Stanislas Lépine (1835-1892) the Pre-Impressionist French Painter

Canal Saint-Denis, Paris

ca. 1876-1882

The art of Stanislas Lépine joins the pre-Impressionists with the Impressionists. Lépine established his reputation with views of Paris and paintings depicting life on the banks of the Seine imbued with an atmosphere unique to his oeuvre. Although he gained little recognition during his lifetime, Lépine was highly regarded by his fellow artists and, in 1874, was invited to exhibit in the first Impressionist Exhibition.

Lépine was born in 1835 in Caen, Normandy, to a family of cabinet makers. A pupil of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, he exhibited at the Salon in 1859 and during the early part of his career Lépine benefited greatly from the patronage of the collector Hazard and his friend Comte Doria.

Being from Normandy, water would always play a pivotal role in Lépine’s artwork.  In addition, he admired the Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891), and was especially influenced by his marine pictures, which brilliantly captured the effects of air and atmosphere, as well as by his moonlight views.

The critic Georges Lecomte said of him: ‘Il était unique, le direct élève du divin Corot’ ‹‹to ruin the academic landscape by learning how to render the effects of light and atmosphere››. The influence of Johann Barthold Jongkind was also very strong, this can be seen particularly in his choice of subject matter and use of light. Lépine was a consistent artist and his style hardly changed after 1869; as a result his works are difficult to date.

Stanislas Lépine died at the age of 57, almost totally paralysed; he was so poor that his friend had to make a collection to pay for his funeral. After his death Lépine’s work began to gain some of the critical acclaim that he so richly deserved and a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at Durand-Ruel in December 1892.

Diary of an Adventure

Leisure Island Adventures

George to collect Kirsten who is here for the week. Hesta and William arrived for a weekend of fun. Pink face from watching the arrival of the Karoo-Coast MTB race. Hot enough to make a beer seem like a good idea. The taste less so.

We stopped at Timber Lake, a collection of quirky shops and restaurants, tucked into the edge of the forest, a bit outside Wilderness. Strong, wake up, cappuccino, with a brief browse through the wine shop. Alvin’s Drift, a winery from Worcester that we had never heard about. The bubbles scrumptious and well worth getting a sample of their other wines to try. The Oyster Shack didn’t have any wild-oysters as the seas have been too rough.
A special moment to say farewell to Holly at the Heads.
Something to be said about heading out for a jog after a great evening at J9, with excellent Cab Franc wines. On entering the marked km section of the route (the bit where I’m trying to run faster), it’s with a ‘not today’ attitude. Only to find that the more relaxed ‘wine’ run was faster than my normal effort run.
Following a bunch of queries, I uploaded my paintings from Botswana and Tanzania to my website. The pictures of the Afghanistan paintings not great, and I will need to sort them after they have been unpacked.
Finishing going on at the apartment. The last of the glass windows is in and the final coat of paint being applied. The floor making, slow, steady progress. The holiday weekend causing chaos with the schedule. Visited the cupboards at Design-Wise. The three dressing room units almost completed.
I’m trying to get a bit better at recording of my painting process. Both as a record for clients who want to know more about what was used in the painting and for personal interest in my development. Not knowing what I’m doing, does allow for all sorts of innovation!



Paris Street on a Rainy Day

Gustave Caillebotte

Flash on French Impressionism and you’re likely to see gauzy noon landscapes, or a steam-choked Gare Saint-Lazare, or just clouds of flickering paint strokes like molecules flying apart. Yet if you visited the Impressionist show in Paris in 1877, you would have found a few things that countered such expectations: realistic paintings of a new Paris of luxury high-rises as blank as mausoleums and of ruler-straight boulevards running back into infinite space.


The name of the artist attached to these pictures, Gustave Caillebotte, was one you might even have heard of at the time. He had already made a splash in the previous year’s exhibition. Still in his 20s, he had stolen the limelight from the likes of Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir. And the 1877 edition, in more ways than one, belonged to him. He virtually created it.


He had rented the space, paid for it to be refurbished, picked up art from studios all over town, and supervised the installation. If he gave his own paintings pride of place in a central gallery, who could gripe? He had earned that choice position and, people noted, his art deserved it.


