Friday, April 5, 2002Sunday, September 29, 2002
Charles Meryon (1821-68) was one of the first artists to devote his entire artistic output to the graphic arts. He stands as an important figure in the etching revival of the 19th century. He is best known for his scenes of Paris that capture the city at the very moment it was experiencing huge changes due to the reorganization plans of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann during the Second Empire (1852-70).
Meryon's prints portray the essence of the medieval sections of town that were being torn down to accommodate the wide boulevards and new parks and squares of Haussmann's master plan. Yet, these images are not simply exact renditions of specific structures, but a personal vision of a city that was being forever altered. Meryon's conception of Paris was influenced by numerous cultural currents of his day, including the prose and poetry of Victor Hugo as well as the new appreciation for Gothic buildings in France (especially Notre Dame Cathedral).
Unfortunately, Meryon also struggled with mental illness and eventually succumbed to his disease just as he was receiving serious attention by some of the most influential critics and writers of the time. His etchings of Paris live on as a testment to his creative vision as well as his incredible skill as a graphic artist.
Image: Charles Meryon, An Arch of the Notre-Dame Bridge, Paris, 1853, etching and drypoint, the Ladd Collection, gift of Herschel V. Jones.