Jean-Victor Bertin

Jean-Victor Bertin
(Paris 1767 - 1842 Paris)

Arcadian landscape, 1814

Oil on canvas, 65.9 x 88.5 cm
Signed and dated lower left: Bertin / 1814

Paris, Craig-Muller Auctions.



Jean-Victor Bertin’s inception to the Royal Academy of Painting dates to 1785, at which time Bertin was a pupil of the history painter Gabriel-François Doyen. Three years later he joined the studio of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, who had returned from Italy four years earlier and who undoubtedly formed the artist‘s taste for things Italianate. He regularly exhibited at the Parisian Salon from 1793. In 1799 he was awarded the Prix d‘Encouragement and this afforded him the possibility to work as a painter for the State who acquired his paintings for official residences and museums. The precise date of his trip to Italy is uncertain, somewhere between 1806 and 1808. But by1808 many of the canvases he exhibited at the Salon are of Italian landscapes. The memories he brought back from Italy inspired his art all his life. After his return from Italy he opened a studio in Paris and became an influential teacher for the next generation including Michallon, Corot, but also Rémond, Ricois, Coignet, Boisselier, Richard...

As early as 1801, Bertin, together with Valenciennes, advocated for the creation of a Prix de Rome for historical landscape at the Académie, which was finally established in 1816. The first winner was his pupil Michallon in 1817. The new price for historical landscape enabled a large number of young landscape painters to travel to Italy and take residence at the academy owned Villa Medici in Rome. Curiously, this exceptional teacher, who taught so many future outdoor enthusiasts, hardly ever seemed to have painted sur le motif, and unlike Bidauld, we know of no oil on paper studies by him. This is because the master remained faithful to an idealized and recomposed vision of nature, inherited from Poussin and recommended by Valenciennes.

Bertin’s Pastoral landscape, dated 1814, is firmly based on Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes most famous and extremly influential theory on landscape-painting: Elémens de perspective pratique, à l`usage des artistes, suivis, de réflexions et conseils à un élève sur la peinture, et particulièrment sur le genre du paysage, published in 1800. A valley with lush pastures and grazing cattle, dominated by an imposing rocky massif, a quiet stream flanked by buildings of ancient origin, today inhabited by peasants. In this idyllic setting, shaded by a large tree next to the water, the artist arranged several antique-clad figures in perfect harmony with nature, a sheperd playing the Pan flute, two women, one carrying a sheperd’s staff and a mother playing with her child. A subtly distributed light floods the composition and transfers the viewer to Arcadia.

His landscapes, with their undeniable decorative qualities, earned Bertin undeniable success, even at a time when the natural was beginning to take precedence over the ideal.


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