Alphonse de Neuville

Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville (31 May 1835 – 18 May 1885) was a French Academic painter who studied under Eugène Delacroix. His dramatic and intensely patriotic subjects illustrated episodes from the Franco-Prussian War, the Crimean War, the Zulu War and portraits of soldiers. Some of his works have been collected by the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and by the Metropolitan Museum in New York. He was born to wealthy parents at Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais. From school he went to college, where he took his degree of bachelier ès-lettres. In spite of the opposition of his family he entered the naval school at Lorient, and it was there, in 1856, that his artistic instincts first declared themselves.

After being discouraged by several painters of repute, he was admitted to work in François-Edouard Picot's studio. He did not remain there long, and he was painting by himself when he produced his first picture, The Fifth Battalion of Chasseurs at the Gervais Battery (Malakoff). In 1860 Neuville painted an Episode of the taking of Naples by Garibaldi for the Artists' Club in the rue de Provence, and sent to the Paris Salon in 1861 The Guard Chasseurs in the Trenches of the Mamelon Vert.

He participated in illustrating the Hetzel editions of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He also illustrated Le Tour du monde and Guizot's History of France. At the same time he painted a number of remarkable pictures: The Attack in the Streets of Magenta by Zouaves and the Light Horse (1864), A Zouave Sentinel (1865), The Battle of San Lorenzo (1867), and Dismounted Cavalry crossing the Tchernaia (1869). In these he showed peculiar insight into military life, but his full power was not reached until after the Franco-Prussian War. He then aimed at depicting in his works the episodes of that war, and began by representing the Bivouac before Le Bourget (1872). His fame spread rapidly, and was increased by The Last Cartridges (1873), memorializing an episode involving the Blue Division of the French marines, in which it is easy to discern the vast difference between the conventional treatment of military subjects, as practised by Horace Vernet, and that of a man who had lived the life that he painted.

In 1874 the Fight on a Railroad was not less successful, and was followed by the Attack on a House at Villersexel (1875) and the Railway Bridge at Styring (1877). In 1878 the painter exhibited (not at the Great Exhibition) Le Bourget, the Surprise at Daybreak, The Intercepted Despatch-bearer, and a considerable number of drawings. He also exhibited in London some episodes of the Zulu War. Fifty thousand people paid to see his impression of The Defence of Rorke's Drift (1880), which the infant Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney paid a large sum to acquire.

In 1881 he was made an officer of the Légion d'honneur for The Cemetery of Saint-Privat and The Despatch-bearer and the "Huns in the Battle of Chalon." During these years Neuville was at work with Édouard Detaille on an important though less artistic work, The Panorama of Rézonville. Neuville died in Paris on May 18, 1885. At the sale of his works the state purchased for the Palais du Luxembourg the Bourget and the Attack on a Barricaded House, with a water-color The Parley, and a drawing of a Turco in Fighting Trim.

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