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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Alexandre Gabriel Decamps

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DECAMPS, Alexandre Gabriel (1803-1860), one of the foremost painters of the modern French school, was born in Paris on the 3d March 1803. He received his artistic training from Abel de Pujol, but set himself free at an early period of his career from academic trammels. He asserted his originality in his choice of subjects as well as in his style of treatment. In his youth he travelled in the East, and reproduced Oriental life and scenery with a bold fidelity to nature that made his works the puzzle of conventional critics. His powers, however, soon came to be recognized, and he was ranked along with Delacroix and Vernet as one of the leaders of the French school. At the Paris Exhibition of 1855 he received the grand or council medal. Most of his life was passed in the neigh bourhood of Paris. He was passionately fond of animals, especially dogs, and indulged in all kinds of field sports. He died on the 22d August 1860 in consequence of being thrown from a vicious horse while hunting at Fontainebleau. The style of Decamps was characteristically and intensely French. It was marked by vivid dramatic conception, by a manipulation bold and rapid, sometimes even to rough ness, and especially by original and startling use of decided contrasts of colour and of light and shade. His subjects embraced an unusually wide range: He availed himself of his travels in the East -in dealing with scenes from script-lire history, which he was probably the first of European painters to represent with their true and natural local background. Of this class were his Joseph sold by his Brethren, Moses taken from the Nile, and his scenes from the life of Samson, nine vigorous sketches in charcoal and white. Perhaps the most impressive of his historical pictures is his Defeat of the Gimbri, representing with wonderful skill the conflict between a horde of barbarians and a disciplined army. Decamps produced a number of genre pictures, chiefly of scenes from French and Algerine domestic life, the most marked feature of which is humour. The same characteristic attaches to most of his numerous animal paintings. He painted dogs, horses, &c., with great fidelity and sympathy ; but his favourite subject was monkeys, which he depicted in various studies and sketches with a grotesque humour that could scarcely be surpassed. Probably the best known of all his works is The Monkey Connoisseurs, a clever satire of the jury of the French Academy of Painting, which had rejected several of his earlier works on account of their divergence from any known standard. The pictures and sketches of Decamps were first made familiar to the English public through the lithographs of Eugene la Koux. See Moreau s Decamps et son (Euvre (Paris, 1869).