In the series of forgotten painters from the first exhibition of the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs in 1874, this sixth article evokes Zacharie Astruc (1833-1907). The latter will present no less than 6 oil paintings and 8 watercolours, 6 of which were grouped together in the same setting.
Sculptor, painter, multi-talented composer, critic and journalist, Zacharie Astruc never ceased to defend his impressionist friends for whom he sometimes posed. Édouard Manet will represent him in his "Music at the Tuileries" and one of Frédéric Bazille's last paintings is a portrait of his "friend Astruc".
Born in Angers, Zacharie Astruc began as a journalist at the Echo du Nord. He went to Paris and was one of the first defenders of Édouard Manet's art. In 1860, Astruc will write, in a premonitory way: "The future therefore belongs entirely to the new generation. This one loves the truth and devotes all its flame to it".
He made countless friends, whom he never stopped connecting. It was through him that Claude Monet and Émile Zola met Édouard Manet.
On the portrait of his friend painted by the latter, Zacharie Astruc appears with a distant gaze, his right hand resting on his heart, a sign of honesty. Behind him, what seems to be a painting within a painting, unless it is a mirror (but then where is the reflection of the books?) accentuates the feeling of strangeness released by this work by installing us in another level of reality. Madame Astruc, who is represented there, will refuse the canvas.
Poet, art critic, Zacharie Astruc is also a remarkable sculptor. In 1876 he exhibited a bust of Barbey d'Aurevilly and in 1881 a bust of Manet, in which he wanted to embed emerald eyes, which Manet refused.
Two years later, he sculpted "Merchant of masks". On the base of this atypical statue, we can see the masks of Corot, Dumas, Berlioz, Carpeaux, Faure, Delacroix, Balzac and Barbey d'Aurevilly. The merchant holds Victor Hugo's mask in his left hand. Three other masks which hung on the right wrist have disappeared: those of Gambetta, Gounod and Théodore de Banville.
A great specialist in Spain, Zacharie Astruc prepared Manet's trip there in 1865. Likewise, he guided Berthe Morisot and her sister Yves in Madrid in 1872.
His "Street Scene in Cuenca" depicts a little beggar, whose painted face like that of a Nô theater actor, stares at the viewer with an attitude of pride.
Faithful to the Batignolles group, Zacharie Astruc will courageously assume his rave reviews of the works of his friends. About the salon of the refused of 1863, he will write: "You have to be twice as strong to stand upright under the storm of fools who rain down here by the thousands...".
Original and eclectic, he died in Paris on May 24, 1907.
In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...