Collection Highlight: The River

Summer is in full swing in Utah, though the last few days (and the coming few days!) promise to be a bit overcast and cooler where we are. I think “The River” by Charles Francoise Daubigny perfectly embodies this lazy, cloud-crowded day. What a perfect excuse to learn more about this painting!

"The River" by Charles Francoise Daubigny. Gift of Edward Bartlett Wicks.

“The River” by Charles Francoise Daubigny. Gift of Edward Bartlett Wicks.

Charles Francoise Daubigny was born in 1817 into a family of artists. Though largely trained by his father, his later connection to artists such as Corot (whom he met in 1852) and Cezanne certainly provided ample conditions for growth. He was an esteemed painter of the natural world, frequently working in plein air. He painted a great many river scenes, which are among the most celebrated of his works. His work is generally regarded as an important precursor to Impressionism.

Anyone searching for information about his work will no doubt encounter the rumor that the presence of ducks in Daubigny’s work may indicate how he felt about a painting: if he liked a work, he’d add an extra duck or two. Can you spot the ducks in the UMFA painting?

Just as Charles had followed in his father’s footsteps, his son, Karl, also went on to become an artist. Charles Francois Daubigny is interred in the famed cemetery Pere-Lachaise.

If you like what you see here, you’re in good company: Vincent Van Gogh was an avid fan of Daubigny. After his famous stay in a clinic, Van Gogh moved to Auvers to be nearer a physician as well as the vibrant art community springing up around Daubigny. He admired the artist so much that he painted Daubigny’s enclosed garden in Auvers (where it seems he found a lot of inspiration) three times during the last months of his life. These works are thought to be among his last paintings.

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