Strong atmosphere and painterly poetry define the works of French artist Eugène Devé. Receiving instruction and friendship from some of the greatest artists of the 19th century, Devé would cultivate for himself a successful career filled with beautifully evocative landscape paintings.
Devé initially worked as a paymaster and financier during the Crimean war, however upon his return to France decided to pursue an artistic career. Painting had been something he had always cultivated and enjoyed.
Devé enrolled himself as a pupil under landscape painter Camille Flers (1802-1868). With Flers’ help, Devé would begin exhibiting at the Paris Salon of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1861.
Flers’ influence is evident in Devé’s early works, with their crisp realism and heady, romantic air. Flers self-labelled himself as a ‘romantique-naturaliste,’ combining the effusive, atmospheric mood of romantic works of art with the burgeoning idea to look towards nature as one’s greatest guide. Landscapes were to capture the true essence of nature and divine it upon the canvas, rather than conjure up fantasy lands of classical imagination, as had been popular in landscape painting during the 18th century.
Devé paints with this strong, romantic ambience. A hazy diffusion of light across the canvas lends a sentimental air, his effusive use of colour a rich vitality. The sails of a ship catch at the sun with a burst of terracotta colour. Clouds diffuse into a crystalline azure. The shady reprieve of a woodland is a cosy cave of deep verdancy, bustling against the glorious sunlight beyond the canopies of the trees.
Devé expanded his artistic insights and savvy further by befriending and studying under landscape great Camille Corot (1796-1875). Corot was similarly looking towards nature in his works. However, he was doing this with a greater sense of spirit and poeticism, pre-empting the emotional, sensory works of the impressionists later in the 19th century. He encouraged in Devé an engagement with the artistic soul, to stretch this towards nature to truly get a feel for the atmosphere. This was a key lesson imparted to Devé, which Devé absorbed with a skilled hand painting with a lyricism of form and feeling.
Indeed, examples of his works demonstrate this looser approach. Brushstrokes become broader, more expressive. Devé retains his strong use of colour but uses it with a developed sense of emotion. Not only are his works depictions of nature in a spirited, emotional manner, but they become celebrations of its very soul, too, as well as his as an artist.
Corot’s influence on Devé was remarkable, and upon Devé’s death in 1887, he is referred to as ‘the friend and constant companion of Corot.’ Whilst biographies of Corot remain elusive about Devé’s place in his life, it seems clear the two shared an affinity for art which extended to a warm friendship between the two of them.
Today, Devé’s work can be found in the Rouen Museum of Fine Arts.
Born in Rouen, France.
First exhibited at the Paris Salon.
Exhibited at the Hôtel de Ville, Paris.