A Dash of Art History

Large (OASC)

I first saw this piece a number of years ago in the Metropolitan Museum, and was as bemused then as I am now by the following sentence of the didactic label: “When the painting was exhibited in the Salon of 1880, critics praised the expressiveness of the principal figure, but found the saints’ presence at odds with Bastien-Lepage’s naturalistic style.”

Certainly it’s true enough: that was, indeed, the critical response of the time.

To my modern eye, though, what makes Jules Bastien-Lepage’s 1879 painting Joan of Arc so very compelling is that very contrast.

In the context of a painting otherwise in keeping with Bastien-Lepage’s “agricultural scenes which were a far remove from the affected pastoral scenes that cluttered the Salon,” as the Musée d’Orsay puts it, the saints are every bit as shocking—and every bit as miraculously incongruous—as they should be.

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No, seriously.

Give me ideas. There's way too much art in this world, and I'm never sure what to write about. It might as well be something you're curious about, dear reader. Or tell me I'm wrong, or ask me questions, or tell me things.

Whatever you'd like.