Alpine Scene Gustave Doré Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Alpine Scene dates from 1865 and is therefore a relatively early work from the career of French artist, Gustave Doré. The item can today be found at the Chicago Art Institute in the US.

This vertical composition features an array of tall trees which are tightly packed within this scene. An opening between them, through which a stream trickles, allows an abundance of light to enter the composition. We can also make out a landscape in the far distance, with possibly a large river running past on the horizon. A bright sky with fluffy clouds decorates the upper part of the piece and it is an interestingly designed piece. In the nearest foreground much shading is used, leaving some elements visible, but harder to see clearly. It is likely that the artist saw something similar to this scene, but chose to adjust its elements to make it perfect for his needs, typical of the Romanticist movement. He would often work in this manner with his landscapes, taking reality and appending his own impression, which was a technique found in the Romanticist movement, plus the Impressionist movement that it helped to inspire. This piece measures an impressively large 195.5 × 130 cm, and many of his landscape scenes were of a similar size.

This painting was displayed in London at a small private gallery for some years before making its way over to the US. Doré himself was highly regarded within the UK and had strong connections with a number of local publishers because of his work as a book illustrator. Although his paintings were seen as a niche interest, they still sold fairly well, though academics still saw his talents as lying elsewhere in other mediums. Today we can take a full, broader survey of his work and conclude that his oil paintings were impressive, but perhaps lacked the creativity and innovation of his illustrations. They still deserve respect and offer another aspect to a highly interesting career. He remains regarded as one of the finest book illustrators in history and many will discover his paintings via that avenue of art history. He would also sometimes re-visit scenes from his books as oil paintings, bringing a whole new dimension to his existing compositions.

Alpine Scene is not always on display in the Chicago institution, such is the sheer size of their collection. It was gifted to the institution by Gift of Julius H. Weitzner. They have several other artworks from his career, including a number of other oil paintings as well as some of his illustrations from a variety of different periods in his career. Fairy Land, 1881, and Sir Lancelot Approaching the Castle of Astolat are two of the other impressive Doré paintings to be found here. The gallery offers American and European art in great detail, and there are also regularly exhibitions in which items from other collections are loaned in for periods of several months at a time in order to keep the display as interesting and fresh as possible. There remains a strong interest in 19th century French art in many parts of the world, and so artists such as this will still interest many outside of the national boundaries of France.