Biography

Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli was a French painter of the generation preceding the Impressionists.

Monticelli was born in Marseille in humble circumstances. He attended the École Municipale de Dessin in Marseille from 1842 to 1846, and continued his artistic training in Paris, where he studied under Paul Delaroche at the École des Beaux-Arts. In Paris he made copies after the Old Masters in the Louvre, and admired the oil sketches of Eugène Delacroix. In 1855 he met Narcisse Diaz, a member of the Barbizon school, and the two often painted together in the Fontainebleau Forest. Monticelli frequently adopted Diaz's practice of introducing nudes or elegantly costumed figures into his landscapes.

He developed a highly individual Romantic style of painting, in which richly colored, dappled, textured and glazed surfaces produce a scintillating effect. He painted courtly subjects inspired by Antoine Watteau, and also still lives, portraits, and Orientalist subjects that owe much to the example of Delacroix.

The young Paul Cézanne had befriended Monticelli in the 1860s, and the influence of the older painter's work can be seen in Cézanne's work of that decade. Between 1878 and 1884 the two artists often painted landscapes together, once spending a month roaming the Aix countryside.

In its painterly freedom Monticelli's work prefigures that of Vincent van Gogh, who greatly admired his work after seeing it in Paris when he arrived there in 1886. Van Gogh immediately adopted a brighter palette and a bolder attack, and later remarked, "I sometimes think I am really continuing that man." In 1890, Van Gogh and his brother Theo were instrumental in publishing the first book about Monticelli.

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Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli (1824-1886)

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