This was particularly true of his newest and largest picture, “Paris Street, Rainy Day.” Almost billboard-size and graphically bold, with its carefully detailed but oddly empty image of well-dressed amblers on a drizzle-slicked Right Bank street, it was a showstopper.


The location seen in “Paris Street, Rainy Day” was not far from where Caillebotte (pronounced kai-ya-BOT), the son of a wealthy textile manufacturer, was born in 1848, in a fashionable section of a city undergoing drastic reconstruction as it was simultaneously torn down, cleared out and built up. Like many young men of the haute-bourgeoisie, he studied law, but he abandoned it for art.


He trained briefly with Léon Bonnat, a purveyor of religious potboilers, adapting Bonnat’s figurative style to contemporary secular subjects. But when Caillebotte submitted his first major painting, “The Floor Scrapers,” an image of three bare-chested laborers at work in a domestic interior, to the conservative academic Salon, he was turned down.


Shocked at the rebuff, he became a rebel overnight. By this point, he had met Degas, who had probably introduced him to other Impressionists. He turned his attention in their direction, initially by buying their work and amassing a major collection. When he died in 1894, he was best known not as an artist but as a patron who bequeathed a wealth of Impressionist art to the French nation.


His newfound colleagues invited him to participate in their 1876 exhibition. He chose to submit “The Floor Scrapers,” and it was a popular hit. People loved it or hated it, but everyone talked about it more than about anything else.


He sustained that success the next year with “Paris Street, Rainy Day.” Caillebotte had found a niche for himself within a kind of alternative art establishment that permitted him to nurture his eccentricities, deal with themes that mattered to him and steer his way among styles.


An 1877 picture called “The House Painters” incorporates a Cubist-like spatial logic: Two workmen inspecting a shop exterior exist in one dimension, the street behind them in another. In a near-abstract picture from 1880, we view a boulevard sidewalk from directly above, an unlikely vantage unless we could fly.


Caillebotte’s city is also a psychological tangle. In “The Pont de l’Europe,” from 1876, a young woman and a top-hatted man (believed to be the artist’s self-portrait) approach us across a Paris bridge. They look like a couple, but they are not.

It is possible that they had just interacted, but she is now hanging back. His eyes are fixed on a working-class man leaning against the bridge railing. Some writers have suggested that various kinds of sexual cruising are in progress. As if to increase the tension, an unleashed dog is running in from the foreground and heading toward the walking figures, possibly on the attack.

The astonishing painting “Luncheon” is set in the mahogany-dark dining room of his family home, where his widowed mother is being served by a butler while his younger brother René, with a sullen focus, prematurely chows down. A subtle generational war is underway.

Stay with the picture and you’ll sense further signs of disturbance as patterns in the carpet begin to stir and rise. In another painting, of Caillebotte’s other younger brother, Martial, playing the piano in the parlor, floral wallpaper threatens to become an engulfing force.

Were these effects deliberate, or the accidents of a painter not quite in control of his medium? There seems to be no question that Caillebotte’s work is uneven over all.

Eventually, Caillebotte’s engagement in art as a competitive activity waned. Other interests took over. He and Martial assembled a significant stamp collection. (It’s now in the British Library.) He moved to the suburbs — to Argenteuil, near Monet — and took up serious gardening. One late painting, from 1893, is of a stand of his prized dahlias.

He maintained a long-held passion for designing small boats and became an expert racer. In one of his great, sensually ambiguous pictures from the 1870s, he paints a head-on portrait of a burly blond god of a rower from the vantage of someone sitting on a facing seat, a knee touching distance away.

In the end, he became the Impressionist he had never really been, gauzy landscapes and all. Now and then the old strangeness recurs, as it does in a small 1888 sketch of linen sheets or shirts hung out to dry.

Wind-whipped, they are like clouds changing shape, and you can read them as you will: as flying fish, as ghosts, as lovers’ tossed pillows, as something gone wrong with the sky.

Like all his best art, they make us wonder what we’re looking at, wonder what we’ve decided we see, and why.

Diary of an Adventure

Leisure Island Adventures

A glass of wine overlooking a troubled sea. The smell of Jasmine mingling with sea spray.

