France, 1807-1876




(In the Odalisque manner)

Pencil on Paper

Apparently Unsigned



Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña was the leading painter of the Barbizon landscape school. Among his favorite

early subjects were Odalisques, bathers, erotic mythologies, and sentimental idylls - inspired by the poetry of Victor Hugo

and Near Eastern paintings of Eugene Delacroix.  The Odalisque is a subject matter throughout the 19th and early 20th

centuries, from Ingres (Odalisque - 1814, Odalisque and Slave - 1839), each Renoir (1870) and Matisse (1924-5)

painting an Odalisque, to Manet's Olympia (1863).  Even Picasso painted his own Odalisque in 1951.  In a sense, this small

untitled drawing seems something of a mirror to Olympia, the reclining female accompanied by a servant, holding possibly a

small turbaned child -- or flowers -- although it was executed some years earlier than Olympia.  De la Peña's interpretation is

quite sensual, although retaining a delicacy and mystery not found in some of the other more provocative Odalisque depictions. 

It is interesting to note that his romantic Near Eastern images came from his imagination, as he lost a leg to snake-bite at age 13,

and was unable to travel.


Image Size : 3.35" High x 5.7" Long







Please click below for other related works:


Jules Pascin

Robert Henri

Edmund C. Tarbell

Gustave Madelain



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Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña : Biographical Information


Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña was the leading painter of the Barbizon landscape school. The son of Spanish parents,

who had fled the Peninsular Wars, he grew up in foster care at Meudon after their early deaths. At thirteen, an infection

caused by an insect sting or snake bite, necessitated the amputation of his left leg. In 1823, he began an apprenticeship in

painting on porcelain at a china factory in Paris, where he met Jules Dupré (1811-1889), who became his lifelong friend.  In the

late 1820's he was briefly tutored by the history painter François Souchon (1787-1857), copying the masters at the Louvre and

supporting himself by the sale of his own small paintings. He was further inspired by the poetry of Victor Hugo and the Near Eastern

themes painted by Eugene Delacroix. As he was unable to travel, these jewel-like images were the products of his imagination.

His early work consisted of  not only pastiches of romantic "fancy pictures"-- odalisques, bathers, erotic mythologies, sentimental idylls --

but exquisite floral paintings. 


From about 1833, he began to explore the forest of Fontainebleau, becoming a regular summer visitor in the following years. 

There he prolifically painted small studies of the forest with the same speed and fluency as his earlier floral and romantic idylls.

He formed a close association with Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), and the other landscape painters of what became

known as the Barbizon School.  Awarded a first-class medal at the Salon of 1848, he was appointed chevalier of the Legion of

Honor in 1851. His paintings commanded higher prices than those of Corot, Rousseau, or Millet, although the critics were

reserved in their judgment of his work, admiring its "colorism" while considering it rather superficial. After 1859 Diaz

ceased to exhibit at the Salon. Painters of a "new generation" - Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919),

and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) - encountered in the forest of Fontainebleau in 1864, received his warm encouragement. At Etretat,

where he summered in 1869, he painted seascapes in the company of Gustave Courbet. During the Franco-Prussian War of

1870-1871, he sought refuge in Brussels. He died in 1876, aged sixty-eight, at the Mediterranean resort of Mentone.



Partial Listing of Museums for Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña:


Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge, UK
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Louvre Museum, Paris
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City  
Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Musee d'Art Roger-Quilliot, Clermont-Ferrand, France
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston  
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
National Gallery, London, UK   
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia
Brooklyn Museum, New York City  
Canton Museum of Art, Ohio
Chi-Mei Museum, Taiwan
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK
Currier Gallery of Art, New Hampshire
Finnish National Gallery Art Collections, Helsinki, Finland  
Five College Museums Collections, Massachusetts
Frye Art Museum, Seattle
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil and Wife Museum, Egypt
Montana Museum of Art and Culture, Missoula
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, France
National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia
National Gallery of Victoria, Australia
National Museums and Galleries of Wales
New Art Gallery, Walsall, England
Oglethorpe University Museum, Georgia
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri
The Wallace Collection, London, UK
The Walters Art Museum, Maryland   
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK



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