Ary Scheffer  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ary Scheffer (February 10, 1795 - June 15, 1858), French painter of Dutch extraction, was born at Dordrecht.

After the early death of his father, a poor painter, Ary was taken to Paris and placed in the studio of Guérin by his mother, a woman of great energy and character. The moment at which Scheffer left Guérin coincided with the commencement of the Romantic movement. He had little sympathy with the directions given to it by either of its most conspicuous representatives, Sigalon, Delacroix or Géricault, and made various tentative efforts "Gaston de Foix" (1824), "Suliot Women" (1827) before he found his own path. Scheffer's style has been called "frigidly classical".

Immediately after the exhibition of the last-named work he turned to Byron and Goethe, selecting from Faust a long series of subjects which had an extraordinary vogue. Of these, we may mention "Margaret at her Wheel"; "Faust Doubting"; "Margaret at the Sabbat"; "Margaret Leaving Church"; "the Garden Walk"; and lastly, perhaps the most popular of all, "Margaret at the Well". The two "Mignons" appeared in 1836; and "Francesca da Rimini", which is on the whole Scheffer's best work, belongs to the same period.

He now turned to religious subjects: "Christus Consolator" (1836) was followed by "Christus Remunerator", "The Shepherds Led by the Star" (1837), "The Magi Laying Down their Crowns", "Christ in the Garden of Olives", "Christ bearing his Cross", "Christ Interred" (1845), "St Augustine and Monica" (1846), after which he ceased to exhibit. His strong ties with the royal family caused him to fell out of favour when, in 1848, the Second Republic came into being. Shut up in his studio, he continued to produce much which was first seen by the outer world after his death, which took place at Argenteuil on the 15th of June 1858.

At the posthumous exhibition of his works there figured the "Sorrows of the Earth", and the "Angel Announcing the Resurrection", which he had left unfinished. Amongst his numerous portraits those of La Fayette, Béranger, Lamartine and Marie Amélie were the most noteworthy. His reputation, much shaken by this posthumous exhibition, was further undermined by the sale of the Paturle Gallery, which contained many of his most celebrated achievements; the charm and facility of their composition could not save them from the condemnation provoked by their poor and earthy colour and vapid sentiment.

Scheffer, who married the widow of General Baudrand, was only made commander of the Legion of Honour in 1848 that is, after he had wholly withdrawn from the Salon. His brother Henry, born at the Hague on September 27, 1798, was also a prolific painter.

Ary Scheffer died in 1858 and was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris.

See Vitet's notice (1861) prefixed to Bingham's publication of works of A Scheffer; Etex, Ary Scheffer; Mrs Grote, Life of A. Scheffer (1860).




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