07 March 2007

Constance-Marie Charpentier

Searching for women in my old text book for a 19th c. art class I took as an undergrad, I found Constance-Marie Charpentier. The text doesn't say much about her, other than that she was "one of many women artists who had studied with, among other masters, David". The link above will take you to the second edition, which is 20 years newer than the one I used. I wonder how it might have changed since then.

Melancholy, 1801
The text began by stating that this painting was exhibited at the 1801 Salon and goes on to describe this image in terms of David's painting Oath of the Horatii. The authors chose words like "prototype" and "source" for the relationship of David's image to Charpentier's. But the analysis offered in the text is most successful in cataloging the differences between the works, which leaves me wondering why they presented David as a foundation at all. Among these differences, the text noted Charpentier's drastically altered "emotional ambience", "mood of eternal sorrow", "bittersweet emotion . . . echoed in nature itself", "the weeping willow tree . . . seems virtually to grieve with her", "all the world . . . responds to this unspecified sorrow". And then it moves on to the next David-esque painter.

I've looked for more information about Charpentier, and haven't found much. This is from artnet:

She exhibited at the Salon from 1795 until 1819, when she received a gold medal. Like other female painters of her period, she specialized in sentimental genre scenes and portraits of women and children. Although she was considered by contemporary critics to be one of the finest portrait painters of the age, few works by her have been traced.

I find all of this very interesting. Carpentier doesn't seem like the kind of artist who should have just vanished from the record, or to only have her work spoken of as a derivative of David's. But that has clearly happened. Maybe some day I'll have the chance to do some research and fill the void surrounding her.


Dad said...

I really like that painting but I wonder why men paint women but women do not paint men? Is it against the rules or something?

Mary Ann said...

Sort of. Women were not alowed to study male nudes, so often they didn't feel too confident in their attempts to render. Bedides, although a woman like Charpentier might have gained access to David for tutoring/classes, she still led a very different life from most men of her age. She lived in the realm of other women. So, mostly, I think she and others like her painted what they knew best.