The Gauls as seen by Fernand Cormon

The Gauls as seen by Fernand Cormon

  • The Peach.

    CORMON Fernand (1845 - 1924)

  • Agriculture.

    CORMON Fernand (1845 - 1924)

  • Bronze and iron.

    CORMON Fernand (1845 - 1924)

To close

Title: The Peach.

Author : CORMON Fernand (1845 - 1924)

Creation date : 1897

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Sketch.

Storage place: Petit Palais Museum

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Picture reference: 03-017080

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

To close

Title: Agriculture.

Author : CORMON Fernand (1845 - 1924)

Creation date : 1897

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Sketch.

Storage place: Petit Palais Museum

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Picture reference: 03-017082

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

To close

Title: Bronze and iron.

Author : CORMON Fernand (1845 - 1924)

Creation date : 1897

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Sketch.

Storage place: Petit Palais Museum

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Picture reference: 03-017081

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Publication date: January 2010

Historical context

The Gauls, these strangers

Who are the Gauls? The question intrigued scholars, leaders and - to a lesser extent - the population throughout the 19th century.e century. Painter often requested by the French State, its ministries and its museums (from which he received a total of 230,000 francs between 1880 and 1914), Cormon received in 1893 a major commission from the Museum of Natural History. The series of paintings representing the progress of humanity capitalizes the official influence of the painter, but also allows him to express his particular vision of the origins of Man, grasped in all his physical dimension and the primordiality of his needs and his attitudes.

Image Analysis

Gallic humanity

Fernand Cormon's three sketches, large for drawings, represent the characters up close, against a backdrop of a natural, almost eternal landscape, with a spontaneous touch with blurred outlines. In The Peach, the mountain backdrop can hardly be seen in the background, the composition offers a zigzag course to the eye. The rock that plunges into the water offers an effective stage wall that returns the gaze to the two foregrounds - terrestrial and aquatic. The absence of the product of the effort (fish) makes it possible to illustrate both the mastery of primitive techniques - navigation in a boat, braided nets drawn by force of the arms, raw clothes protecting more than clothing - and the weakness of the boat. stammering humanity in the face of almighty nature. Contemplative and enigmatic, the central female figure, standing next to a naked child, absent from the action in progress, adorned and translucent with whiteness, gives an unexpected poetic touch to the whole.

The zigzag structure of Agriculture, developed on three levels, takes on a more bucolic tone. In the upper quarter of the painting, the milky horizon is not barred this time by any obstacle, we are in an almost treeless agricultural plain - while a cliché from the time wanted Gaul to have been covered with forests dense. The force deployed is now animal: in the third plan, four oxen pull the cart, two others graze in the background. In the foreground, a horseman armed with a lance and sword and aided by a stalking dog watches over the entire operation. Nature (animals and land) is now domesticated, appropriate and a source of wealth, therefore envy.

The vertical composition of the drawing Bronze and iron uses the same process to describe the industrial age, the age of processing of soil products. The small landscape is intensely populated, marked by the presence of man who is tirelessly active and takes up almost all of the space. Again, a slightly offbeat character (right) is a spectator of the action. Behind its back, two constantly maintained furnaces allow the fusion of the metal; in front of him, unconscious echo of the socialist image of the blacksmith, a man and a woman, focused on their task, join forces to give shape to metal.

Interpretation

From the origin of the nation France

The three works discussed here constitute the last sketches (kept at the Petit Palais), made one year before the completion of the painted series (1898). The Peach, very close to the final table Fisherman, thus evokes the age of polished stone, at the edge of an alpine lake (Switzerland). Agriculture, further from Farmers since the distribution of bread to the farmers is missing, must fix the image of the Bronze Age for the visitor to the museum. Finally, Bronze and iron (Gallic workshop) more precisely offers an overview of the Gallic period, specific in the prehistory thus linked to history by Cormon. These three distinct stages in the development of humanity, which culminate in Gallic civilization, trace a continuous line from the appearance of the bipedal hominid to the ancestors of the contemporary French. Cormon develops a positive vision of man's relationship to his environment, positivist of progress in the mastery of nature and in the constitution of society, patriotic of the rooting of a civilization on the territory of France.

While historians like Amédée Thierry tend to pit the Gauls against the Franks, archaeologists are finally able to distinguish between the men of the Neolithic age, who bequeathed dolmens and menhirs. The identity of this late Iron Age civilization remains unclear, particularly due to the lack of written culture and especially of remarkable monuments. The Gauls are grounded in the Celtic identity, which extended for a whole millennium over the whole of western and central Europe; or we see in them the original, almost mythical strain of the current French. No more than the previous regimes, the IIIe République fails to resolve the tension between the updating of knowledge about an unknown people and the essentially patriotic demand for a fundamentally united France, having suffered invasion and defeat, but having been able to resist, recover and perpetuate itself through the ages.

  • Gallic
  • nationalism

Bibliography

Jean-Louis BRUNAUX, Our ancestors the Gauls, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “L'Univers Historique”, 2008. Marie Chang Ming PENG, Fernand Cormon: his life, his work and his influence, doctoral thesis, Paris-IV Sorbonne, 1995. Kristof POMIAN, “Gaulois et Francs”, in Pierre Nora ( ed.), The Places of Memory, Paris, Gallimard, 1992.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Gauls seen by Fernand Cormon"


Video: Battle of Hohenfriedberg 1745 - First and Second Silesian War DOCUMENTARY