Emile Betsellère. (1847-1880). The Forgotten. 1872.
Oil on Canvas – Height : 1.23 m. Width : 2 m.
Bonnat Museum. Bayonne. France.
Emile Betsellère is an academic painter, of traditional formation. The imperial Academy is directed at this time by Alexandre Cabanel. The painting expresses the loneliness and the insulation of a soldier given up with a disastrous fate, suggested by many elements of work, but also by the composition.
For the French Army the Franco-German war of 1870-1871 is only one succession of defeats. The French are overcome at the time of the battles of Wissembourg (August 4th), of Reichschoffen and Froeschwiller (August 6th). August 12th, Napoleon III entrusts the supreme command to Bazaine. But after several defeats with Borny (August 14th), Vionville (August 15th), Rezonville and Gravelotte (August 16th), then Saint-Privat (August 18th), it folds up itself on Metz, besieged by two German units. Mac Mahon goes to its help with the reconstituted army. However, on August 30th, the Germans surprise the French with Beaumont and Mac Mahon is folded up on Sedan. In Sedan on September 1st, 1870, in front of the desperate plight, Napoleon III fact of hoisting the white flag. It goes with its 83.000 men, marking the collapse of the Empire. After the defeat of Metz (October 27th, where Bazaine goes with 177.000 soldiers), then that of Beaune-the-Rolande (November 28th), the failure of the armies of the Loire in front of Orleans (December 3rd and 4th 1870) force to give up the hope to release Paris. In turn, the other French Armies are overcome : the second army of the Loire of Chanzy in the Sarthe (December 11th); the army of the East, is folded up on Switzerland (December 17th); finally, after the victory of Bapaume (January 3rd), the army of the North of Faidherbe fails in front of Saint-Quentin on January 19th, 1871.
The point of view of the spectator is a little above the horizon. Way of the glance. 1 the glance is first of all attracted by the face of the character. 2 Then it explores the details of the scene in the foreground. 3 In one the 3rd time the spectator becomes aware that the scene is a situation which has a framework.
The body of the soldier is placed on 3 natural points of interest.
Its face is close to the natural point of right superior interest.
Its arm is on the natural point of interest lower right.
Disastrous predicts, a corbel plane in the sky above the natural point of left superior interest.
On the natural point of lower interest left a sinister scene, a horse is lengthened, died, the second seems lost and contemplates the reversed gun which it was charged to transport.
Space-time reference marks.
Let us imagine that the dotted yellow line symbolizes time. What is on the left, behind the model, is the past, which is on the right, in front of the model, is the future. The closed eyes of the soldier are with less than one third of the flat rim which symbolizes the end of its life. The right hand of the young boy is with a little more of the tenth of this same flat rim. If pictorial space symbolizes time the model is close to the end of its life.
The framing of the model indicates exactly which is its situation in time.
Although the subject was rectified the painting is built on the large downward diagonal from left to right. In composition this diagonal is used to induce the idea of fall and forfeiture. Many guiding lines go in this direction. The zones of red colour, colour of blood, only hot colour, which symbolizes the physical suffering here, are disseminated along this downward diagonal.
Its face shows that the subject is young. Quite young person to make the war and well too young to die. This choice of the artist is not a chance.
The corbels are close there. The disaster reputation of these birds, and their symbolic system, precisely comes from their frequentation of the battle fields.
With far an immense fire testifies to the battle. With before plan the scene with the 2 horses and the reversed gun releases an infinite sadness.
On the right, travellers or soldiers carry on their road, indifferent. This still reinforces the feeling of abandonment. The battle field white, is covered with snow. This colour and the cold which it implies represents death in the unconscious collective. In many cultures of humanity the colour of mourning is not the black but the white which symbolizes the purity but also the end of the lifetime.
Light : Snow is much whiter in front of the soldier than behind. As if an intense and white source of light were in front of him. To enter the light means to die. In the dreams as in the accounts of the people having lived an extreme experiment of physical death it is always question, since always, of a great white light.
Contrast between hot and cold colours.
Harmonize and contrasts.
Contrast between hot and cold colours.
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Joseph Ferdinand Boissard de Boisdenier:
Episode of the Retirement of Moscow. 1835.
Adolph Northen (1828-1876). The Retirement of Russia.
Emanuel Leuze : Washington Crossing The