1793 Montigny-le-Gannelon - 1817 Bizerte
Canvas, 46 x 55 cm
On the reverse on the stretcher, inscribed in pen Mathieu Cochereau
Between the years of 1809 and 1815, Léon Matthieu Cochereau studied and worked at the studio of David. At the Salon of 1814, he presented his painting of the interior view of the Atelier de David, which was well received by critics and subsequently bought by Louis XVIII (Fig. 1). Cochereau also worked with his uncle Pierre Prévost (1764-1823), a painter of landscapes specializing in panoramic views (Fig. 2). It was Prévost, having himself painted a panoramic scene of London in 1815, who sent his nephew to England; wishing him to paint Westminster Abbey. In 1817, Cochereau and Prévost took part in an expedition to Palestine organized by the Count of Forbin. It was during the course of this trip that Cochereau fell sick and died at the young age of twenty-four. His body was thrown into the Ionian Sea close to the Greek island of Cythera.
This painting is representative of the main focus of Cochereau’s work, which consisted of about ten paintings. These pictures mainly depict the interiors of rooms and studios. In this painting, Cochereau presents a room lit by a central window partially covered by a pair of shutters, which soften the incoming light. The Antique paintings and plaster casts displayed on the walls are reminiscent of the artist’s time at the studio of David.
The painting probably stayed at the Atelier de Cochereau until the moment of his death, as did other unfinished paintings of studios (Fig. 3 and 4). It is noticeable that certain motifs are only drafted, such as the sculptures on the shelves and the painting on the easel at the right; outlined in pencil and ink on the white ground.
A number of unfinished paintings were presented posthumously at the Salon of 1822. One such painting was called Interieur d’un Atelier and may correspond to this painting. The exact depiction of the motifs in the painting highlights Cochereau’s attention to detail. He practiced a meticulous and silent realism. Next to the stove to the left, several objects relating daily life can be seen: a pitcher, a wash basin and a glass of water, all painted in great detail (Fig. 5 and 6). When people are depicted in Cochereau’s views of ateliers, their expressions are unusual, measured and almost frozen (cf Fig. 3 and 4).
The composition of the painting, set around a central window diffusing light throughout the room, is characteristic of Cochereau’s interior paintings. The presence of objects seen against the light, with their shape defined by highlighted borders (Fig. 7), can also found in other works of the artist (Fig. 8).
The importance given to the light and to the motif of the window precedes Friedrich and other artists of the Romantic period, who would later introduce a measurable and concrete space to their work or who might add a dreamlike figure depicted from behind (Fig. 9).
M. Dumesnil, Paris
In the inventory of Cochereau's work, this painting is described as: "No. 14. Interior of a drawing academy lit by lamp. The Students copy after the statues of a Gladiator, the Apollo Belvedere, Germanicus, a group of Castor and Pollux and a bust of Venus of Aries. "Width 0m56, height 0.46; belonging to M. Dumesnil, the owner in Paris."
Fig. 1 Léon Matthieu Cochereau, Interior of the atelier of David, Oil on canvas, 90 x 105 cm, Paris, Louvre
Fig. 2 Léon Matthieu Cochereau, Lecture given by Prévost for the study of painting panoramic views, Oil on canvas, Chartres, museum of Fine Arts
Fig. 3 Léon Matthieu Cochereau, The painter, the model and her chaperon, around 1815, Oil on Canvas, 46 x 55 cm, Gallery Lestranger, 1997, Individual Collection
Fig. 4 Léon Matthieu Cochereau, Portrait of the artist in his atelier, Huile sur toile, 64 x 80 cm, Gallery Lestranger, 1995, Individual Collection
Fig. 6 Detail of painting, Léon Matthieu Cochereau, The Artist in His Studio, c. 1812-15, 48.3 x 60 cm, Oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chartres
Fig. 9 Caspar David Friedrich, Woman at the window, 1822, Oil on canvas, 44 x 37 cm, Berlin, Old National Gallery