BIOGRAPHY - Henri Duvieux (b. 1855, fl. 1870 - 1890)
Henri Duvieux was an artist influenced by the interest in Orientalism, a widespread preoccupation of many artists of the mid to late-nineteenth century. These artists became infatuated with anything non-European, and began to travel extensively through the Maghreb region of North Africa, and to eastern countries as far away as Japan and China. While each of these artists manifested their international interest in their compositions, the exact theme often varied. Duvieux used his travels to depict his interest in landscape and its effect, focusing less on the human element of Orientalism and more on simply the landscape and architecture. In doing so, he kept more of a distance between himself and the culture of the “Orient”. His choice of imagery was popular not only because of its alliance with Orientalism, but also because it allowed the public to acknowledge an awareness of some sites the artist used.
Few details are known about his life, further complicated by the fact that he rarely exhibited at the Parisian Salon. He was born in 1855 in Paris. He entered studies as a student of a Mr. Marilhat, often cited as being Prosper Georges Antoine Marilhat, but this artist had already died eight years before Duvieux was even born. Despite this, his Salon entries do note that he was studying under a Marilhat, but just which one, if there were more than one, remains a mystery.
Duvieux debuted at the Parisian Salon in 1880 with Vue de Venise (View of Venice) and Vue de Constantinople (View of Constantinople), two oil paintings. Clearly Duvieux was an avid traveler, journeying as far as Constantinople searching for perfect inspiration. He must have undertaken such adventurous trips as a rather young man, since his Salon debut was at the age of twenty-five. The frequency of Duvieux’s travel also is not known. He may have traveled rather infrequently, collecting studies along the way and executing them upon return to his studio. Or, he may have traveled frequently and executed scenes on the spot. Perhaps he had a studio in Venice, which would explain his frequent imagery from this site. But these are all questions that still need to be answered.
What can be said about this artist is that he relentlessly pursued representations of both Venice and Constantinople throughout his career, “according to the taste of the day” (Bénézit, Dictionnaire Critique des Peintres… (Paris: Librairie Grund 1976), pg. 76). Some of these other paintings based on Venice were Le Grand Canal a Venise (The Grand Canal at Venice), Coucher de Soleil a Venise (Setting Sun at Venice), and Panorama avec Voiliers et Gondoles a Venise (Panoramas with Sailboats and Gondolas in Venice), among many others. Another painting of Constantinople was Vue de Constantinople au Soleil Couchant (View of Constantinople with the Setting Sun).
He followed up his 1880 debut with another showing of Campement Arabe (Ara b Camp) in 1882. This was actually his last showing at the Salon. Perhaps he did not take part in the Salons because he simply did not need to, his travels and his commissions may have kept him busy enough to support himself throughout his life. On the other hand, he may have also taken part in provincial exhibitions but this has yet to be confirmed.
Duvieux was endlessly fascinated by Venice and views of Constantinople, albeit less so with the latter. The majority of these views almost invariably incorporated aspects of the sea, somewhat in the tradition of the eighteenth century artist Canaletto, but also recalls his contemporary Felix Ziem, a nineteenth century French artist. Duvieux used Impressionist color similar to Turner’s seascapes to convey intense light and brilliant sunsets and sunrises. Architectural elements were equally important to Duvieux, who render their details with care and precision.
Far from being an artist reluctant to have his work appeal to a large audience, these compositions would have been popular with the tourist public who approved of this type of imagery. Just like the proliferation of photographs and touristic postcards from foreign countries, artists also produced works which served the same purpose and proved very popular. Gerald Schurr commented that the “sensibility and the skill of his sunsets of Bosphorus manage to make one forget the slightly commercial aspect of his production of series....” (Schurr, Les Petits Maîtres de la Peinture, Paris: Editions de l’Amateur, 1975) Combined with the increasing ease of travel and subsequent surge in traveling, Duvieux’s images found an audience seeking works that reminded them of their travels or of the travels that they wished they could take.
The salability of Duvieux’s images should not discredit his work, however, since his output was extensive and he combined the elements of Orientalism with established tradition of seascapes of earlier masters; he also showed more modern tendencies in the execution of his work. The date of his death remains unknown.