3. François-Édouard Bertin

Paris 1797 – 1871 Paris

View of the Acropolis

François-Édouard Bertin was the son of Louis-François Bertin (1766-1841); the founder of the Journal des Débats who was famously immortalised by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). Under the latter’s guidance, François-Édouard’s figure drawing matured considerably, following two stints in Italy in the 1820s where he drew predominantly landscapes and architectures. The young artist also benefited hugely from the teaching of Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) and Joseph Bidauld (1758-1846), both of whom helped establish him in the neoclassical landscape tradition. In the 1840s-1850s he undertook a lengthy tour of the Mediterranean, visiting Greece,1 Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey and Spain. Throughout this trip, with the very sure sense of composition that already characterised his many Italian landscapes, he drew sweeping, carefully framed and arched views, usually in black chalk heightened with white chalk on blue or beige paper, in which horizontal lines hold sway. These views are generally situated, in pen, in a corner of the sheet, as is the case here.2

With its low-angle framing and the suggestion of an arched format – which the artist sketched with a curved line in the upper part of the composition – our sheet adopts the layout found in most of Bertin’s architecture drawings. He likely perfected it during his second stint in Southern Europe.3 All the main stylistic traits of Bertin’s landscapes are present and correct here – clarity of composition lines, particular care in describing the rocks and the ground, hazy effects of the stumped white chalk. However, this drawing differs slightly from others in its unexpected framing, which focuses on a secondary architectural feature – the stone step-groove – and casts the title-motif of the Acropolis into the background. It is a bold choice by Bertin, and it invites us to regard this view as a re-composition combining several elements while playing with their scales, rather than simply a landscape taken from life. In this serene mineral atmosphere, a draped, lone figure is seated in profile at the top of the flight of steps, thus renewing the classical theme of meditation on ruins.

Acquired in 2014, this majestic sheet is reunited with Bertin’s four other drawings already held in the Fondation Custodia’s collections. MNG

1For another view of Greece, see for example the drawing in Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. no. RF 3942 (black chalk, with white chalk, on brown paper; 770 × 1135 mm); see http://arts-graphiques.louvre.fr.

2See also View of Minya, on the Banks of the Nile (black chalk, with white chalk, on blue paper; 210 × 410 mm); sale, New York (Sotheby’s), 25 January 2002, no. 164, repr.

3In particular, the View of the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, 1825-26 (black chalk, with white chalk, on brown paper; 380 × 325 mm) and the View of Subiaco, 1830-40 (graphite; 310 × 400 mm); see Sélection de dessins et d’aquarelles, exh. cat., Paris, (Galerie La Nouvelle Athènes) 2015, nos. 31 and 32, reprs.; and http://lanouvelleathenes.fr/wp-content/uploads/Catalogue-exposition-dessins-mars-avril-2015-pdf-RVB-2.pdf.