Jam Jar Rally. A spot of craziness in Knysna, passing the studio. The cars as colourful as the occupants in some sort of throw-back to carefree adventure. If you are a guy that is, as only teams of four men are allowed to enter in this event, where the vehicles need to be older than 30 years and be cheap. There is some sort of points system for doing community activities along the route.

A sunny morning found us walking along the beach at Brenton. Polly managing the steps and a longer walk on her wobbly legs. Life with pharmaceuticals! Howling winds and thunder making Polly’s life miserable.

Picnic on the balcony menu. Carpaccio, with olive oil, parmigiana and fried salted capers. Caprese skewers. Salmon and cream cheese Blini. Fresh strawberries and chili chocolate. Pinot, Chardonnay and bubbles with a drop of Shiraz to round out the evening.

The forests are bursting with spring flowers. Yellow, purple and white blossoms. I wanted that slightly misty, ethereal quality to my painting of the Forest. Summer lightness, and brilliance. Without being insipid. 

For the small square paintings, we are having presentation boxes made by a small business here in Knysna called Wrap-it. Perfect gifts and easy to transport the paintings safely.

The painting has arrived safely in Brisbane and Shelly is happy with it. Great to see how it fits so perfectly into her decor.

At the apartment, the last doors and windows are being installed. The laying of the wooden floor has started and the garages are almost complete. The last of the tiling is being finished and the electricity outlets are in. There is a problem with the down lighter holders and the LED globes that don’t fit snugly. Retrofit issues, or low cost fittings? Replacement fittings sorted. 

Jog along the edge of the lagoon still cool, despite the sunshine. Joints a tad inflexible. The Kilometer markings feeling like they were stretched as I struggled to get my pace above that of a shuffle. Spots of brilliance, the spring flowers in the gardens around Leisure.


Eugene Boudin: The man who inspired Monet

Entrance to the Port of Le Havre

Eugene Boudin (1824-1898)

In Normandy, the small and charming port town of Honfleur has everything: an iconic old bell tower that provides an excited peal for weddings; an ancient wooden church across the street, where the organist does better than “Here Comes the Bride” to mark the occasion; and — along the little cobblestone streets, hurdy-gurdy players providing more secular music for the hordes of camera-toting tourists.

Away from the crowds, Honfleur also has an art museum with some notable samples of impressionism in Normandy. The Boudin Museum was founded by a local boy who made good: Eugene Boudin, a forerunner of impressionism who’s not that well-known, either in the U.S. or France. But his influence is visible in every collection of 19th-century French art.

Boudin didn’t start out to be a painter. His father ran a ferryboat between Honfleur and Le Havre, the big English Channel port, and Boudin worked on the boat as a child.

“And one day he fell overboard and was caught by one seaman,” says Bridget Mueller, who guides visitors around Normandy. “Otherwise he would have drowned — so his mother said, ‘You’re not going on this ship again.’ ”

Instead, young Eugene went to school. A teacher spotted artistic talent, and from then on, Boudin went to sea via the canvases he painted. Mueller says there’s hidden proof of the artist’s seamanship: a notation on the back of every painting, recording the weather and the winds on the day it was made.

That assertion proved impossible to confirm; the Boudin Museum has some extremely serious-looking guards. And some seriously fine Boudins — small, portable canvases painted outdoors, on the nearby beaches of Deauville and Trouville in the 1850s and ’60s.

Museum guide Rosaleen Aussenac says those beaches were becoming all the rage at the time.

“Up to the 19th century, the beach was a place where fishermen used to go to work,” she explains, “not a place to have a nice walk, or to have a nice conversation.”

But Boudin’s pictures — La Conversation, Plage de Trouville, for instance — are full of fancily dressed men and women (long skirts, flowery hats, bowlers, suits, vests) sitting and strolling on the sand, holding parasols against the sun. 

What brought them beachside? In the mid-1800s, fainting — yes, fainting — became nearly epidemic among England’s noble and wealthy women. (Their tight corsets could not have helped.) Doctors prescribed sea-bathing sessions, among other remedies.

Now, in those days going into the sea was not for the faint-hearted. Ladies changed into bathing costumes inside little cabins; then horses pulled the cabin across the sand, and the lady emerged.

