The museum possesses an important collection of paintings and drawings by Louis Gauffier (Poitiers 1762 – Florence 1801), one of the most innovative landscape artists at the end of the 18th century, donated by François-Xavier Fabre in 1825 and in 1837. To complete it, the museum bought, in January 2008 from New York, an important painting by the artist: View of the Vallombreuse Abbey.
In 1796, Gauffier stayed at this Benedictine Abbey, situated in the Apennines, south of Florence. He made open-air drawings and paintings of this impressive site, which he used the following year in his Florentine studio to paint four canvases, one of which was acquired by the musée Fabre.
View of the Vallombreuse Abbey shows the monastery from the plain where the monks, in shirts or cassocks, are playing pallone al bracciale, a sort of ball game using hands. Gauffier prepared for the painting by making a drawing annotated with suggestions of colour as well as a small study painted on paper. In this way he followed the innovative precepts of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819), who recommended open-air studies for capturing the characteristics of a site, its colours and its light and re-transcribing them in the studio within a recomposed, completed and detailed painting, with a great finesse of execution. The painting is impressive for its composition liberated from classical precepts; monumental, dominated by the mountainous mass whilst the veiled light and the changeable Apennine sky is subtly rendered. The contemporary subject, the ball game, also bears witnesses to this search for realism, which manifested itself amongst the landscape artists active in Italy around 1800.
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