65. François-Auguste Ravier

Lyon 1814 – 1895 Morestel

Rocks

He may have had difficulty gaining the recognition of the Parisian public, but the Lyonnais François-Auguste Ravier succeeded in winning the admiration of his peers, in particular Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) and Albert Maignan (1845-1908).1 After several stays in Italy,2 he settled in the Dauphiné in 1849. From that time on, Ravier’s property at Crémieu, in the Isère, became a gathering place for many artists, including Camille Corot (1796-1875) (see cat. no. 16) and Joseph Trevoux (1830-1909) (see cat. no. 73).3

The Fondation Custodia’s collections include three landscape oil paintings, of which two are sketches;4 and six landscapes on paper, in watercolour or oil.5 These oil sketches, executed from life, were highly admired by Ravier’s painter friends, although he reportedly limited his use of watercolour to the studio, developing the compositions of his paintings on paper.6 However, there is no painting that appears to be derived from our drawing, which should consequently be considered an autonomous work.

The palette that Ravier used here, with a great economy of means, offered a very limited colour range. Cold blues and greys respond to the ochre red to compose the features of this view – earth, rocks, and sky. The reserves of paper play an essential part, modelling the volumes of the composition in intense light. However, interpretation of this landscape is far from univocal: the ochre flat tint along the right edge of the sheet, in its middle part, remains difficult to interpret. As for the impressive subject of these mineral formations, it might call to mind the rocks in the vicinity of Morestel,7 where Ravier spent the last period of his life. The region, located on a calcareous plateau possessing a characteristic geology, was a boundless source of inspiration for the artist. In this work, he rendered the rough texture of these rocks with an almost dry brush that caught on the grain of the paper. This landscape, with its visionary abstraction, lacking any tangible indication of scale or place, owes its timeless character to this very absence.8 Although held in the highest esteem by the critics of Lyon for his “impressions”,9 Ravier would always remain on the sidelines of the Impressionist movement. MNG

1Jean-Jacques Lerrant and Dominique Brachlianoff, François-Auguste Ravier 1814-1895, exh. cat., Lyon (Musée des Beaux-Arts) 1996, pp. 40-41.

2Two Italian landscapes by Ravier feature in the Fondation Custodia’s collections, inv. nos. 1991-T.25 (watercolour, with white gouache; 174 × 248 mm) and 1990-T.7 (point of brush and grey ink, watercolour, over a sketch in pencil; 318 × 478 mm).

3For a thorough biography of Ravier, backed up by his correspondence, see Christine Boyer Thiollier in ibid., pp. 15-36.

4Inv. nos. 2010-S.45 (oil on paper, laid down on canvas; 32.5 × 24.5 cm); see ibid., cat. no. 145 (as anonymous), repr. p. 57; 2012-S.21 (oil on paper; 21.5 × 28.5 cm) and 2016-S.18 (oil on paper, laid down on cardboard; 32.6 × 25.2 cm).

5Inv. nos. 1990-T.7 (see note 2), 1991-T.25 (see note 2), 1993-T.21 (oil, over a sketch in graphite, on grey-brown prepared paper; 240 × 308 mm); see ibid., cat. no. 140; 1993-T.22 (oil, over a sketch in graphite, on grey prepared paper; 240 × 311 mm), see ibid., cat. no. 141; 2006-T.7 (watercolour and gouache, over traces of black chalk, with scratching; 199 × 126 mm) and the present drawing.

6Dominique Brachlianoff in ibid., pp. 13-14.

7As they appear in a photograph by Félix Thiollier, c. 1880, in a private collection; see ibid., p. 13, repr.

8Ger Luijten in 25e Salon du Dessin. 1991-2016, Paris 2016, p. 27.

9Paul Bertnay, ‘Exposition de 1884 – Salon de Peinture’, Le Courrier de Lyon¸ 22 March 1884.