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Hugues Merle (1822-1881) | Genre painter

From National Gallery of Art:
Born in 1823 at Saint-Marcellin (Isère), Hugues Merle le studied in Paris with the history painter Léon Cogniet (1794-1880) and devoted himself to a wide range of subjects, from religious themes and historical anecdotes to incidents from contemporary life, particularly of the urban and rural poor.
His greatest popular successes, however, were won by scenes of maternal affection and childhood innocence that he sought to imbue with impish sweetness and sentimentality.
A frequent exhibitor at the Paris Salons from 1847 until 1880, rarely noticed by the more serious critics but cherished all the more by the broad public, he enjoyed the favor of the imperial government, which made him chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1866, at the relatively young age of forty-three.
His work, greatly appreciated by American audiences, was strongly represented in American collections during the last decades of the nineteenth century. | © National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

From Sotheby's:
French painter Hugues Merle (1822–1881) has long been associated with his friend and possible rival, William Bouguereau.
Merle was just two years older than Bouguereau, and their thematic and artistic concerns and meticulous degree of finish resulted in comparison from critics and collectors alike.
Merle began exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1847 and went on to become to teacher of Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau, Bouguereau's wife and a talented painter in her own right.

Merle became best known for his scenes of mothers and children.
Charged with emotion, The Forgotten depicts maternal affection and a mother's instinct to protect her children in the face of insurmountable hardship and unfortunate circumstances.
Standing outside what appears to be an iron gate to a church yard, the young mother seems to be praying for relief, her eyes turned longingly upwards.
The poor and outcast, who existed on the margins of society far removed from the rapid modernization and industrialization of cities, fascinated Realist painters in nineteenth century France.
The rebuilding of Paris under Haussmann led to the uprooting and displacement of the working classes who could not afford skyrocketing rents.
Poor women were hit the hardest by these urban changes, and by the 1850s, images of abandoned, single mothers and their children became prevalent on the art market.

Artists ranging from Paul Delaroche to Léon-Jean-Basile Perrault to Alfred Stevens explored this subject.
Bourgeois patrons were drawn to the emotions that were inspired by these compositions.
Merle returned to this subject on more than one occasion, as did Bouguereau, whose Indigent Family (1865, City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham) was exhibited at the Salon in 1865.
Both artists influenced each other and similarly drew upon the visual tropes of Madonna and child images painted during the Renaissance.
While the technique in the present lot was certainly influenced by Merle's academic training, the psychological realism and drama of the mother's plight conveys his singular talents and sets him apart from his contemporaries. | © Sotheby's

Hugues Merle (La Sône, 28 aprile 1822 - Parigi, 16 marzo 1881) è stato un pittore Francese di scuola accademica. Fu ritrattista e pittore di genere.
Hugues Merle nacque a La Sône, villaggio nel Dipartimento dell'Isère, fece i suoi primi studi probabilmente in un collegio di Grenoble, quindi, scelta la via dell'arte, si trasferì a Parigi, dove fu allievo di Léon Cogniet a l'École des Beaux-Arts e già nel 1849 fu autorizzato a concorrere per il Prix de Rome.
Artista di scuola accademica, si dedicò quindi ai ritratti e alla pittura di genere, sviluppando soggetti morali e sentimentali con particolare efficacia, tanto che alcuni lo vollero paragonare a William-Adolphe Bouguereau per i soggetti e per la tecnica.

Cominciò ad esporre nel 1847 al "Salon", dove vinse la medaglia di seconda classe ai Salon del 1861 e 1863.

All'inizio degli anni sessanta fece amicizia con Paul Durand-Ruel, che acquistò i suoi quadri già a partire dal 1842 ed in seguito gli presentò William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
Merle venne ben presto considerato dal pubblico come un rivale di Bouguereau.
Per amicizia e riconoscenza, Merle, verso il 1865, fece diversi ritratti di Durand-Ruel, di sua moglie e di suo figlio John.
Fu nominato Cavaliere della Légion d'Honneur l'11 agosto del 1866.
Merle morì a Parigi all'età di 59 anni ed è sepolto a Parigi nel Cimitero del Père-Lachaise. | © Wikipedia