LÉPINE Stanislas Victor Edouard
( 1835-1892) French painter; born in Caen; died in Paris. It would not be exact to place Lépine among the innovators of his time, and one can hardly compare him with the masters of Impressionism, even if one admits his gift for finding an inspiration of refined poetry in the representation of Nature, in changing skies and landscape glittering with light. It would also be unjust to see him merely as a respectful follower of a careful academic tradition. Actually, Lépine is one of those artists indispensable in explaining the transitions of art. The history of art is not just a series of violent reactions, as one is tempted to believe in viewing the works of the great artists alone. It is the minor masters who discreetly stake out the progress of ideas so that developments result from forward steps and not contradictions. It is the minor masters, from Daubigny to Lépine, who make the history of French nineteenthcentury landscape painting a logical process, far removed from revolt, dominated by Corot and Courbet, long before anyone knew the more violent audicities of the Impressionists. The Impressionist needed to lean on the achievements of more modest figure such as Lépine and Lebourg, and perhaps the refined, quiet art of such painters was the most effective way of preparing the ground for public acceptance of the great masters. Lépine's art, however, was not just that of an intermediary. He has his own charm. His numerous views of Paris remain among the memories which can best evoke the atmosphere of the city at that period. They are valuable witnesses of the time, the more so because the artist never sacrificed anything to anecdotal details. Perhaps Lépine was one of those last artists to know how to make a landscape intimate, how to fix the secret soul of a city, a street or a river. His life was as discreet as his art, and practically nothing is known of him except that he died in such poverty that his friends had to make a collection to pay for his funeral.
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