European
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Thomas Couture (French, 1815–1879),
A Cuirassier , 1856–58
oil on canvas, 36 ¼ x 26 5/8 in.; 92.08 x 67.63 cm
Gift of C. N. Dietz, 1948.39

Couture’s just-milieu manner, which combines the opposing Neoclassic and Romantic styles, reflects the political, social, and aesthetic restlessness of his time, lurching between revolutionary fervor and bourgeois conservatism. In A Cuirassier equal weight is given to color and line, spontaneity and formality, sketch and finish, elements generally considered opposite. Black charcoal under-drawing, visible through the paint, emphasizes the glitter of ribbons and epaulets and helps differentiate the textures of cloth, metal, flesh, and plumes. While the sketchlike line foreshadows the style of Gustave Courbet, glowing colors and a strong psychological note recall Rembrandt’s portraits two-hundred years earlier.

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