FIGURES BY A STREAM IN AN ARCADIAN LANDSCAPE
Signed & dedicated l.l. a son ami Gallier / Ach. Benouville
Pencil, brown washes, chalk & bodycolour on tinted paper
20 x 25cm
[Likely] Achille-Gratien Gallier (1814-1871), Paris;
Private Collection, Germany
For a comparable drawing from the artist's Roman period, on similarly blue tinted paper, see SS. Giovanni e Paolo, seen from the Villa Mattei, Rome, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (acc. no. 1982.234).
Benouville was born in Paris where, together with his younger brother, François-Léon, he began his career apprenticed to François-Édouard Picot and, later, to Léon Cogniet. Despite the emphasis on figure painting in his Picot's studio, he concentrated on landscape, particularly views from nature in the environs of the French capital, executed in both oils and watercolor. Encouraged by Picot, Benouville won the 2nd prize in the 1837 Prix de Rome historical landscape concours.
In 1834 Benouville had his first exhibition at the Salon. Three years later, he was admitted to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts. During this period Benouville made three trips to Italy, the third in the company of Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, with whom he shared a studio in Rome. In 1845, Benouville was at last awarded the 1st prize in the Prix de Rome, for historic landscape painting, winning the award with his work Ulysses and Nausicaa. The proceeds from this, gifted by the French state, were enough capital for Benouville to move to Italy for the following thirty-one years. He travelled with his brother Léon, who had won the first prize for history painting that same year.
At first, Benouville lived for three years at the Villa Médicis. He relocated to a studio at number 86, Piazza di Spagna and then to another at number 144, via del Babuino, all the while continuing to send his works to the Paris Salon each year. He was married in 1851 and had two sons: Pierre Louis and Léon, who both became architects. In 1863, he was named a Chevalier in the Legion d'Honeur. The artist returned to France in the wake of his wife's death and remarried in 1871. He travelled frequently, to Italy, the Pyrenees and the Netherlands, until his death in Paris in 1891. Guy de Maupassant dedicated his story, Mon oncle Jules (1883), to Benouville
The present work is likely dedicated to Benouville's contemporary Achille Gratien Gallier, a French artist active in Rome during the same period as Benouville. He was a former student of the landscape painter Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny at the Gros studio in Paris and, from 1834 and until 1870, he regularly participated in the Salon des Artistes Français. Like many artists at the time, he made numerous stays in Italy (1838-61) where he drew arcadian and rural views similar to Benouville's and his contemporaries' at the Académie de France à Rome.