Coastal Landscape at Marseilles

Alexandre DESGOFFE (Paris, 1805 - Paris, 1882)

Biography



Alexandre Desgoffe was already a talented amateur landscape draughtsman when he began his artistic training in the studios of the painters Louis-Etienne Watelet and Jean-Charles-Joseph Remond. In 1827 he entered the studio of Ingres as one of the master’s first pupils, joined the following year by the Flandrin brothers. Nicknamed ‘Le Père la Nature’ by the artist Jules Laurens, in view of the fact that he painted numerous plein-air studies from nature, Desgoffe exhibited his work at the Salons between 1834 and 1868. He was best known, however, as a painter of historical landscapes, and together with Paul Flandrin, who became his son-in-law, may be regarded as a master of the paysage ingresque. (A fellow landscape painter, Théodore Caruelle d’Aligny, noted somewhat unfairly that ‘M. Desgoffe does historical landscape painting, one could say historical rock painting, since his pictures are devoid of any greenery or foliage.’)

Desgoffe made two extensive trips to Italy, from 1834 to 1837 and again from 1839 to 1842. Between 1844 and 1846 he assisted Ingres on the painting of L’Age d’Or for the Chateau de Dampierre, and also contributed landscape backgrounds to one or two easel pictures by the master. An inveterate traveller, Desgoffe was particularly fond of the landscapes of the Auvergne, and also worked at Barbizon (one of the first artists to do so) and Fontainebleau, the Midi and, in the final years of his career, at Pornic on the Atlantic coast. He produced mural decorations for several Parisian churches as well as for the Hôtel de Ville and the reading room of the Bibliothèque Nationale. In 1878 he received one of his last important commissions, for a large landscape cartoon to be reproduced as a tapestry intended to hang over the grand staircase of the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris. Some 340 paintings and 1,600 drawings by Desgoffe are known today.