"[Angrand] took advantage of summertime to execute a harvest scene in which as he wrote he could deal with his "...current preoccupation with technique and aesthetics [...] with this technique -superficially named pointillist by many art critics, that is the division of colour tones- which allows for the easy and ordinary application of physical optical laws: laws of contrast and of reaction; a simple question of craft yet so important as intellectual evolution is highly dependent on chromatic sensation."
in François Lespinasse, Charles Angrand
, Musée de Pontoise, Somogy Editions d’Art, Paris, 2006, p.23
Painted in 1889, this artwork by Charles Angrand is quite remarkable due to its display of Divisionist craftsmanship. At thirty five years of age, Charles Angrand had mastered the delicate and demanding technique invented by Georges Seurat (1859-1891). This painting followed two other works: Les Meules
(0.53 x x0.63) (private collection, United States) and a sketch housed in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris entitled Les Vilottes
(0.16 x 0.23). The former is dated 1888 and was exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants
, the Georges Petit Galleries, the Legrip gallery in Rouen and Les XX in Brussels in 1891. In the available painting, the motif is very slightly different; more animated than the previous, with a Seurat-like dignified formality. Some farm workers are visible, but the divisionist dabs are as compact and dense, the coloured dots admirably chosen and juxtaposed. As a whole this provides an exceptional effect of augmented perspective, thanks to the vertical “moyettes” or “villottes” (intended to protect the ears of wheat from rain). These paintings portray the farm workers’ hard labour during the month of August when the artist took his holiday. He painted a final and significant Scène de moisson
, (0.79 x 1.23) (Museum of Houston, Texas, United States).
Charles Angrand’s work totals less than one hundred paintings. From his Divisionist period (1886 to 1891) when he followed the method of his friend, Seurat (1859-1891), we know of 11 paintings, demonstrating the considerable significance of this work of art.
This painting is one of a number of rural landscapes that Angrand drew in Normandy in the Pays de Caux. This agricultural region stretches from the Seine’s meanderings to the south, up to the chalk cliffs in the north, with the Pays de Bray to its east and the estuary of the Seine to the west. Charles Angrand was very fond of this region. He greatly admired Jean-François Millet (1815-1875), a Normandy local from Gréville who painted scenes of rural life.
Angrand was born at Criquetot-sur-Ouville on 19 April 1854. His father was a village school teacher from 1849 and wanted Charles to follow a career in teaching as his sister, Maria (born in 1852), and brother, Paul (born in 1868), would go on to do.
After finishing primary school, he continued his studies at teaching college in Rouen, and upon successful completion was appointed as a tutor at the Lycée Corneille
in Rouen. His keen interest in painting led him to attend the Corot retrospective in Paris in 1875 and to take a course at the Rouen Academy of Art, under the direction of Gustave Morin (1806 - 1886). He took part in the Rouen Municipal Art Exhibition in 1878, 1880 and 1882, where, radically, he opted to exhibit his plein air paintings (Le peintre en plein air, Le Cheval, Le Gardeur de dindons, le Pont de pierre
). Angrand decided to leave Rouen and moved to Paris to work as a tutor at the Chaptal College, 45 Boulevard des Batignolles, in time for the start of the school year in October 1882.
His submission to the municipal art exhibitions in 1883 and 1884 were rejected. However, he was one of the founding members of the Salon des Artistes Indépendants
, an independent art exhibition, where he met Albert Dubois-Pillet, Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and Paul Signac (1869-1935). Angrand had the rare privilege of visiting Georges Seurat in his studio and seeing the ground-breaking painting Un Dimanche après-midi à la Grande Jatte
(Art Institute of Chicago), which became “the most famous painting of the decade, partly due to the enormous number of reviews it received” (Robert-Louis Herbert, 1991). Alongside Seurat during the summer of 1888, he painted Le matin à la Grande Jatte
(private collection, France) and Un après-midi, seul au Parc Monceau
(private collection, United States). On Tuesday 24 March 1891 he attended the opening of the exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants
, alongside Seurat, who was exhibiting his, Circus
(Musée d’Orsay). Charles Angrand was in the front row of the audience. It would be the last exhibition Suerat would attend; he died on 29 March 1891. After Seurat’s death Angrand did not paint again until 1900.
After fourteen years in Paris, it was at his parents’ home in Criquetot-sur-Ouville, then at Saint-Laurent-en-Caux where he lived from 1896 to 1913, where he came across numerous rural motifs. The harvest is a recurring theme in his work, just like that of Camille Pissarro (Moisson à Montfoucauld
), Van Gogh (La Sieste
), Claude Monet with his series, Meules
(1891) or the painters of the Barbizon school.Harvest 1889
is a rare and important discovery that confirms the prominent places of Charles Angrand among the best “neo-impressionist” painters, according to the beautiful words of his friend and critic, Félix Fénéon (1861-1944). He wrote of the artist: “Mr Angrand, such an expressive translator of rural life, its harvests, orchards and inhabitants...” and of Moyettes
of 1888: “one of his most atmospheric landscapes.” This beautiful, powerful remark applies perfectly to the work of art presented here.