- Museum number
View over the Rhône River. 1884
- Production date
Height: 189 millimetres
Width: 280 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Born to a prosperous bourgeois family, Harpignies worked first in his family's sugar refinery and iron forges before entering the studio of the landscape painter Jean-Alexis Achard (1807-84) in 1846. In the years following the 1848 Revolution, Harpignies travelled to Germany and Italy where he found much inspiration in the sun-washed landscape of southern Italy, particularly Capri and the Bay of Naples. Although he painted a few still lifes and interior scenes, landscape would remain the central focus of his long and prolific career. Harpignies's early work shows the strong imprint of the Barbizon school and the landscape paintings of Corot (1796-1875). His light-infused landscapes, like Corot's, have a timelessness born of the direct study of nature and of earlier masters of landscape painting, especially Claude Lorrain (1604/5-82). He remained loyal to this approach, which relied on exquisitely blended hues and the linear precision of forms, throughout his career, even though the Barbizon school eventually lost favour to the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.
Ultimately, Harpignies's influence and lasting fame as a watercolourist have overshadowed his renown as a painter. He became a member of the Société des Aquarellistes Français in 1881 and had many students to whom he taught his technique. His numerous surviving watercolours also reflect his predilection for travel. The BM sheet has traditionally been considered a view of the Rhône, although the precise location cannot be determined. The largest of the French rivers, the Rhône originates in Switzerland, entering eastern France near Geneva. It joins the Saône river at Lyons and empties into the Mediterranean near Marseilles.
The present sheet explores the ephemeral quality of late afternoon light. From a hilltop vantage point high above the river, the view appears to be towards the west, with the sun perhaps blocked by the darkest of the four trees at the crest of the hill. The wispy clouds have begun to darken and only slivers of light remain on the rocks in the foreground, although the sailing boat and the calm surface of the river are still bathed.
Text by P. Stein, in exhib.cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London, BM, `French Drawings from Clouet to Seurat`, 2005, no.81.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1932, London, Royal Academy, French Art, No 936
2005/6 Nov-Jan, New York, Met Mus of Art, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 81
2006 June-Oct, BM, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 81
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- According to Dodgson's card catalogue, he bought this drawing before 1913 from Obach. The card gives the title as 'Aux bords du Rhône'.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number