Bouguereau, the Academic painter, is the new star at Eglise Saint Vincent de Paul!

parisdiaArchitecture, Art1 Comment

William Bouguereau, The adoration of the Shepherds at Eglise Int Vincent de Paul

If you are early for your train at Gare du Nord, why don’t you stop by Eglise Saint Vincent de Paul (built in 1804), a five minute walk on rue la Fayette and admire the two newly restored frescoes (among 8) by William Bouguereau, a painter left aside at the time of the Impressionists and forgotten for most tof the XX th century. The taxi driver who dropped me off said that he passed the church every day and had never stepped in and this is the case of most Parisians. Four young women students at the Sorbonne have undertaken to find some of the financing (local parishioners and shops also contributed) under the wing of Sauvegarde de l’art français and have put the church back on the artistic map. The painting was finally restored (for 30 000 €) thanks to Laura Goodman, president of the World Monuments Fund. And most importantly, the mayor of the 10 th arrondissement Alexandra Cordebard and Karen Taieb, in charge of culture for the city of Paris, were present at the unveiling of the two canvases and confirmed that all the gates outside the church would be restored starting in January 14.  After Saint Germain des Près and its group of restored Flandrin paintings, this is the new church to watch.

Sofia Barilari, Mathilde Descamps Duval, Margaux Halet and Margot Lecocq from the Sorbonne helped find some money for the restoration

And this event might well put Bouguereau (1825-1905) back on the trendy maps. Revered in his lifetime and heavily collected by the Americans thanks to  art dealer Paul Durand Ruel‘s energy, he was rediscovered in the 1950’s by Salvador Dali and the object of two large retrospectives in 1984 at Petit Palais and in 1986 at Musée d’Orsay. Fred Ross, who runs the Art renewal Center, worked extensively on his rehabilitation and he has been shown in 2016 at the Philbrook museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as in Milwaukee, Memphis and San Diego, where 40 of this paintings owned by Americans, were shown in 2019.

Detail of the Virgin at Eglise Saint Vincent de Paul after restoration

Born in La Rochelle he was raised in Bordeaux where he painted the ceiling of the Grand Théâtre. The eight canvases marouflés of the church were painted in 1884-85. “The Adoration of the kings” and “the Visitation” are finished and the contrast between the very dark works on the right of the altar and the cleaned ones is fascinating. The dirt  from the candles had completely obscured the colors. Two coarse restorations from 1911 and 1954 had added  varnish and it took six months to six restorers, headed by Alina Mostalik Detalle, specialized in mural painting to get rid of it.

William Bouguereau, “The Visitation” and “the Adoration of the Kings” at Eglise Saint Vincent de Paul

Père Quinson is leaving the church  for which he has started this superb restoration and will now lead the Paris seminary as rector. His predecessor Père Horaist presides over the association in charge of the works. They are looking for 200 000 € to restore the 6 next paintings. Olivier de Rohan who runs the Fondation pour la Sauvegarde de l’Art Français, spoke about the importance of training young students  to appreciate art and beauty and mentioned that the last year had been spent sharing trust and joy among the different actors of this project for which Fabienne de Sèze was instrumental in finding a secret French benefactor.

Six of the paintings by Bouguereau are still in this sad dirty state

The church includes more treasures, like the frieze by Flandrin and The Messiah, a group of sculptures by Albert-Ernest Carrier Belleuse (1824-1887), the teacher of Rodin, who worked from his studio at 15 rue de la Tour d’Auvergne nearby. He also created a statue of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus for the chapel where the Bouguereau paintings are hung.

In the Chapelle de la Vierge, the statue on the altar is by Carrier Belleuse

The entrance to the church is in the back as long as the gates have not been cleaned (next year) and there is a very nice restaurant, Chez Casimir, across the street on rue de Belzunce… Parisian churches are free museums so don’t hesitate to step into them whenever you see one. You can also contribute to the restoration of these paintings through Sauvegarde de l’art Français.

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