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Champfleury [Fleury-Husson, Jules-François-Felix]

Date born: 1820

Place born: Laon, France

Date died: 1889

Place died: Sèvres, France

Critic and supporter of the French Realist painters. In 1843 Fleury-Husson moved to Paris where he met Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). In 1844 he joined the journal L’Artiste, writing art criticism under his pseudonym "Champfleury". In an 1848 issue of Le Pamphlet, he was among the first to praise the painting of Gustav Courbet. The following year, Courbet's depiction of the poorer classes in Burial at Ornans (1849, Musée d’Orsay) pleased Champfleury because of the nobility the painter gave to the peasantry: it was not seditious because, Champfleury claimed, Courbet was no politico, he simply painted the scene before him. While critics accused Realists of mindless imitation of the least beautiful aspects of nature, Champfleury defended them, Courbet chief among them, pointing out their truthfulness. In 1850 his positive evaluation of El Greco helped elevate the artist's reputation. During these years he also issued scholarly works on the Le Nain brothers and Maurice Quentin de la Tour. When Courbet painted L'Atelier du peintre, placing the writer on the "side of life" next to Charles Baudelaire and Bruyas, Champfleury was put in an awkward position. The painting, subtitled a "Real Allegory," was neither truthful to an actual event (being an allegory) nor a good likeness of the writer. Nevetheless, Champfleury defended Courbet’s private exhibition of works on the Avenue Montaigne, though he felt that Realism as the term for the group was misleading. Champfleury ceased writing criticism by 1855, editing a short-lived periodical, Le réalisme from 1856-57. Courbet was increasingly influenced by Proudhon during this time, including becoming involved with politics. By 1857 the relationship between Champfleury and Courbet, the two exponents of Realism, had broken. Champfleury continued to defend Courbet, praising him in Champfleury's Grandes figures d’hier et d’aujourd’hui (1861). Impressionists and Realists alike included Champfleury in their paintings to honor him. Edouard Manet painted him in his Music in the Tuileries Gardens (1862 National Gallery, London) and Henri Fantin-Latour included a likeness in his Homage to Delacroix (1864, Musée d’Orsay). However, by 1865 a permanent rift between the writer and Courbet had occurred. Champfleury focused on writing historical works instead of fiction or criticism. In 1872 he assumed the position of Chief of Collections at the Sèvres porcelain manufactory. He held that position at the time of his death.

Champfleury's art theory discards the art-for-art's-sake idea, espousing sincerity in art: a true depiction of actual events and people. His espousal of Realism, both in his own novels and the art of Courbet, brought the movement to its popularity.

Home Country: France

Sources: Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, pp.117; Dolan, Therese. "Champfleury, Jules -François-Felix." Dictionary of Art; Flanary, David A. Champfleury: the Realist writer as Art Critic. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1980; Abélès, Luce, and Lacambre, Geneviève. Champfleury: l'art pour le peuple. Paris: Ministère de la culture/Réunion des musées nationaux, 1990; Asfour, Amal. Champfleury: Meaning in the Popular Arts in Nineteenth-Century France. New York: Peter Lang, 2001; Eudel, Paul. Champfleury: sa vie, son oeuvre & ses collections. Paris: L. Sapin, 1891; Byrne, John J. Courbet and Champfleury: a Study in Affinities. Ph.D., Fordham University, 1971.

Bibliography: Oeuvres posthumes de Champfleury Salons 1846-1851. Paris: A. Lemerre, 1894; Bibliographie céramique. Paris: Quantin, 1881; Histoire de la caricature moderne. Paris, [s.n.],1868; Histoire de la Caricature au Moyen Âge. Paris: [s.n.], 1867-1871; Grandes figures d'hier et d'aujourd'hui: Balzac, Gérard de Nerval, Wagner, Courbet. Paris: Poulet-Malassis et de Broise, 1861; Réalisme. [serial] Paris: [s.n.], 1856-1857; Essai sur la vie et l'oeuvre des Le Nain, peintres Laonnois. Laon: Éd. Fleury et Ad. Chevergny, 1850; Les frères Le Nain. Paris: Vve J. Renouard, 1862; Les peintres de Laon et de Saint-Quentin: De La Tour. Paris: Dumoulin, 1855.

Subject's name: Champfleury; Jules-François-Felix Fleury-Husson