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The National Gallery of Canada acquires seven major 19th-century works
Gustave Doré, Souvenir of Loch Lomond, 1875. Oil on canvas, 131 × 196 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © French & Co. LLC.

OTTAWA.- The National Gallery of Canada has enhanced its collection of nineteenth-century French art with the recent acquisition of seven major works of art: six by Gustave Doré, perhaps the most renowned illustrator of all time; and one by the great sculptor Aimé-Jules Dalou. A number of these were gifts to the Gallery.

Most of the works by Doré were featured in the Gallery’s critically acclaimed summer exhibition, Gustave Doré (1832–1883): Master of Imagination, including a large landscape painting, the grandiose Souvenir of Loch Lomond (1875), and a masterful bronze sculpture, Fate and Love (1877). Dalou’s magnificent terracotta A Young Mother from Boulogne Feeding her Child (1876), is one of the few sculptures he made depicting this intimate subject.

The sculptures and landscape painting are particularly timely acquisitions, as they bridge significant gaps in the Gallery’s collection of nineteenth-century European art. They will be on display in the European galleries as of December 8, 2014.

“It is important for us to remember that French art of the second half of the nineteenth century is not only Impressionism, Naturalism and Symbolism,” said the National Gallery’s Chief Curator, Paul Lang, “but that there were also figures who were mainly driven by their imagination. This is the ‘other French nineteenth century,’ and it is equally influential.”

Also among the Doré works acquired are two illustrations for Samuel Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1875) and two early-edition books illustrated by Doré, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1877), and Dante’s Inferno (1884). The books were donated to the Gallery’s Library and Archives by private collectors who wished to acknowledge the importance of the artist’s work with a gift to the Canadian public.

Gustave Doré’s exuberant exhibition
Gustave Doré (1832–1883) was one of the most important French landscape painters of the second half of the nineteenth century. He also created epic canvases, monumental sculptures and numerous etchings and watercolours. With extraordinary technical skill and an exuberant imagination, Doré illustrated almost one hundred books, including the Bible and works by Dante, Rabelais, La Fontaine, Cervantes, Milton, Shakespeare, Tennyson and Hugo. It was in fact his life’s ambition to create a universal library by illustrating the entire western literary canon. Doré’s work had a profound influence on modern visual culture, especially on filmmaking, animation and comic art. Read the online article “Gustave Doré’s illustrious imagination,” in NGC Magazine.

Dalou in London
Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838-1902) began his artistic career by studying drawing at the Petite École in Paris, but with the encouragement of master sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, turned to sculpture, training at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War, Dalou’s republican association with the Paris Commune forced him to flee to England with his wife and young daughter. Here, Dalou joined the expatriate community of other exiled French artists and benefited from a wealthy base of aristocratic collectors. Dalou is one the greatest and most influential sculptors of the 19th century, on a par with Carpeaux, Rude and Rodin.

Gustave Doré’s Souvenir of Loch Lomond (1875) is a spectacular, two-metre long oil painting showing the famous Scottish lake and surrounding highlands beneath ominous clouds. The only sign of human presence is a hunter, dwarfed by the scenery. Like all of Doré’s major landscape paintings, it possesses a strong literary or historical association, as it portrays the area that was the setting for Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. Also characteristic of Doré’s work is its depiction of a majestic but threatening environment, suggesting the possibility of both an ascent to glory and a calamitous downfall. Until recently, the painting was in the collection of a prominent French aristocrat, whose family had purchased it directly from the artist.

Gustave Doré’s Fate and Love (La Parque et l’Amour) (1877) is a one-metre high bronze sculpture showing Eros, the Greek god of love, with the goddess Atropos, one of the three Fates. Inspired by Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, the work displays at once Doré’s masterful skill as a sculptor, his preoccupation with the tension between heaven and hell, and his inventiveness, for he has Atropos cutting the thread of love rather than that of life. Doré based this single bronze cast on the monumental plaster version that was his first sculpture ever exhibited, appearing at the 1877 Paris Salon. The acquisition of this work comes at a time when the Gallery has been working to fill some gaps between the neo-classical sculptures of Antonio Canova and the modernist works of Auguste Rodin. Fate and Love is a gift to the National Gallery from collectors Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Mr. Harrison is a past Chair of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Gustave Doré’s “And never a saint took pity” and “It flung the blood into my head” (1875) are both pen and ink drawings made to illustrate Samuel Coleridge’s now famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a ghost story about an old sailor steering a haunted ship towards Antarctica. In the first drawing the sailor is shown with the two hundred dead crewmen. In the second, the ship lunges forward, propelled by mysterious forces. The drawings were likely reproduced photo-mechanically for the final book in a new process that sought to replace the old woodcut engravings. The Gallery purchased the drawings on the Paris art market.

Samuel Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1877) and Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (1884) are early edition books illustrated by Doré. Both had been in private collections in Ottawa since shortly after they were published, which attests to Doré’s North American fame even during his lifetime.

Aimé-Jules Dalou’s A Young Mother from Boulogne Feeding her Child (1876) is executed in terracotta and reveals Dalou’s extraordinary aptitude in sculpting with clay. He portrays one of his favourite motifs – the enduring theme of motherhood. A peasant woman from the Boulogne-sur-Mer region with her cherubic child at her breast conveys a graceful nobility reminiscent of Renaissance Madonna and child scenes. With remarkable detail – from the delicately molded clasp on the pleated cloak to the woman’s textured bonnet, down to the shoelaces – Dalou created an image of great realism and tenderness. The terracotta sculpture has a prestigious provenance; exhibited in 1877 at the Royal Academy of Arts, it was acquired by an aristocratic family near Westport, County Mayo, Ireland, in whose possession it remained for more than a century– until the Gallery acquired it at auction.

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