 1913 he was the head of the Académie de France in Rome and in 1922 beacme the director of the École des beaux-arts in Paris.
Besnard was technically highly versatile and, with regards to subject matter, could do landscapes, portraits, figure compositions, or mural decorations with equal facility. Critics remarked that he “did all things creditably.”

The etching displays Besnard’s brilliant handling of the etching needle and is a fine example of Impressionist printmaking.




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