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Jean-Charles Cazin

Biography of Artist

Jean-Charles Cazin, painter and ceramicist, born in Samer, 25 May 1841 (France), died in Lavandou, 17 March 1901(France). His earliest paintings reveal close affinities with the realist tradition, while his later compositions (mostly landscapes of northern France) demonstrate an awareness of Impressionism and a commitment to recording the changing effects of light and atmosphere. He was sent to England for health reasons but by 1862 or 1863 was living in Paris and active in avant-garde artistic circles. In 1863 he exhibited Recollections of the Dunes of Wissant (untraced), a work based on close observation of the coastline of northern France, at the Salon des Refusés. He enrolled at the Ecole Gratuite de Dessin under Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, where he became friends with Alphonse Legros, Théodule Ribot, Henri Fantin-Latour and Léon Lhermitte, all of whom adopted Boisbaudran’s method of developing paintings from memory as a way of heightening perceptions. During this period Cazin also met Marie Guillet, whom he married in 1868.
By the mid-1860s Cazin had developed a varied career. He taught for about three years at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris, then moved to Chailly, near Barbizon, where he completed studies in the style of the Barbizon artists. These were shown at the Salons of 1865 and 1866. Later in the decade he became curator of the Musée des Beaux-Arts and director of the Ecole de Dessin in Tours. In 1868 he reorganized the school in accordance with the memory theories of Boisbaudran. He also valued Tours as a centre of local industry that encouraged the decorative arts. Both Cazin and his wife were stimulated by this new environment and began to make and decorate stoneware ceramics.
In 1871, depressed by the ravages of the Franco-Prussian War, Cazin returned to England and earned a living at the Fulham Potteries, using salt-glaze in his stoneware and producing ceramics in the highly fashionable style of Japonisme. Cazin’s commitment to ceramic decoration continued after his return to France in 1875, when he settled in Equihen, near Boulogne-sur-Mer. This dedication to the decorative arts was recognized in 1882 when his large sandstone pieces, shown at the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, were admired as significant examples of the developing renaissance in French pottery. During the same period, Cazin began to paint again. His studies of the region near Boulogne encouraged him to execute numerous landscapes. The Boatyard (exh. Salon 1876; Cleveland, OH, Mus. A.), for instance, demonstrates the affinities between Cazin’s muted colours and the monochromatic tones of the region itself. By the early 1880s he had changed direction to produce large figural compositions intended for the Salon; such canvases as the Voyage of Tobias (1878; Lille, Mus. B.-A.) and Judith at Prayer (1883; Tours, Mus. B.-A.) depict biblical figures in contemporary dress. The tonal, pastel colours are the product of Cazin’s lighter palette and show the impact of the murals of Puvis de Chavannes. Cazin’s enthusiasm for these scenes abated, however, and he returned to pure landscape painting, inspired by the countryside around the summer cottage rented by his family at Equihen. He executed a series of impressive landscape compositions of the dunes near Boulogne and won awards for some figural compositions at the Salon, most notably for his Ishmael (1880; Tours, Mus. B.-A.). He was awarded the Légion d’honneur (for his ceramics and painting) in 1882, a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 and a Grand Prix at that of 1900.
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Hood Museum of Art, New Hampshire Musée des Beaux-Arts, Arras Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours Musée d’Orsay, Paris Musée J. Charles Cazin, Samer Musée National du Chateau de Versailles The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.