Eugène Modeste LE POITTEVIN
(Paris, 1806 – Paris, 1870)
Oil on panel
Signed with initials and dated ‘1864 or 1854’ lower left
Studio stamp (red wax) on the reverse
16 x 21 cm
Pupil of Louis HERSENT and Xavier LEPRINCE at the School of Fine Arts, LE POITTEVIN (POIDEVIN for real name) failed to access to the Prix de Rome in 1829, which did not prevent him to expose in 1831 at the Salon and this continuously until his death.
Although he had an illustrator and cartoonist activity (see its lithographic collections of Diableries), most of his work are fishing scenes and marines on the Normandy coast and particularly the cauchois district. Some critics of the time evoke the sometimes repetitive side of his compositions.
Romantic in the 1820s and 1830s (with works similar to those of ISABEY or Auguste BIARD, with which he is friend and sometimes works), his style gradually became more realistic thereafter.
Like Charles MOZIN (another pupils of LEPRINCE) with Trouville, he is one of the first artists to launch the village of Etretat as a fashionable seaside resort; he discover the place with his friend Eugène ISABEY, and he quickly acquires a house, La Chauferette, where he will host in particular Gustave COURBET in 1869.
He was appointed official painter of the Navy in 1849, following Louis Ambroise GARNERAY, Louis Philippe CREPIN and Theodore GUDIN (the latter two named in 1830).
Very popular in his time, he received several awards during the Salon of Paris: 1st class medal in 1836, 2nd class in 1831 and 1848, 3rd class in 1855. His studio in Paris was at 5 cité Trévise, in the current 9th district.
The fish spread out on the shore is often a decorative element in his fishing return scenes, however our painting is really one of the few still lifes known of the artist, always painted in a small size. The term still life being perhaps unsuitable, both fish (mackerel and herring) seem “fresh”, shiny and even seem to breathe, and both the composition evokes the everyday life of fishermen, these from depositing on the strike the fruit of their fishing, their baskets, and a red cap.
Although this painting is perfectly rooted in the nineteenth century, one discerns the influence of Dutch painting of the seventeenth century that LE POITTEVIN discovered during a stay in the Netherlands. A number of Dutch artists were specialized in still lifes of fish: Alexander ADRIAENSSEN and Pieter VAN BOUCLE did not represent only fishes, they were often accompanied by vegetables or other foods placed on kitchen tables; Pieter de PUTTER (1605-1659) painted him only fish, but also in interiors, or sometimes on the outside but on fishmongers’ stalls; it is especially Jacob GILLIG (1636-1701) that is closest to our painting, since he represented his fish with the same type of pyramidal stack and set against a natural backdrop of beach or shoreline.