“And outside waiting for her was a big, strong, handsome man,” Aussenac says. “And he would take her in his arms and walk into the sea, and put her in the water — once, twice, three times. … Afterward he would bring her back to the cabin, and this was the sea-bathing session — isn’t that nice?”

‘I Want You To See The Light’

Eugene Boudin had a grand time painting all this beach activity. So did others — if the British, then the French upperclasses were going to hit the beaches, artists would go, too, to paint their portraits, do seascapes and make some money under the sunny-cloudy Norman skies. Boudin urged his young friend Claude Monet to join them at seaside. Monet was 15 years younger and making a reputation in Paris, drawing caricatures in charcoal. 

Boudin thought Monet could do more.

“He said, ‘Come on, Claude — your caricatures are fun, but it’s not real art,’ ” says Aussenac. “‘I mean art; I mean painting, Claude, painting!’ ”

Boudin kept nagging his young friend. Monet had grown up in Le Havre, and Boudin wanted to get him back to Normandy. “‘Come over,'” he urged him, by Aussenac’s account. “‘I want to show you Honfleur; I want you to see the light.’ ”

There was that amazing light — the rich blue skies, dotted with scudding, big-bellied clouds that shifted the sunlight, making fields and rocks broody, then brilliant, in a flash. Monet capitulated, came to Honfleur, and he and Boudin painted side by side, outside, using portable easels and paint in tubes.

“And suddenly, suddenly, Claude Monet just understood what his friend had been telling him about,” says Aussenac. “He understood. He said afterward that it was just like a curtain that [had opened] in front of his eyes. He understood what his life was about, and what painting was about.” 

Monet, inspired by Boudin, went on to create the very first impressionist painting — and to make studies of light as it fell on haystacks, a cathedral and — eventually — tangles of water lilies, floating in a pond.

Diary of an Adventure

Leisure Island Adventures

Through tree branches, the blue sky and lagoon stretch to the distant Heads. The Long Table, at KKB (Kilzer’s Kitchen) is like being in a Tree House, surrounded by glass walls, from where we watched the sunset. Birds abound and Craig spotted the colourful Knysna Loerie. The kitchen, choreographed chaos, entertains, and produces wholesome food from the limited, but intriguing menu options.

A sunny day found us at the Wild Oats Community Farmers Market. While there are a few strange types around (the toadstool, fairy chap seemed to shimmer under his tree), it’s a well organized market where its possible to get a good coffee and great quality fresh produce. Polly met new friends, and decided the busker wasn’t that bad that she needed to bark.

A fair bit of blood from my paddle with Craig. The white carpet and sheets the biggest bother.

The canvas confronts me. Already, my mind has etched a picture into its fabric. How it emerges, however is still debatable? There is a repetition of what I have done before. Smudged by frustration to do better. To go beyond what has become the norm. For now. I have taken those first tentative steps, that could lead to the predictable. Or they could. Move to something more exciting.

‘Quays’, painted on one of the new heavy canvases that readily accepted the stronger impasto paint technique I used for movement of the water. Lafranc, Chrome Yellow medium the magic ingredient. A colour much favored by Van Gogh and increasingly difficult to find. For the darker parts of the water Monaco Madder (Ferrario 41), a deep purple colour from my magic paint box. Quinacridone Magenta and Indian Yellow (Windsor and Newton Artists Oil). A grey of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue (Utrecht Artist Oils). The paler parts of the water used Napels Yellow Light (Maimeri) with spots of Rose Madder (Daler-Rowney). 

I contemplated using blue as a key colour in the water to create a different dimension to the painting, but ended up staying with the yellow pallet. The high transparency factor in many of the paints, creates interesting colour movement under variable light conditions.

At the apartment, they carefully cut the holes for the new down lighters. All the wrong size. The framework for the wooden floor is done. The last of the plastering work has been done and they have done the outside finishing work on the patio section.

There is a high probability that the building will not be finished on schedule. However, the patio is useable and the sundowners seem to becoming more frequent. The number of wine bottles still exceeding those of water, which is unlikely to ever change.



