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Eugène Carrière
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Gournay, France
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Famous for his paintings, etchings and lithographs in the 1890s, Eugène Carrière became one of the leading French artists of his day. After studying art and commercial lithography at the École Municipale de Dessin in Strasbourg from the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a Strasbourg lithography shop in 1863. Five years later he moved to Saint-Quentin to work in commercial lithography. After being inspired by works of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and other old masters in the Louve seen on a trip to the capital in 1869, he moved to Paris later that year to study under Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889) at the École des Beaux-Arts. Carrière enlisted in the French army in 1870 at the start of the Franco-Prussian War and was soon taken captive, spending the rest of the brief war as a prisoner at Dresden, where he was allowed to spend time in the Dresden art museums. Carrière returned to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1871, and studied there until 1876, while working in the studio of Jean Chéret (1836-1932) in 1872 and 1873. He submitted paintings to the Salons of 1876, 1877 and 1878, but received little notice. In 1877 he moved to London with his new wife, but despite work with a commercial lithographer, lived in poverty and returned to Paris after six months. He showed La Jeune Mère (The Young Mother, Musée Calvet, Avignon), the first of his “Maternités” paintings, at the 1879 Salon, and continued to exhibit paintings at subsequent Salons. Earth tones and a dark atmosphere characterized his palette. He received recognition in 1883 when La Jeune Mère was purchased by the state for the Musée Calvet. From 1880 through 1884 he worked at the Sèvres porcelain factory, where he met Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and formed a lasting friendship. The medals and prizes he won at the Salons in 1883, 1884 and 1885 brought him acclaim but not great financial rewards, and he continued to work as a commercial lithographer. Carrière’s interest in lithography led him to join the Société des Peintres-Graveurs Français in 1889 or 1890, and by 1890 he began making artistic lithographs. His prints appeared in books and in sets for collectors, such as L’estampe originale (The Original Print), a set of 95 prints by 74 artists published by André Marty (1857-?) in installments from 1893 through 1895, which included two prints by Carrière. In 1890 he was one of the founders of the Société National des Beaux-Arts (along with Rodin, Félix Bracquemond (1833-1914) and others) to protest against the official Salon, and participated in exhibitions sponsored by the group. Also in 1890 he began meeting with Symbolist artists and writers and struck up a friendship with Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), with whom he exchanged works of art. In 1891 Carrière received two public art commissions, one to decorate a portion of the new Hôtel de Ville, and another for a painting to be placed in a new Musée du Luxembourg. Later in the decade he received commissions for decorations for the 12th Arrondissement town hall (1897) and the Sorbonne (1898). Carrière’s artistic output was at its peak in the 1890s, when he was held in high esteem in the Parisian art world, to the point where a critic referred to a “school of Carrière” in a review of the Salon of 1892. He also became an educator, accepting students in his studio, including Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and André Derain (1880-1954). In January 1896 the Musée Rath in Geneva organized an exhibition of the works of Carrière, Rodin and another artist, and successes continued for the rest of the year. The state purchased one of his paintings for the Musée du Luxembourg, Carrière exhibited 40 works at a show in Brussels, dealer Siegfried Bing (1838-1905) mounted one-man shows for him in Paris and London and his lithographic portrait of art critic Edmond de Goncourt (1822-1896) was his only entry in the Salon. He published other lithographs in the late 1890s as well, and received a grand prize for his graphic work in 1897. In 1900 he designed two posters for the Pavillon des Mines et de la Métallurgie at the Exposition Universelle and another for Rodin’s pavilion at the same fair. At the Salon of 1900 Carrière exhibited five lithographs and eight paintings. In 1902 Carrière underwent surgery for throat cancer, but continued to work despite failing health. On 20 December 1904, Rodin presided over a dinner in Paris given in Carrière’s honor, attended by 500 guests. After further throat surgery in 1905, he died on 27 March, 1906. Rodin was one of the eulogists at Carrière’s funeral. (TNB 2/2010) Selected bibliography: Bantens, R. J. Eugène Carrière: The Symbol of Creation. New York: Kent, 1990. Bénézit, Emmanuel. Dictionary of Artists, vol. 3 pp. 480-483. Paris: Gründ, 2006. Strasbourg, Musee d'art moderne et contemporain. Eugène Carrière, 1849-1906. Exhibition catalog; includes bibliography and chronology. Paris: Editions de la Reunion des musées nationaux; Strasbourg: Musees de Strasbourg, 1996.