ALEXANDRE GABRIEL (1803-1860), French painter, was born in Paris on the 3rd
of March 1803. In his youth he travelled in the East, and reproduced Oriental
life and scenery with a bold fidelity to nature that made his works the puzzle
of conventional critics. His powers, however, soon came to be recognized, and
he was ranked along with Delacroix and Vernet as one of the leaders of the French
school. At the Paris Exhibition of 1855 he received the grand or council medal.
Most of his life was passed in the neighborhood of Paris. He was passionately
fond of animals, especially dogs, and indulged in all kinds of field sports.
He died on the 22nd of August 1860 in. consequehee of being thrown from a vicious
horse while hunting at Fontainebleau.
The style of Decamps was characteristically and intensely French. It was marked
by vivid dramatic conception, by a manipulation bold and rapid, sometimes even
to roughness, and especially by original and startling use of decided contrasts
of color and of light and shade. His subjects embraced an unusually wide range.
He availed himself of his travels in the East in dealing with scenes from Scripture
history, which he was probably the first of European painters to represent with
their true and natural local background. Of this class were his Joseph sold
by his Brethren, Moses taken from the Nile, and his scenes from the life of
Samson., nine vigorous sketches in charcoal and white. Perhaps the most impressive
of his historical pictures is his Defeat of the Cimbri, representing with wonderful
skill the conflict between a horde of barbarians and a disciplined army.
Decamps produced a number of genre pictures, chiefly of scenes from French and
Algerine domestic life, the most marked feature of which is humour. The same
characteristic attaches to most of his numerous animal paintings. He painted
dogs, horses, &c., with great fidelity and sympathy; but his favorite subject
was monkeys, which he depicted in various studies and sketches with a grotesque
humour that could scarcely be surpassed. Probably the best known of all his
works is The Monkey Connoisseurs, a clever satire of the jury of the French
Academy of Painting, which had rejected several of his earlier works on account
of their divergence from any known standard. The pictures and sketches of Decamps
were first made familiar to the English public through the lithographs of Eugene
Ie Rouit See Moreaus Decamps ci son wuvre (Paris, 1869).