05 December 2009

Henri Riviere at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France




If you are in Paris now, and looking for something to see while many museums are closed, you might check out the recent gift of Henri Riviere's personal collection to Bibliotheque Nationale de France.


The Riviere collection includes, along with his lithographs, watercolors, the artist's notebooks and preparatory drawings, and illustrated calendars. His personal collection of Japanese ukiyo-e prints runs to more than 700, and BNF considers it an essential tool for the study of Japanese influence on French art, equal to that of l'Art Nouveau Bing.
Among the highlights of Riviere's own work are the series of fourteen drawings Light on the Copse at Longivy (1898), last displayed at the Musee D'Orsay in 1988 and another series, The Enchanted Hours (1901-1902).



Although Impressionism was the dominant movement of his time, Riviere's only brush with it seems to have been his friendship with fellow artists Paul Signac.

Henri Rivière (1864-1951) never visited Japan but created his own personal Japan in Brittany, finding in its landscape echoes of Japanese prints.

Archetypal Breton subjects – fishing and the ever present sea, rural agriculture and antique peasant burial rites become, in Riviere's works, if not universal, then trans-continental. The pared down, decorative style creates an extraodrinary effect. Rivière recreated the ukiyo-e style, down to his monogram, without compromising the Breton geography, its vegetation and topography. Like the Japanese masters, Rivière's work shows a sensitivity to the time of day and the weather as integral parts of his subjects.

Also, from Japanese print makers Rivere took the idea of series of works organized around a theme. If Hokusai composed Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji, then Riviere made Thirty-six Views of the Eiffel Tower, a magnificent series of lithographs in beige and peach tones. This may have inspired the comic strip Tin Tin. Did Hergé know Riviere's work?
Riviere’s watercolors are less well known than his lithographs. While watercolors are often full of washed-out tones and fuzzy forms, Riviere’s are more precise, a taste carried over.
Tree in the Snow strikes a seasonal note, reminiscent, oddly enough, of the work of the early 19th century German romantic artist, Caspar David Friedrich.
Images: works by Henri Riviere and Katsushika Hokusai are from the Henri Riviere Collection at the Bibiliotheque Nationle de France in Paris. Visit http://bnf.fr/ for more information.
Addendum: There is much more of Henri Riviere's work here.

13 comments:

femminismo said...

These are wonderful. I'll go ahead a book a ticket to Paris, now, thanks! I would love to catch a moon in my sails as that great painting shows.

Nadege said...

What talent.

Neil said...

I love the possible Tin Tin connection! And thanks for alerting me to this archive.

☆sapphire said...

Hello

Thank you for this very interesting post! I'm impressed with Henri Rivière's works! They are so fantastic! As for the ukiyo-e prints concerning the Ooigawa river, I think Hokusai's this one is the best. Hiroshige drew a few ukiyo-e about the river, though.

Jane said...

Jeanne, the Breton coast would be just a train ride from Paris, and trains are always fun. After all, that's how Monet discovered Giverny, as I mentioned in the Etienne Clementel post.

Jane said...

Hello, Nadege. Your name sounds French. Sadly, Riviere's work is almost impossible to see in person, in the U.S.

Jane said...

Neil,the "banques d'images" is the place to go. Riviere was long lived and still working when Herge came along and once you've seen Riviere's work, you start to notice its influence. My guess is that graphic novelists know his work, too.

Jane said...

Sapphire,thank you for mentioning the Hirsohige prints. One thing that's very noticeable about Riviere's work is that he absorbed the ukiyo-e style rather than copying it. When he's in Btittany, he makes Breton images and when he's in Paris he makes Parisian images, always conveying a strong sense of the place and you can tell which is which, even if you'd never heard of the Eiffel Tower.

Nadege said...

Yes Jane, my name is french; I was born in France (Nevers) and have lived in the US now for 30 years. I love the US and love France too (and sometimes get mad at both).
It is so interesting how Japan and France are so similar in a way. When I was in Kyoto and Nara, I kept on saying that it looked all so familiar. It just reminded of France. I know that the respect is very mutual for both french and japanese cuisine.

Jane said...

I wonder what it was that looked familiar to you in Japan? As for human nature, it is consistently inconsistent everywhere, I think. Thanks for your comments.

Jane said...

Thank you, Errant Aesthete, for your generous comments that I accidentally deleted. My only explanation is that it is Monday.

Rouchswalwe said...

These are wonderful! And you are right on about Friedrich, yes.

Jane said...

Riviere's work is very good, indeed. As far as I can discover 'Tree In The Snow' is an outlier in his work. I wish I knew about the circumstances that led to its creation.