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Water Matters Event

The Pond at Optevoz and a Moment in French Realism

Michael Marlais, the James M. Gillespie Professor of Art History at Colby College, is co-curator of the exhibition Valenciennes, Daubigny, and the Origins of French Landscape Painting. He has written articles on American and French 19th-century art and its criticism and is the author of Conservative Echoes in Fin-de Siècle Parisian Art Criticism.

The Water's Edge, Optevoz by Charles-Francois Daubigny

For the opening of The Origins of French Landscape, Professor Marlais presented a gallery talk that focused attention on several important paintings in the exhibition in which water is a primary feature. Pointing out how Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes and Charles-François Daubigny related to the traditions of French landscape painting, Marlais demonstrated how Daubigny broke with those traditions, especially with respect to his use of water in The Water’s Edge Optevoz.

Water was a primary source of life in classical and Renaissance thinking. Thus the river in the foreground of Valenciennes’s Classical Greek Landscape with Girls Sacrificing Their Hair to Diana is not only the pure clean water of the classical source, but its calm surface is also the clearest most reflective part of the composition.

Daubigny also used reflections but he did something quite different as well – he portrayed a real site where the flow of water was used to run a mill. In comparison to the ideal water portrayed in Valenciennes’s painting, cattle drink from the pond at Optevoz.

::: Event Details :::
Speaker: Michael Marlais
Date: Thursday, September 23, 2004
Location: Weissman Special Exhibition Gallery, Art Museum, Mount Holyoke College
Time: 7 p.m.
Admission: Free

::: Directions :::
> To Gamble Auditorium
> Mount Holyoke College Campus Map

Above Image:
Charles-François Daubigny (French,
The Water's Edge, Optevoz

Oil on canvas, ca. 1856
Gift in memory of Mildred and Robert Warren
Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, MA