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Péquignot and Girodet: Artists and Friends
Jean-Pierre Péquignot, Le soir (detail), 1800. Huile sur toile; 63 x 90 cm. Collection du château de Fuschl (Autriche).

DIJON, FRANCE.-Musée Magnin presents Péquignot and Girodet: Artists and Friends, on view through December 31, 2005. Jean-Pierre Péquignot (Baume-les-Dames 1765 - Naples 1807) started his art studies in Besançon, but probably owed his taste for landscape painting to Joseph Vernet. He went to Rome to study and there met Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson (Montargis 1767 - Paris 1824) who, as the prize-winner of the Grand Prix de Rome, arrived at the Académie de France in 1790. Both had been David’s pupils and they became fast friends, but suffered the consequences of the proclamation of the Republic and fled to Naples in January 1793. For health reasons, Girodet left the city in 1794, leaving Péquignot to settle there permanently.

Péquignot’s passion for landscape painting was infectious but Girodet concentrated on drawing and painted few landscapes in Italy. The enthusiastic tone of his writing nonetheless shows that he was strongly influenced by his friend. In Girodet’s Œuvres posthumes published in 1829, a long poem entitled The Painter, contains the following passage:

Vois-tu ces monts lointains dont l’azur peint la cime,
Jeune artiste ? C’est là que des sites montagneux
T’offrent, tout composés, de sublimes tableaux.
C’est Vietri, c’est la Cave et Salerne et Nocère,
Beaux lieux, amours du ciel, délices de la terre,
Où les vieux chantres grecs, dans les siècles anciens,
Eussent voulu placer leurs Champs-Elyséens…
Mais, pour oser les peindre, il faut être un Virgile,
Un Guaspre, un P équignot, un Saint-Pierre, un Delille

See in the distance those blue-painted peaks
The sublime composition every young artist seeks:
Vietri and Nocera are beautiful sites
Cave and Salerno divine, earthly delights.
Adored by the gods, the Greek poets’ ideal
The perfect location for the Elysian Fields.
Yet to dare paint them, best be a Virgil
Gaspard Poussin, P équignot, Saint-Pierre or Delille.

And he wrote to Madame Trioson in a letter from Naples on 1st March 1793: “This year I mean to study landscapes in the countryside around Rome. Landscape painting is a universal genre to which all the others are subordinated because it contains them all.”

This exhibition is an opportunity to compare Girodet’s few pre-romantic sallies into landscape painting with Péquignot’s perfectionist compositions steeped in literary references and the antique ideal. It seeks to widen our knowledge of this genre on the verge of the nineteenth century, between Vernet’s picturesque vein and Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes’ skilfully composed landscapes.

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