The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Gustave Brion, 1824-1877

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1824.10.24
Place of Birth: Rothau, Vosges
Date of Death: 1877.11.05
Place of Death: Paris


Gustave Brion was an illustrator and genre and history painter.


Brion, who studied under the portrait and history painter Gabriel-Christophe Guérin, made his debut at the Salon in 1847 with Farmhouse Interior at Dambach (whereabouts unknown). In the summer of 1850 he moved to Paris, where he obtained a studio in a house shared by Realist artists. He exhibited regularly at the Salon in the 1850s producing landscapes, rural genre scenes, historical subjects and portraits. Potato Harvest during the Flooding of the Rhine (1852; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes), shows the influence which the Realists, particularly Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet had on him. His later works, which focused on Alsatian life, were indebted to the more idealised peasant images of Jules Breton and coincided with a period in which Napoleon III was seeking to promote Alsatian culture.

In 1862 Brion produced 100 wood-engravings for an illustrated version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (1865). He also made illustrations for Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (1867).

Although, in the late 1850s the realism of Courbet had had a pronounced impact on JW's art, he later abandoned this stance for a new approach which differed greatly from Brion's ethos. Indeed, as early as July 1863 Henri Fantin-Latour, writing to JW and Alphonse Legros, included Brion amongst those accepted by officialdom and who were alien to their principles of beauty and innovation (#01078).

Following the loss of Alsace Lorraine in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Brion led a life of seclusion and died a premature death.


Weisberg, G. (ed.), The Realist Tradition, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, 1982; Lavallée, Michèle, 'Gustave Brion', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 31 July 2002).