Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pierre-Auguste Cot

Pierre-Auguste Cot
Pierre-Auguste Cot is one of those painters known primarily by one popular image, in this case The Storm, above, a commissioned image that Cot exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1880.

The painting has become part of pop high-culture (not quite pop culture) and has often been visually referenced or parodied, as in this portrait of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow by Edward Sorel.

Cot was a French Classical Academic painter, whose legacy also includes one other painting that retains popular appeal to this day, Springtime. Both of these works are of the idyllic, classical tradition in which the subjects and their surroundings are idealized. There is a Baroque feeling of fantasy/romance to them that accounts in large part for their popularity, in addition to Cot’s confident handling and strong figure work (not to mention a bit of sexy suggestion).

Cot studied under several French Academic masters, including William-Adolphe Bouguereau. As with Bouguereau, Cot’s work was very popular in his own time, but fell into disdain during the systematic disparagement of academic art by the moderninst establishment in the latter half of the 20th Century.

The Storm is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (I found a close-up of it that someone posted on Flickr). Springtime, although privately owned, was also on display there for a number of years, though I don’t know if it is still hanging at the Met.

There are also some of Cot’s other works reproduced in books and on the net, though few of the portraits that were actually his primary focus.

10 thoughts on “Pierre-Auguste Cot

  1. Daniel van Benthuysen

    For me, Cot drifts into overly literal story-telling until nothing is left to the viewer’s imagination. As a result, I don’t feel engaged by his work, much as I do respect and at times admire his technique and attention to detail. But in this regard, I think the disparagement of academic art was a reaction against something very specific a kind of overkill that he represents and the reactionary forces of the late 20th century were not entirely without justification.

    The sad truth is that an academic approach holds no guarantee for greatness, no matter how hard one works.

    Granted, that realization didn’t make it worth dropping required perspective and life drawing classes from a surprising number of university art programs in the western hemisphere by the late 1970s. But there were some valid reasons for recoiling at academic art and I am reminded of some of them every time I look at this fellow’s work. He’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

  2. Michael H.

    As of April 4th 2009, Springtime is still hung next to The Storm (in a beautiful juxtaposition, as these seem to be metaphors for different stages of innocence and loss thereof). I would guess that it’s on permanent display.

    Keep up the great blog,

  3. fine art shopper

    Pierre-Auguste Cot suffres from being around at the same time and place of the impressionists. I think his art would have been much more renowed if this wasn’t the case. But what a time to be alive for an artist !

  4. radium56

    As of Mai 2012, both pictures – Storm and Springtime – are on the display at New York Metropolitan Museum. Both have an prominent place at the before the entrance into 19th and 20th century European paintings and boy, they make a huge impact, I was blown away…

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