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A Friday at the Salon des Artistes Français

Jules-Alexandre Grün

(1868 - 1938) | D.932.1

Date : 1911 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Jules-Alexandre Grün painted this huge picture (over six metres long) for the Salon de Artistes Français of 1912. Although little known today other than as a caricaturist and poster artist of Montmartre, the painter was part of high society in Paris at the time, and was acclaimed as a fine portraitist and still life painter. He began exhibiting at the Salon in the 1890s.

It is true that Grün is not viewed by posterity as a great master, and his art seems somewhat old-fashioned at a time when Picasso was producing his first collages. But his achievement should be given its due in this large painting with a hundred figures, which is structured harmoniously and with considerable naturalness. And this was no accident, for the painter had produced other large compositions. If we look more closely, we can appreciate all the solid pictorial qualities that made the artist so original: his broad, unifying touch reminiscent of his teacher Guillemet; his mastery of the effects of light and the rendering of substance which made his reputation in still lifes, and the overall good humour that lay so well with his character. Grün was thus relatively modern, after all.

In addition, the Rouen painting is a unique illustration of Paris society in the Belle Époque. ‘Le Tout-Paris’ is shown here, from the doyen of painting, Harpignies (sitting on the right, cane in hand), in conversation with Dujardin-Beaumetz, assistant director of the Beaux-arts, to Ginette Lantelme (in the centre of the painting), wife of the manager of the newspaper Le Matin, whose beauty had all Paris in thrall, Angelo Mariani (on the left of Mme Lantelme), the popular inventor of the ‘vin Mariani’ – the ancestor of Coca-Cola – Grunberg, the celebrated doctor (bottom, extreme left) and the painters Guillemet, Rochegrosse, Baschet and Grün himself, along with many others.