Adrien Dauzats Biography and Paintings

Adrien Dauzats Biography and Paintings

Adrien Dauzats (1804 – 1868)


Adrien Dauzats was born at Bordeaux (1804). He was among the first artists to paint the Orient with scrupulous exactitude and impartiality, but, although an initiator in this sense, his work never caught the public’s imagination as did that of Decamps. Brought up in the wings of a Bordeaux theatre where his father worked, he dreamed of being a scene-painter. Like his Scottish contemporary David Roberts, he drew from this experience a love of architectural perspective and dramatic backgrounds, which dominate small clusters of figures.


In 1828, Dauzats began his long collaboration with the baron Taylor, a soldier, playwright, traveller, archaeologist and, at the end of his life, a philanthropist. After doing the first of many illustrations for Taylor’s ambitious series of albums, Voyages Pittoresques et Romantiques dans l’Ancienne France, he accompanied the baron to the Near East on an official mission to obtain Mehemet (Mohammed) Ali’s permission to transport the Luxor obelisk to France. These six months – from April to October 1830 – marked the awakening of his vocation as a painter. After a stay in the valley of the Nile and Cairo, came an excursion to the Sinai desert and the convent of St. Catherine, whose impressive site particularly enchanted Dauzats, (illustrated here).




In July, they set off again, this time to Jaffa, on a lightning tour of Palestine and Syria, visiting Jerusalem, Jericho, St. John of Acre, Damascus and the ruins of Palmyra and Baalbek. In 1839, Dauzats published his account of this journey, Quinze jours au Sinai, which he co-authored with the novelist Alexandre Dumas pere. In the same year appeared the baron Taylor’s La Syrie, l’Egypte, la Palestine et la Judee. The hundreds of drawings Dauzats made from day to day, although done hastily and in difficult circumstances, are both precious architectural documents and full of human interest; he studied individual physiognomies, unlike many Orientalists who merely recorded costumes, arms and anecdotal details.


It was from this source that he drew for years to come in order to paint his finished works. A journey to Spain with the baron Taylor brought Dauzats to the notice of King Louis-Philippe and the royal family; he seemed to them an ideal choice as a chronicler to accompany the military expedition to Algeria, led by the duc d’Orleans, heir to the French throne.


from Oran to Algiers, to Bougie, Stora, Philippeville and Setif


This expedition, in 1839, was both political and military, involving the pacification of the province of Constantine in preparation for a permanent French occupation. Dauzats followed the ducal tour from Oran to Algiers, to Bougie, Stora, Philippeville and Setif. He was present at the submission of El Mokrany in Setif and followed a division of three thousand men through the breach cutting across the wadi Biban in the Djurjura mountains, known as the Portes de Fer (Gates of Iron). Many of his drawings of the forbidding rock walls towering above the Pygmy-like soldiers at their foot were used in the famous Journal de l’Expedition des Portes-de-Fer, compiled by the poet Charles Nodier and distributed in 1844 to the officers who had taken part in the campaign.


Dauzats’s magnificent watercolors and oils of the defile, of striking strength and austerity, are now in the Versailles and Chantilly museums. From the time he first exhibited, at the 1831 Salon, Dauzats was greatly admired as a landscape and architectural painter. After 1840, however, he became increasingly involved in the onerous administration of the baron Taylor’s philanthropical works (the Association des Artistes was founded in 1844). Moreover, his multiple professional obligations left him little time for himself: In delicate health, Dauzats’s days of great journeys were over. Haunted by the memory of the countries he had visited, he continued to paint Orientalist scenes, but with a greater number of details. These, although still accurate, together with a certain coldness of execution, make his work of this time rather unreal, lacking the freshness of the earlier paintings.


Studio Sale


Adrien Dauzats died forgotten, without having received official honours, although as a man and an artist, he had gained the respect of his contemporaries such as Victor Hugo, Prosper Merimee, Theophile Gautier and Eugene Delacroix. The hundreds of sensitive drawings and watercolors of his journeys, which were Dauzats’s most precious possessions, were dispersed in lots at his studio sale in 1869, and have begun to reappear on the market only during the last few years. His oils are still rarely seen and his place in the history of Orientalism, as an exceptionally gifted and impartial observer, has but recently been acknowledged.




H. Jouin, Adrien Dauzats, peintre et ecrivain, Paris, 1896; P. Guinard, Artistes francais au Portugal, Taylor, Dauzats, Paris, 1958; P. Guinard, Dauzats et Blanchard dans la peinture romantique, Paris, 1964; P. Guinard, Dauzats et Blanchard, peintres de l’Espagne romantique, Paris, 1967; G. Plessiers, Catalogue raisonne de l’ceuvre d’Adrien Dauzats (thesis in preparation).


Labels: famous artists biography
December 21, 2019
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