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.

11 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,
    Michael

  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…

  5. Gregore Merrill

    I’ve found great interest researching information on Cot’s ‘Springtime’ over the last few years, as my parents acquired this painting in Dallas, TX in the mid 1970’s, along with a collection of others, including Edouard Dubufe’s ‘The Circassian Girl’ and a very large work entitled ‘Military Quarrel’ (artist last name of Cain, possibly?) All of those works were hung with great prominence in our home, and in my dad’s office in Glenwood, MN, for a few years. My dad’s health deteriorated in the late 1970’s, and due to that issue, he retired from his business position, and the paintings were stored for a year or so. After much contact and information-gathering with Sotheby’s in 1979-80 (?), the works were crated and sent to New York for auction by them. At the time, I was only 15 or 16 years old, and had no real interest or knowledge in art, other than my interest for ‘Springtime’ which had become my favorite. I was saddened when my parents made the decision to put it on auction. My father passed in 1998, but my mother is still alive (now 85), and remembers some details, but most now escape her, unfortunately. It is her recollection that the painting sold at auction for $35-40,000, but due to privacy issues, and conditions of the sale to Sotheby’s, acquisition information was kept confidential, and not divulged. I’m writing this after spotting an article on the internet recently by Fred Ross, in which he discusses the provenance of ‘Springtime’, and mentions a mysterious void in its ownership or whereabouts during the period 1938-79, which would include the time my father purchased the collection and had ownership of the Cot painting and the others afore-mentioned. Originally from Dallas, TX, my father had worked for Dowdell-Merrill, Inc., which was an award-winning advertising agency in which he was a founding partner and its leading ad executive and graphic artist. He had always remembered and enjoyed those works as they hung in the company’s Dallas lobby gallery during the 1950’s and 60’s. In following his other interest, engineering, my dad accepted a position with a company in Minneapolis, MN, and our immediate family moved to Minneapolis, MN in 1966, but continued yearly visits to Texas to visit family. When the pieces were put up for sale in the early-mid 1970’s, a former Dowdell-Merrill associate of my dads who remembered his interest and great fondness of the pieces contacted him when it was announced the collection was to be sold. We made a trip to Dallas when this information was disclosed, and my father viewed the pieces for the first time in over twenty years, and he made the decision to purchase them and have them shipped to Minnesota.

    My father himself was an avid and award-winning artist (oil) and very well-versed in art history. Knowing all of this information now, as an adult, I don’t know the circumstances the led up to Dowdell-Merrill acquiring the pieces, and what circumstances surrounded them not adding their name to the provenance, and why my father did not pursue that, either. My belief, and that of my mother is simply that they just did not know what they had at the time, and how valuable the piece actually was at the time, so pursuing and attaining provenance information just didn’t seem necessary. With the advent of the internet in the past twenty years, that information is now more readily available, which has led me to my findings, and addition to your public posting and its related comments.

    Personally, I’m now quite disappointed (and a bit irritated, actually) that the opportunity at that time to be added to the provenance was not pursued or even thought about.

    Charley, If you have further questions regarding my knowledge or other information I may have or be able to provide you or anyone who might be interested, please contact me via my email address, and I will certainly provide you with my phone number.

    Thank you,
    Gregore Merrill

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