Artwork of the Month

August 2014

Grégoire-Isidore Flachéron (French, 1806–1873)
Shepherds With Sheep and Goats in a Valley, 1857
Oil on canvas, 67 3/4 x 105 1/2 in.
Signed and dated lower left: Ire. Flacheron/Roma 1857

Grégoire-Isidore Flachéron was the son of a prominent architect, and studied first at the École de Beaux-Arts in Lyon under Pierre Révoil, and later, possibly with Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres in Paris. In 1833, he moved to Rome, where he spent several years before eventually settling in the south of France. He specialized in landscape painting especially of the Roman countryside, which he regularly exhibited in both Paris and Lyon, and from 1861 increasingly painted views of the Cote d’Azur and Algeria.

Shepherds with Sheep and Goats in a Valley is a painting that clearly demonstrates the influence of Nicolas Poussin and the landscape style of the 17th century, not only because of the carefully composed landscape view, the pastoral, Italian setting, and the idealized figures, but also because of the absence of any signs of modern life. In the 1850s, critics viewed Flachéron as a defender of a traditional form of landscape painting that was then under attack by Realism. An anonymous writer for Le Courrier de Lyon wrote, in 1853, that Flachéron’s landscape paintings were a “conscientious work where nothing is neglected, where the trees are not sacrificed for the fields, the sky for the earth….” Contemporary readers would have understood this as an obvious reference to the way that Realist painters such as Gustave Courbet controversially focused on individual details at the expense of the overall composition.