Théodule Augustin Ribot: The Impact of Spanish Painting on the Artist's Work and Criticism
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It is well established that throughout the nineteenth century Spanish painting of the Golden Age played a central role in the formulation of the painterly idioms of French artists that adhered to diverging, even opposed, styles of painting. Spanish motifs in painting were championed by artists like Manet and the painterly techniques of these Old Masters became a fertile source of inspiration for artists like Courbet. Less recognized, however, are the complexity and implications of the relationship between French painters and Spanish painting and the highly personal character of such a relationship. The work of Théodule Augustin Ribot (1823-1891) demonstrates a peculiarly steadfast debt to the Spanish Old Masters. A close study of his oeuvre provides valuable insight into the nature of his relationship with Spanish painting. Conversely, it also elucidates the concerns and tensions imbricated in the relationships of his artist-friends, the critics that assessed his work, and the collectors that owned some of France’s most magnificent displays of Spanish painting, with Spanish painting. At a time when a young generation of artists searching for truthfulness and verisimilitude turned to the Spanish Old Masters for their compelling renditions of Saints and beggars; at a time when Spanish painting became a viable alternative to the classicizing motifs endorsed by the Academy; at a time when the search for a new national art conclusively impacted the relationships between artists and the art of the past; at a time when France’s interventionist policy in Spain congealed into an unprecedented influx of Spanish paintings in France; at such a time, what did it mean for Ribot to so steadfastly inform his work with Spanish painting? This dissertation focuses on the ways in which Spanish painting impacted the work of Ribot and in so doing it complicates established notions on the relationship between seventeenth-century Spanish painting and French painting of the nineteenth century.