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|Artist Details : Alphonse de Neuville|
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Alphonse de Neuville
The son of a banker, Alphonse was born in Saint Omer, Normandy, on the last day of May, 1836. As a youngster, he yearned to be a soldier but his family insisted that he study law. Although he completed his law degree in 1857, he showed more interest in art and approached Adolphe Yvon and Hipployte Bellange about his idea but both discouraged him so he entered the studio of Francois-Eduard Picot where he started work with another pupil and future military artist, Berne-Bellecour. The great painter Delacroix also took the young painter under his wing. In 1859, the artist showed his first military painting at the Salon. The Fifth Battalion of Chasseurs at the Gervais Battery, Malahoff for which he won a medal. A commission to paint Garibaldi taking Naples was received the following year and de Neuville went to the place to sketch first-hand. While there he witnessed the siege at Capou. He received a second-class medal for another painting of the Crimean War shortly after. Throughout the 1860s he busied himself with various large canvases depicting events from the Crimean War and Italian War of 1859, but it was to the events of the war with Prussia in 1870-71 that De Neuville was to gain his reputation as a painter of the 'incident' rather than the event. At the age of 35, the artist found himself as an officer of auxiliary sappers near Paris, and participated in the battles at Le Bourget and Champigny. These experiences enabled him to embark on a series of remarkable paintings chronicling the suffering of the French soldiers in the war. In 1872 appeared The Bivouac before Le Bourget but it was his picture of the following year, The Last Cartridge which really brought his name to prominence among the art critics of Paris. In this powerful and pathetic picture, a small group of French chasseurs await their fate in the upper room of a shot-riddled house having exhausted their ammunition. To achieve the reality of the moment, the artist painted the scene in a room which had been riddled with bullets and wreaked of powder. His 1875 piece entitled Attack by fire upon a barricaded house at Villersexel was regarded by many as his finest picture to date, but this was soon overshadowed by the immensely popular Le Bourget painted in 1878 showing a few French soldiers filing out of a church into the arms of the victorious Prussians. During the next few years, his reputation before him, he found employment in England with the Fine Art Society painting scenes from the various colonial campaigns in Zululand and Egypt resulting in his pictures of Rorke's Drift and Tel-el-Kebir but he soon returned to the subject he was most at home with, the war of 1870. Pictures for the 1880s include the famous Cemetery of St Privat and two panoramas of the battles at Champigny and Rezonville painted with his pupil, Edouard Detaille. His premature death at the age of 49 in May 1885 shocked the art world but his numerous pictures were a lasting testament to his greatness and sensitiveness to the sufferings of the common soldier.
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