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Detaille Jean-Baptiste-Edouard
(1848—1912)

Detaille Jean-Baptiste-Edouard (1848—1912)

Parisian Academic painter. He studied under Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier.

He was born into a prosperous family from Picardy with a military background, his grandfather having served as an arms supplier to Napoleon. Détaille’s early interest in art was encouraged by his father, an amateur artist and friend of collectors and painters, including the battle-painter Horace Vernet. At 17 he approached Ernest Meissonier for an introduction to Alexandre Cabanel, but Meissonier preferred to take on Détaille as a student himself and was an enormously important influence on his artistic development. From Meissonier he learnt finesse of execution and an appreciation for precise observation. He was soon encouraged to set up on his own and at the Salon of 1869 won approval for his canvas A Rest During the Manoeuvre, Camp Saint-Maur. At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (1870), Détaille obtained a staff position with General Appert, which enabled him to observe the hostilities first hand; this experience provided the mainstay of his subsequent artistic output.

The Franco-Prussian War had a profound effect on the artist, particularly as it forced him to see war in person. On the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the 8th Mobile Batallion and by November 1870 was attached to General Ducrot's staff seeing action in the fighting around Paris. On the Marne, he saw regiments under fire, groups of skirmishers dispatched to the front and senseless retreats. These experiences of war enabled him to produce many striking portrayals of the actions. Indeed, in 1872, he was forced to withdraw two paintings of the war from an exhibition so as not to offend Germany. Over the next few years, Détaille exhibited some of his finest paintings of the conflict. With de Neuville, he produced two large panoramas of the battles at Champigny and Rezonville.

Now a celebrity, he traveled extensively through Europe between 1879 and 1884, taking time only to visit Tunisia with a French expeditionary force where he was witness to some fighting. In Britain, he painted a review of British troops by the Prince of Wales and a scene showing Scots Guards in Hyde Park. It was at this time that Détaille was developing a deep interest in the French army and he produced all the drawings and plates for Jules Richard's Types et Uniformes de l'Armée Française, 390 images in all. With all his work, Détaille painted in a slow and methodical way so as to produce his subjects naturally, realistically, and, most important of all, truthfully.

By the 1890s, Détaille was turning more and more to the campaigns of Napoleon. He produced many striking battle scenes, including dashing cavalry charges. He used many original items of uniform and weapons to give authenticity to his pictures, and many of these artifacts were used in the creation of the Musée de l'Armée in Paris, which Détaille helped found.


Comoren Islands, 1989, General Kellermann

Cuba, 1981, Napoleon in Egypt

France, 2004, Mounted Rifleman

France, 2004, Gunner

France, 2004, Dragoon

France, 2004, Mameluk

France, 2004, Napoleon

France, 2004, Bombardier

Grenada, 1971, Napoleon rewewing the Guard

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