18. Adrien Dauzats

Bordeaux 1804 – 1868 Paris

A Barbary Fig (“Opuntia”) in Seville, 1836

Having trained initially as a stage set painter in the city of his birth, Adrien Dauzats completed his formation in Paris with the landscape artist Michel Julien Gué (1789-1843). He quickly came to the attention of his peers thanks to his mastery of lithography, and his skill in faithfully transcribing the monumental history of a region1 in drawings from life. These qualities were soon noticed by Baron Isidore Taylor (1789-1879), who, in 1827, asked him to contribute to the illustration of Picturesque and Romantic Travels in Old France (1820-1863).2 In 1835-1837 Dauzats undertook a new mission for the Baron, who had been sent to Spain by Louis-Philippe to assemble a “representative ensemble of works of the Spanish School”, for the creation of the short-lived Spanish Gallery shown in the Louvre from 1838 to 1848.3 When Taylor and his party reached Andalusia in the fall of 1836, they met up with Dauzats, who had spent nearly a year in Spain by then. Our drawing, done in June of this same year, is a recollection of the artist’s excursions in the surroundings of Seville.4

With a layout that made the most of the sheet’s ample format, Dauzats gave this Barbary fig a monumental dimension.5 The subject is presented frontally, under a rather low angle, suggesting that the artist worked near the ground, not far from his subject. After swiftly indicating the plant’s structure in pencil, he used broad strokes of watercolour to build its volumes. The upper part of the prickly pear is an authentic study of shadow and light, revealing the complexity of its forms with a great economy of means. With the tip of the brush, Dauzats also detailed the foliage of a shrub: its branches, bearing red fruits or flowers suggested by a few dots of gouache, are intertwined with the Barbary fig. But the ultimate appeal of this watercolour lies in its different levels of completion. The artist deliberately left some parts highly schematised: in particular, the other Barbary cactus in the background on the left, handled in a monochrome flat tint, the silhouette of the pads standing out against a brown ground. The areas of spared paper in the lower corners of the sheet convey the summertime luminosity steeping the subject. In some places Dauzats also played with an almost dry brush, catching on the grain of the paper and blending the watercolours with the creamy white of the sheet. As such, in this instantly charming drawing, the artist displayed a remarkable gift of observation as well as an inspired naturalism. However, it is an exception in his draughtsman’s known corpus, exclusively views of architectures, figure studies and a few landscapes.

A traveller-artist associated with Orientalism – he accompanied Baron Taylor’s expedition in Egypt6 and the Near East in 1830, then the military expedition of the Duc d’Orléans in Algeria in 1839 –, Dauzats was for a long time overshadowed by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863).7

The acquisition of this drawing, the first in his hand to join the Fondation Custodia collections8, is true to the spirit of Frits Lugt, who was forever unearthing the most atypical works of an artist’s production. MNG

1Jeannine Baticle, ‘Zurbarán vu par Dauzats en 1836’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 140th year, 1998, p. 102. For a complete biography of Adrien Dauzats, see Paul Guinard, Dauzats et Blanchard peintres de l’Espagne romantique, Paris 1967, pp. 27-82.

2Moreover the Baron had just published Picturesque Travels in Spain, Portugal and the African Coast from Tangiers to Tetuan, Paris 1826.

3Jeannine Baticle and Christina Marinas, La galerie espagnole de Louis-Philippe au Louvre, Paris 1981, pp. 3-9.

4Dauzats’ posthumous sale, Paris (Hôtel Drouot), 1-4 February 1869, in no. 340, featured thirty one drawings and studies from life, done at Granada, Seville, Toledo, Alicante and Cordoba, without the catalogue providing details.

5A similar spirit appears in a watercolour of exceptional dimensions, evoking the Iron Gates passage, in Algeria, by the Light Cavalry of the third regiment and the soldiers of the second Light Infantry, 1840, Versailles, Châteaux of Versailles and Trianon, inv. no. MV2665 (watercolour; 630 × 990 mm), that Dauzats treated as a spectacular natural architecture.

6The King had charged the Baron with the mission of bringing Mehemet Ali to confirm the gift of the Luxor obelisk, and then arrange its transfer to France; see Paul Guinard, ‘Adrien Dauzats - Peintre et voyageur romantique,’ Médecine de France 116 (1959) pp. 24-26.

7However, Delacroix had the greatest esteem for Dauzats according to Philippe Burty who, in the preface to the catalogue of the Dauzats sale (see note 4), claims that the master had offered him several of his finest sketches.

8In 2018, two other works by Dauzats joined the Fondation Custodia collection: a sketchbook containing nine drawings done during his trip to Syria, inv. no. 2018-T.2 (graphite; 195 × 260 mm); and a painting, Castle in Teba, Spain, 1836, inv. no. 2018-S.12 (oil on canvas; 32.5 × 49 cm).