• France, Sologne, Private Collection.
Raised in a cultivated Nantaise family to join the Navy, the young Paul Chabas abandoned his studies for an artistic career, a vocation he discovered while sketching extensively on the family properrty situated along the shores of the Erdre. At the age of 15, Paul joined his brother Maurice at the Julian Academy, where he evolved under the direction of William Bouguereau and Tony Robert Fleury, and benefited from Emile Menard’s and Jules Adler’s influence. Starting in 1886, Chabas exhibited in the Salon. Far from his brother’s Symbolist and spiritual sensitivity, he first gained recognition as a society portraitist. He distinguished himself in the Salon of 1895 with At Alphonse Lemerre’s in the Villa d’Avray, a group portrait commissioned by the Parnassian publisher who was depicted surrounded by his authors: Leconte de Lisle, François Coppée, José-Maria de Hérédia, Alphonse Daudet, and Sully Prudhomme.
In 1899, Chabas carried the Grand Prize for his picture Joyful Frolics, which was crowned the following year with a gold medal in the World’s Fair. In it, the artist depicted very young women frolicking in the water at the Lake of Annecy. These refreshingly natural bathers proved successful. Henceforth, Paul Chabas exhibited
″almost every year […] a new variation on joie de vivre, the charm of adolescence, the beauty of light, the tender harmony of young bodies bathing in a lively atmosphere of reflections […] Was the shiver which runs through these young nudes triggered by cold or by modesty? Chabas found new charming gestures and his almost universal success with so many happy scenes is easily understood.″
Chabas was an excellent draughtsman whose sure hand reflected a classical education in search of ideal beauty. As sensitive to the gracefulness of the body as he was to the depiction of the landscape in which it was placed, the artist often worked outside and brought his young models to pose in Nature, which contributed to the spontaneous character of his works.
Our Study of a Side View of a Female Nude is preparation for one of the artist’s masterpieces, Under the Branches, a picture which was welcomed triumphantly at the Salon of French Artists in 1910 under no. 424 (probably preparatory for the Salon picture) beside the Portrait of Mme. Henri Lavedan. Here Chabas studies one of the three young girls of Under the Branches with great delicacy. The body leans lightly forward, hands joined over the chest and the mute face caught with restraint. The medium employed transparently permits the prepared paper to show through. The supple body curves with pearly fleshtones are either outlined with a dark stroke or heightened with the white flash of light reflections.
General Bibliography (Unpublished Work)
Jean VALMY-BAYSSE, Paul Chabas : sa vie, son œuvre, Paris, F. Juven, 1910.