DAGNAN-BOUVERET, Pascal-Adolphe-Jean
(b. 1852, Paris, d. 1929, Quincey)


French painter. He refused to leave France when his father Bernard Dagnan moved to Brazil in 1868, and he remained with his maternal grandfather in Melun (nr Paris). Later he added the maternal surname Bouveret to his own in gratitude for his grandfather's support, which enabled him to study in Paris.

Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret's career began with his admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in April 1869 where he initially worked in the studio of Alexandre Cabanel. Like all young Frenchmen at the time, his career was temporarily derailed by the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune of 1870-71, but he resumed his education in 1872, settling comfortably into the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme. In 1875, Dagnan-Bouveret debuted at the Salon with a depiction of the triumphant Atalanta, the Greek heroine who bested all her male competitors in a footrace.

A contemporary of Jules Bastien-Lepage, Dagnan-Bouveret painted elegant genre and literary themes until 1880, when he exhibited a work entitled The Accident at the annual Salon. The work depicted a young peasant boy being tended to by the country doctor, and signaled the artist's shift in focus from elegant portraits and genre scenes to the life of peasants and the working class. His approach to these subjects followed the lead of Lepage in its acute perception of psychological expression and its sense of detached observation of the life of the poor. With Bastien-Lepage's death in 1884, Dagnan-Bouveret became the leading artist of the movement, developing his work to the limits of Naturalistic observation and psychological symbolism.

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, Dagnan-Bouveret developed a very successful career in a variety of genres; he continued to create naturalist images of daily life, both urban and rural, and increasingly focusing on religious painting. In 1886, he began a series of paintings on the theme of the Breton custom of the 'pardon', an annual pilgrimage associated with the feast day of the patron saint of a local church.

The series of paintings on the Brittany pardons also opened the door for Dagnan-Bouveret's exploration of other religious subjects. In the late 1880s, he began creating paintings of the Madonna, using the Renaissance example of Raphael as inspiration, but transforming the image into a contemporary Symbolist meditation.

At the Exposition Universelle of 1900, Dagnan-Bouveret's status as a respected artistic leader enabled him to showcase his paintings, including the huge The Lord's Last Supper, in a separate installation on the fair grounds. As with his Madonna paintings, Dagnan-Bouveret based the composition of The Lord's Last Supper on Renaissance models, but the mystical lighting spotlights very contemporary French faces on the apostles.

In November of 1900, Dagnan-Bouveret was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France, one of the youngest painters to ever receive this honour. Although often overwhelmed by the swift developments of modernism in the opening decades of the twentieth century, he continued to paint religious images as well as portraits until his death in 1929.

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