Niagara Falls 1893-1894
Oil on Canvas 51cmx40cm

In the manner of the French master Claude Monet (1840–1926), Twachtman painted at least fourteen versions of Niagara at different times of the day, recording subtle nuances of light and providing some of the rocky structure of the falls to anchor the viewer on firm land. 

Twachtman’s technique is bold and confident, moving remarkably toward abstraction while remaining true to capturing the appearance of this natural wonder. 

Born in Cincinnati, John Henry Twachtman worked as a decorator of window shades, as had his father. At the same time he took night classes at the Ohio Mechanics Institute and then enrolled at the McMicken School of Design (which later became the Art Academy of Cincinnati), where Twachtman studied with Frank Duveneck. Duveneck was a recognized painter who had recently returned from Munich, and he urged Twachtman to go to Munich to attend the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In 1875 Twachtman went to Munich, and during his European stay he accompanied Duveneck and his fellow Munich colleague, William M. Chase, on a painting trip to Venice. Returning to the United States in 1878, Twachtman exhibited with the newly formed Society of American Artists in New York; he was elected a member the following year. In 1879 Twachtman met and began a lifelong friendship with J. Alden Weir. In 1881, he made a wedding trip to Europe, joining Weir and his brother John on a painting expedition to Holland and Belgium.

Between 1883 and 1885 Twachtman studied, traveled, and worked in France, meeting other American Impressionists Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and Theodore Robinson in Paris. In 1889 Twachtman began teaching at the Art Students League, and, with the profits from a cyclorama he had painted with Arthur B. Davies in Chicago, he purchased a home in Connecticut near Weir’s farm.

Twachtman’s naturalism combines the earth tones and the fluid brushwork of Duveneck and the Munich school, the muted harmonies and abstract patterning of Whistler, and, the atmospheric effects of Claude Monet. Writing in A Collection in the Making, Duncan Phillips noted that “Twachtman’s was perhaps the finest sensibility in American art.”

Among his many awards, Twachtman received a silver medal at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and a gold medal at the 1894 Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts annual exhibition. In 1897 he and Weir withdrew from the Society of American Artists and formed The Ten American Painters. Estranged from his family, Twachtman spent the summers of 1900 and 1901 in Gloucester, where he died suddenly on August 8, 1902.

Adapted from Eye, ET

Messing About with Paint

The Quays

Oil on Canvas 60cmx90cm
The canvas confronts me. Already, my mind has etched a picture into its fabric. How it emerges, however, is still debatable? 
There is a repetition of what I have done before. 
Smudged by frustration to do better. 
To go beyond what has become the norm. 
For now. I have taken those first tentative steps, that could lead to the predictable. 
Or they could. 
Move to something more exciting.

Diary of an Adventure

Leisure Island Adventures

The last of the apartment walls that need to be removed is a pile of rubble, opening the apartment onto the new terrace above the garage. The tiling has started and the kitchen extension is sorted. We visited our cupboards, which are still shells. The craftsmanship, remarkable. Unlikely that they will be ready when we move in the middle of Oct.

A small painting of the Forest. Escapist as the daunting 1.7 m canvas I ordered confronts me each time I walk down the stairs. No idea what I will use it for and I feel a bit like Michelangelo starring at a block of marble waiting for the figure to emerge. “The best artist has that thought alone which is contained within the marble shell; The sculptor’s hand can only break the spell to free the figures slumbering in the stone.”


I stumbled across the work of the American Impressionist artist, John Henry Twachman, which so breathtaking. His seascapes feel as though they have the key elements of what I have been trying to capture in my paintings. His wildflowers, stunning works.

Storm tossed surf breaking at the Heads. Salt laden air. Roads flooded. Fireplaces, red wine and wet dogs. I did manage to break another of our few picnic Riedel glasses. Not clever, but no blood.

Awake in the early hours, something I can’t even blame on the red wine monsters. Being the driver, saved me from compounding the overindulgence the previous evening at Mario’s. In all fairness, the additional wine was a result of the salt grinder top breaking (not me this time) over Craig’s meal and he had to wait for a new dish to be prepared. Terry drove us home.

‘Beacon’, oil on canvas 60cmx90cm. Sunset from the Heads. The beacon that marks the entrance for ships. Phosphorus waves lapping at the beach.