Alexandre Charpentier (1856-1909). Naturalism and Art Nouveau
Although less well known than Gallé, Guimard or Gaudí, Alexandre Charpentier nonetheless played an important rôle in the emergence of Art Nouveau. His career was brief; there were just over twenty years between his first success at the Salon in 1883 and his last work in 1905.
During this time, the French dramatist André Antoine and the Belgian lawyer Octave Maus helped to promote the artist’s career. In 1887 Charpentier illustrated the programmes for the Théâtre Libre founded by Antoine, and undertook portraits of his actors, authors and audiences. It was in 1890, at the Salon des XX in Brussels, that Charpentier was recognised as an innovative and inventive artist.
But it was above all the dissident Salon of the Société nationale des Beaux-Arts, founded in 1890 that made his reputation. At Dalou’s instigation, a decorative arts department was created in 1891, and Charpentier went on to exhibit a wide variety of creative works there. He experimented with a range of materials and techniques: plaster, marble, bronze, gold, silver, pewter, zinc, stoneware, earthenware, stained glass, mosaic, engraving, chromolithography, embossed paper, wallpaper, and of course painting and drawing.
He was also an excellent portrait painter, and portrayed over five hundred prominent people of the time, mostly in medals, an art form he helped to revive.