The delicate, elegantly coloured paintings of French artist Alexandre Auguste Rose offer a glimpse of an artist unfortunately lost between the pages of history.
Very little is known about Rose. He was born in Strasbourg but moved to Paris, where he began exhibiting his work in 1866. Here he received instruction from the Swiss artist Marc Gabriel Charles Gleyre (1806-1874). Gleyre was a classically inspired painter who infused strong romanticism into his works.
It seems quite evident there was some influence from this teacher upon Rose. Of his works that remain, there is a strong romantic zeal. The atmosphere of his landscapes is infused with hazy light, soft and gentle. There is a delicacy to the way in which the trees bend and bow in the wind, whilst far-off mountains are sentinel giants, ethereal, unknown.
Rose seems to be drawing on the classical influence which had dominated French landscape art since the 17th century, the works of Claude Lorrain (1600-1682). Placing classical buildings such as temples into his work and adding a harmonious balance elevated landscapes in the eyes of the academies who coveted a hierarchy of painting. By depicting his own classical temple and utilising a balanced composition, Rose is basing his work on his predecessors.
Paintings of figures also have this romantic shine. Two lovers meeting in a garden are captured in delicately harmonious poses. The women’s cheeks are flushed pink in the ardour of their love, the roses that surround them delicately rendered. This work seems almost evocative of the rococo, of Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).
However, it seems Rose was possibly drawing on more contemporary developments in art at the same time. There is a naturalism to some of his landscapes in tune with more recent developments. The artists of the Barbizon School were turning towards nature as their guide and defying the academies’ expectations to present works without glorious harmony but a spirited evocation of the world around them. They would act as forerunners to the Impressionists who were Rose’s contemporaries, artists who took to painting outside and capturing snapshots of nature.
There are examples of Rose’s art which seem to echo the legacy of the Barbizon School. Trees appear with more character, wilder and unique in each branch, in each leaf. He paints scenes of the world around him rather than fantasy landscapes. A study remains of the heaving sea, caught in cerulean shimmer.
In his figure studies, too, there is a distinctively more natural edge given to the figures of two young children. There is something more wholehearted, less structured, to their poses and the cheeky expressions on their faces. The brushwork is more evident, much more in line with the impressionists.
It appears that Alexandre Auguste Rose was an artist who was experimenting with the old and the new, looking towards the legacy of his predecessors whilst taking an interest in the works of his contemporaries. What results is fascinating works with their very own unique stylisation.