PIERRE EUGENE MONTEZIN
One of the most distinguishable Post-Impressionist painters, Pierre-Eugène Montézin (1874-1946) was profoundly influenced by the great masterpieces of the Impressionists, most notably the work of Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley. Passionate about the outdoors and the idyllic French rural countryside, despite having spent much of his life in Paris, Montézin was an avid practitioner of ‘en plein air’ painting.
The son of a lace draftsman, Pierre-Eugène Montézin was introduced to the arts at a young age and was entered by his father into a decorative atelier to learn the art of executing murals. This was a strong decorative aesthetic among modernists of the day. Montézin’s passion for hunting and fishing gave him a taste for the outdoors. In 1903 Montézin was introduced to the French Impressionist Ernest Quost, who encouraged him to concentrate on drawing and painting and to study the theories of Impressionism. Following in the footsteps of his Impressionist forebears, Montézin began to paint landscapes, applying the ideals of painting ‘en plein air’. Montezin exhibited his first work at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1903 and was awarded medals at the 1907 and 1910 salon.
When war broke out in 1914, Montézin enlisted and fought at the front, receiving the Médaille Militaire at the battles of the Meuse. At the end of the war, he returned to Paris and resumed painting, spending a year at Dreux and Moret-sur-Loing, concentrating on capturing the rivers, villages, and agricultural scenes of the region under his accomplished brush. Montézin spent very little time in his studio preferring the integrity of working only from nature.
Montézin began to win honours as early as 1920 when he received the Rosa Bonheur Prize, a special award for animal painting named after the famous female animal painter of the 19th century. A seminal moment in his career came three years later, when he became the recipient of the Légion d’Honneur for a landscape painting at the Salon des Artistes Français, the first landscape artist to do so since 1897. Critical reaction to this nomination was explosive. For thirty years no landscape had received the Medal of Honor which had been awarded only to figure painters and painters of historic or classical subjects. For three decades landscapes had been considered a minor form of painting, a fact which made Montézin’s triumph all the more exceptional.
Inspired by the popular subjects of haymakers and peasant workers, which had graced the Salon walls since the times of Jean-François Millet and Gustave Courbet in the mid nineteeth-century, Montézin delighted in capturing the natural landscape as he experienced it and figures, either working the land or at leisure are common themes throughout his oeuvre.
Montézin’s naturalistic depictions of haymaking were highly lauded at the Paris Salon and in 1939 Montézin was commissioned to paint a vast fresco inside the Palais de Justice de Chambéry.
Throughout his career Montézin maintained an Impressionistic style but sought a greater freedom
of expression in his use of colour and application of paint, marking him out among the most influential Post-Impressionist artists of his generation.
Montézin’s landscapes are identifiable through their rich surface, composed using spontaneous brushstrokes of pure colour layered upon the canvas. The artist's technique reveals the artist's experimental nature and exemplifies Montézin’s instinctive use of both Impressionist and Post- Impressionist techniques in his quest to capture nature as he experienced it.