Alexandre Charpentier (1856-1909). Naturalism and Art Nouveau

ARCHIVE
2008

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Painting
Alexandre CharpentierMilliner© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Gérard Blot
"A more beautiful, harmonious and intense life"

Charpentier produced many images of manual workers with their tools. He liked to illustrate in detail their precise, repeated gestures, their muscles bulging with the effort. In his view, the artist should not limit himself to just designing but should get involved on a practical level. So he would often go to the workshops, get to know the different trades and take a strong interest in the whole process.
Was Charpentier expressing his nostalgia for guilds in this way? He dreamt of "A more beautiful, harmonious and intense life" (interview with Gabriel Mourey in 1902).

This declaration reveals the idealism that flowed through Charpentier. He was a man of conviction – a defender of Alfred Dreyfus, a participant in the "social art" movement and a member of many associations. His anarchic commitment, alongside his friends in the neo-impressionist group (Luce, Pissarro, Signac, Fénéon, etc), was sincere. He expressed his desire to bring art within reach of everyone both in his interviews and in the texts signed by theArt in Everything group, which he founded in 1896.

Nursery cabinet
Alexandre CharpentierNursery cabinet© Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Bruxelles

For Charpentier, everything offered an opportunity for decoration and fantasy. He upset the hierarchy of "major" arts – painting and sculpture – and decorative arts, referred to as "minor arts". He took useful objects and made them beautiful and accessible to all, without ever compromising his originality.

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