JONGKIND Johann
( 1819-1891). Dutch painter, born at Latrop, Holland; died at Grenoble. For a long time Jongkind was considered with Boudin as a precursor of Impressionism. It is clear that in his watercolours, and still more in his drawings, before Sisley and Monet, he knew how to translate the fluid atmosphere and distant horizons, the movement of trees and the glittering changeableness of water. But it is also true that his merits did not limit him to the role of forerunner. He has his own distinct value, as have his works, and the best of them give him a place among the great painters of the nineteenth century. His vision is acute, his drawing trembles with life, and the least of his sketches, done with a few strokes of the pencil, is intensely alive. Should we see in his Dutch origin the reasons for his exclusive taste for landscapes, for broad horizons where stretches of earth and sea are separated from sky by only a lightly curved, uncertain, extremely fine line: great flat landscapes, formed of horizontal lines, in which the masts of ships and the sails of windmills balance in contrast? Jongkind's in is, above all, an art of atmosphere; it does not pretend, as Impressionist painting did, to the pretext of scientific discoveries to justify an aesthetic doctrine. Jongkind simply set down the appearances of the moment. New as his technique and his vision were to his time, it is not exact to make everything begin with him and not to relate him to the post. There is a definite relationship with certain Dutch artists like Ruysdael and Van Goyen, but Jongkind seems to have a freshness of feeling and interpretation whose spontaneity recalls some of the drawings of Saint-Aubin. In a sense, then, he should be thought of as climaxing a certain tradition. If the whole of his work is considered, his painting, however, calls for reservations, for a good many of the canvases were executed for commercial reasons and ill reflect his qualities. His night scenes, with light falling among the boats can, in most cases, be discarded in any search for the artist's true sensibility. Though freely and admirably expressed in the water-colours, it is sometimes less in evidence and less natural in the oils, yet even in this domain one must recognize certain masterly and subtle successes. There were strange contradictions in his destiny, an incomprehensible contrast between his serene, luminous art and his life, which was often miserable. Though his life was unstable and sordid, in Paris he had several faithful friends: the painters Isabey, Sano, Cals and, later, a Dutch teacher of drawing, Mme Fesser, whose life he shared and with whom he succeeded for a while in leading a fairly calm existence, at times in Normandy and more frequently in the Dauphiné or in Provence. With her Jongkind settled, in 1878, at the Côte-Saint-André between Lyons and Grenoble. When he left this district it was to be taken to the lunatic asylum at Grenoble, where he died.
Exhibitions
1814, Fenoglio Gal. Grenoble: (107 Items. Pref. by A. Farcy); 1935, May 1-15, Paris, Hôtel du Figaro; 1936, Nov. 16-30, Paris, G. Stein Gal. (Pref. C. Roger-Marx); 1941, Oct.-Dec., Museum of Grenoble, 50th Anniversary Exhibition (271 oils and watercolours); 1942, May-June, J. Dubourg Gal. Paris; 1948, July-Sept. Communal Museum, The Hague; and 1949, Orangerie, Paris (227 Items. Pref. C.Roger-Marx).
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