Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps / Still Life with Pipe and Matches / 1858Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps
Still Life with Pipe and Matches

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Creator Name: Decamps, Alexandre-Gabriel
Creator Nationality: European; French
Creator Role: Artist
Creator Dates/Places: 1803 - 1860

Decamps was born into a bourgeois family and as a young boy sent by his father to the Picardian countryside to experience the realities of peasant life. These formative years not only nurtured his interest for nature but also directed him toward an artistic career. He returned to Paris in 1816 and studied briefly with Étienne Bouhot (1780-1862), who painted architectural scenes. In 1818, Decamps joined the studio of Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujol (1785-1861), and copied (Dutch) Old Master paintings in the Louvre. Unimpressed with his academic education, Decamps had become an independent artist by 1820. He earned an income and a reputation with satirical lithographs and anecdotal scenes that were popular with collectors. Decamps's Salon debut occurred in 1827, and the following year he became one of the first distinguished European artists to travel to Asia Minor and North Africa. He returned to Paris with countless drawings and sketches that would serve him for the rest of his career and quickly became one of the leading orientalist painters. He also renewed his earlier interest in lithography and published an album of his hunting scenes. In 1835, he made a journey to Italy, where he studied the works of Raphael (1485-1520) and Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). Upon his return, he began painting biblical scenes, set against convincing depictions of Near Eastern landscapes, based on his earlier travels. He went to the forest of Fontainebleau in 1843-44 and befriended Dupré (q.v.). Decamps would revisit Fontainebleau ten years later and purchased a house there in 1857. He was one of the most successful and famous artists of this time. His patrons included the Marquis Mason, the Barons de Rothschild, and the Duc d'Orléans. He was elected to the Salon Jury in 1851 and kept this position until 1853. In 1855, at the Paris Exposition Universelle, his works were featured in a retrospective exhibition, along with those of Delacroix (q.v.) and Ingres (q.v.). Although he was a critically acclaimed and financially successful artist during his lifetime, Decamps's reputation quickly waned after his death in 1860.

Gender: F
Creator Birth Place: Paris, 3 March 1803
Creator Death Place: Fontainebleau, 22 August 1860
Creator Name-CRT: Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps
Title: Still Life with Pipe and Matches
Title Type: Primary
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1858
Creation End Date: 1858
Creation Date: 1858
Object Type: Paintings
Classification Term: Painting
Materials and Techniques: oil on fabric
Dimensions: Unframed: 63cm x 38cm
Inscriptions: Signed lower left: dc; upper right: dc rev 1858; inscribed above: utere ne abutere [Use, not abuse]
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1980.254.1
Credit Line: Bequest of Noah L. Butkin
Provenance: Decamps sale, Paris, Drouot, 23-24 January 1865 (lots 26, 27), bought by M. Desprez for ff 300, ff 225. His collection sale, Versailles, 17 December 1972 (lot 218), to Georges Martin du Nord at Galerie B. G. Verte, Paris. Sold to Galerie Brame-Lorenceau, Paris. Bought by Mr. and Mrs. Noah L. Butkin, Cleveland. Bequeathed to the CMA in 1980.

The artist was a smoker. In this composition the place of honor is given to a pipe made in Austria around the middle of the 19th century. It is made of precious materials--meerschaum, silver, amber, horn or lacquered wood--that are carefully fashioned, all lovingly rendered by the artist. The cord with a tassel (perhaps of horsehair) is not just a decorative element, it is a security measure in case the precious bowl of the pipe becomes detached from the pipe stem. The pipe is surrounded by ordinary smoker's accessories?a cigar case, a snuffbox, and a match holder in porcelain--all placed on a Turkish rug.

The Latin inscription translates: "Use, not abuse." In 1858 Decamps was 55 years old and not in the best of health. Perhaps a doctor had advised him to reduce his consumption of tobacco.

Link to Work: CMA_.1980.254.2
AMICA ID: CMA_.1980.254.1
AMICA Library Year: 2002
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, The Cleveland Museum of Art

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