Eugene Carriere Biography

Eugene Carriere

French

1849-1906

Biography

From his five years studying in Strasbourg as an adolescent, where he was labeled a mediocre student, to his tutelage under Quentin La Tour, up until his death in 1906 at the height of a successful career, Eugene Carrier never stopped sketching. He confounded his teachers and littered his home with thousands of pages of penciled figures and expressions that caught his attention. A short-lived commercial lithography career and a late-blooming artistic success never dampened his desire to capture a mood or stance, and in his prints we find that instantaneous beauty-portraits of a moment, perhaps, as opposed to a person.

With the support of his family, and the financial backing of La Tour, he set off on his own to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris at age 19. Throughout his studies he retained a strong focus on the importance of that which inspired him most: family, love, and truth. His stance on political and social issues stemming from his experiences as a soldier and prisoner in the Franco-Prussian war remained an important part of his life and work; they solidly placed him in the ranks of artists, writers, poets and performance artists who spoke out against injustices through their art. Carriere and his contemporaries hailed the dawn of the fin de siécle: an end to an era and the beginning of a revolution in art.

He was equally disliked and admired for his near abandonment of color in his later works. Like La Tour before him, he portrayed his subjects as he saw them, revealing a truth through holistic observation rather than superficial flattery. He greatly admired friend and contemporary Auguste Rodin's sculpture, drawing inspiration in the singularity of color as a means of transporting the figure to the forefront, stripping away the ³glitter² of traditional art and revealing what he considered the most essential component in a subject: emotion. Many of his lithographs are at first ghostly, haunting images, appearing to emerge from a dark gloom; yet upon further examination the contrasting highlights, carefully worked and sparingly bright, capture the subject's strongest expression. A sly wit is exposed in ³Auguste Rodin² (Hirsch 78), from an otherwise quiet arrangement on the paper. The tenderly captured repose of a loved one is both vivid and subtle in ³Le Sommeil² (Hirsch 79), in the sweeping gesture of the artist's hand and a keen eye for the simple shapes that define movement. What was once gloom has become simply the necessary and harmonious opposition of light- illuminating what many others before him had needed line and definition to capture.