Jules Alexis Muenier (1863 - 1942)

Lot 1: Jules-Alexis Muenier , Le Calme (Serenity)


April 18, 2007
New York, NY, US

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Description: signed J. A. MUENIER and dated 1894 (lower left) oil on canvas
Dimensions: measurements 35 3/4 by 25 3/4 in. alternate measurements 90.8 by 65.4 cm
Exhibited: Paris, Salon , 1894, no. 859
Provenance: Scott & Fowles, New York (no. 612)
Private Collection, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1970
Notes: We thank Dr. Gabriel P. Weisberg for his assitance in preparing this catalogue entry and for writing the note.
When Scribner's Magazine published an article on Jules-Alexis Muenier in May 1894 he was at the height of his international reputation. His Algerian Women on a Terrace had won a second-class medal in Munich; this painting had also been shown at the Chicago World's Fair (1893) where it highlighted the artist's considerable verve as an Orientalist. His Aux Beaux-Jours (sold: Sotheby's, New York, April 20, 2005, lot 131) inspired by his family life in Coulevon, the small village situated near Vesoul in the Franche-Comté where he lived, and which was also exhibited in Chicago, further added to his reputation as an artist capable of handling many varied subjects. Critics admired his paintings and significant private collectors secured his works as he continued to exhibit at the Paris Salon while sending other compositions to the Carnegie Exhibitions in Pittsburgh. In 1894 he completed Le Calme, showing it at the annual Salon along with seven other paintings. Le Calme was singled out as a significant work, important enough to be reproduced in the illustrated catalogue of the 1894 Salon. Inspired by his numerous trips to the south of France with his family, Le Calme reveals that the artist always sought out unusual sites and scenes as subjects for his paintings. In this particular work, Muenier depicts a young woman walking on a hillside with a view of a bay in the distance. The atmosphere, with its pastel hues, suggests the warm climate of the south of France when one is tempted to find relief from the heat under the tall pine trees that grow along the hills overlooking the Mediterranean. The painting also conveys a carefree moment, when the young woman, who is seen walking with a fruit basket on her arm, stops long enough to look at the view below her. The overall effect eliminates a strong narrative impact in order to create a romantic mood linked with Impressionist color effects caused by the humid atmosphere hanging over the distant bay. While the exact location cannot be established with accuracy, the fact that the Muenier family often vacationed in the south of France provided a break from scenes inspired by life near Coulevon. In its setting Le Calme is also reminiscent of John Singer Sargent's Capri views from the late 1870s. It was during moments of such tranquility that Muenier expanded his repertoire of themes producing paintings such as Le Calme. These works combined his penchant for figures with his growing commitment toward pure landscape painting--the later a theme that would preoccupy him at the end of his career.
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