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Eduard Charlemont

A Drink for the Drummer, 1889

A Viennese painter born on August 2, 1848, Eduard Charlemont represents a natural Classical realism from among the last of the great artists born before the 20 century. Inspired by and trained in the Dutch Old Master painting techniques of the Baroque, Charlemont remains one of those underrated treasures you stumble upon and savour like an unexpected rare wine, ripe and full, only getting better with time.

Above shows a drummer savoring a drink, quite possibly wine, in a room with soft shadows and cool northern light. Charlemont's gift for natural body language, detailed costume and expression is musical, to make a pun on the subject: the musician smiles broadly as if having just said a joke, and the woman smiles bashfully while cleaning her copper pot. Notice how the angle of the drum and her pot are similar, facing us the viewer. Hers is empty for a reason: there is a clear difference in social class, by the manner of dress in these two people and yet despite there is a flirtation going on, and the drummer knows it. The concept of this painting is most definitely Flemish yet with a modern realism that is intriguing in its simplicity.

Charlemont - The Moorish Chief
The Moorish Chief, 1878

Here Charlemont takes the Orientalism of Gérôme and infuses deep chiaroscuro with golden light and Moorish architectural details. A solid portrait, it conveys silent power and peaceful calm. Where Gérôme would have accented this portrait in vivid colours, Charlemont reveals a red slit of his robe running down the front to his feet, possibly indicating his virility also. The dim shadow on the wall behind him contrasts brilliantly with the bright highlight of sunlight on his white robe. Charlemont proves here that he can more than hold his own as a portraitist.

The New Wine, ca.late 1800's

Charlemont combines the natural body expression with the chiaroscuro of the last two examples to create a breathtaking portrait. Again, wine is the theme of this painting but in the context of itself this time instead of flirtation. He heightens this attention to wine in the palette of the man's costume, deep warm hues that contrast vibrantly. Notice the curtain behind him loosely mimics the same colors in less saturation, and works as a pointing device to the man. The textures in this piece are visual as well as tactile, suggesting the complexity of wine itself. Note the very unusual hexagonal tile structure of the floor. The effect of this great painting, like all of Charlemont's work, is powerful yet simple.

Scène d'intérieur, late 1800's

And once again Charlemont returns here to his peaceful side: a man reading casually by the window with his faithful dog under the chair. His use of daylight is a flawless, mid-afternoon sunshine filling a room with cool hues, in a ironic twist. Pay attention to the lost and found edges Charlemont creates on the man's costume and hat. Note the vivid detail in the lacework of the curtain to the right, and yet it blends into the shadows. Charlemont uses highlights and greys beside muted tones like musical notes in a symphony...even the empty cup and book on the table would make a fantastic still-life in themselves. In fact, look closer and you can see the warm reflection of the book on the cup's cool metal, sitting on a brightly lit table. Painters who complain about a lack of inspiration or boring subject matter should study Charlemont to begin to understand that learning to see is what art is about.


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