This is the second part of a sequence of posts about a painter previously completely unknown to me. You can find the first part here.
Santiago Rusiňol made his first trip to Paris in 1888 with the sculptor (and fellow Catalan) Enric Clarasó, and the following year he and Ramón Casas returned to Paris to attend the Gervex Academy, where Rusiňol studied under Puvis de Chavannes and Eugène Carrière.
They certainly placed themselves at the ground zero of bohemian Paris by taking a shared room above the Moulin de la Galette, the bohemian nightclub in Montmartre that was a magnet for the young avant-garde of Paris. (79, Rue Lepic – 1, Rue Girardon, Montmartre. Paris)
The young blades from Spain mixed with painters and musicians such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Erik Satie in the evenings, but spent their daytimes putting the whole scene down in paint.
The Moulin looked rather seedy and distinctly unglamorous by day…
The Cemetery, Montmartre.
This one is a bit of a bleak and forlorn composition, but it’s madly modern! All of the pictures above inform us that Rusiňol was no avant garde colourist, but his layouts and compositions were very edgy for their time.
Rusiňol and Casas also came under the influence of Degas, Whistler and the then wildly fashionable Japanese print.
A couple of portraits of the wonderful composer Eric Satie, famous for writing “Three pieces in the form of a pear”, and also for his habit of wearing velvet suits (so much so that he was known as `Monsieur Velour´). The first shows Satie trying to warm himself in the classic starving artist’s garret that was Rusiňol’s lodging at the time.
What strikes me about Rusiňol’s pictures of this era is the quality of isolation displayed in so many of his portraits.
This next one is a bit more intimate and personal because of the tighter framing of his subject; Eric Satie again.
A couple of observations about Rusiňol’s painting from this time. First, it’s impossible not to notice the very subdued palette he was using. In the next and last part of this group of three posts about Santiago Rusiňol, we will see a most astonishing explosion of colour bursting out of his work.
A trait of Rusiňol’s compositional style is his use of strong diagonals, often stemming from the very corners of the picture, that aggressively carve out great chunks of depth in the image.
All the while that Rusiňol was in Paris he was developing as a writer as well as a painter.
He availed himself of many contemporary stimulants, including fashionable absinthe and morphine. He formed an addiction to morphine and in 1899 he had to go through a “demorphinisation” treatment, or addiction treatment, to kick the habit.
The next, final, part of this bunch of posts will deal with Rusiňol’s amazing rebirth as a painter of gardens.
This was a passion that kept him busy and fulfilled until the end of his days.
And what glory days they were….