Carolus Duran

Carolus Duran , 1838-1917, was a renown painter of the 19th century and particularly recognized as the teacher of John Singer Sargent. Duran was a great admirer of Velazquez and Manet. At the beginning of his career, Duran was an academic painter but as his ideas and studio work progressed, his distinctive  alla-prima technique led him away from how the Impressionists were working at the time. Early in his career he made a painting of his wife and submitted it to the Paris Salon in 1869 . The painting was accepted and his reputation as a portrait painter began.

In Paris , Duran opened a studio in 1873 which became quite well-known for its open and inviting atmosphere. Here  international students of art came and learned from his studio practice. The master was easy-going and yet kept a Monday through Friday schedule for working in his studio. Sargent and other American artists attended this studio to learn the new developments of Impressionism  and art in Europe that had not yet reached  the United States .

Even though Carolus Duran’s painting career declined during the 1880’s, his studio did not. In fact it gained much esteem and Duran found a new role in becoming a founding member of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts  in 1893. Painters at his studio no longer  followed the curriculum of  the Ecole des Beaux Arts but adopted more progressive ways where painting was emphasized  over drawing. Emphasis on form and color, instead of line, and  direct handling of paint ,versus glazes, became standard practice by the artists of Duran’s studio.


Excerpt from, post: Irving Ramsey Wiles,1861-1948 American Impressionism  ( my blog no longer published)

A manuscript “Manual of Oil Painting” written by John Collier and used by Carolus-Duran gives us a glimpse into the routine of his atelier and his method of painting. In the manual, Collier describes each day of the week and how to set up a palette of colors. On Mondays, a model posed before a saturated colored background while his students drew the model using charcoal. To later reinforce their charcoal outline, a sable brush with a mixture of turpentine and a dark color was used. On Tuesday, Duran criticized their figure drawings, showed how to correct them, or got them started with laying in their painting. Then, a palette of colors were  produced in a very specific order. The colors on the palette consisted of black, verte emeraude, raw umber, cobalt, light red, yellow ochre, and white. These colors were placed on a wood palette from left to right. Next, by adding white pigment, 2 or 3 tones of each pigment were also placed on the palette. For example, cobalt blue included cobalt, medium blue, and very light blue. Before starting to paint,  only large brushes were allowed while the small brushes were set aside. By Friday, painters were ready to finish their pieces after Duran’s final critique. Paintings were completed on Fridays so new ones could be started on Mondays.

Included in this Manual are notes of  how a painting should look at each step of completion. For example, no monochrome or grisaille under painting was allowed. The main planes of the model’s face were applied with a broad brush on the canvas. The edges of these planes were not smoothed over or blended but kept raw and rough. This was to emphasize the structure of the planes and show how the gradations are achieved by color tone. No chaotic or haphazard process of painting was allowed. All literalness was resisted while painterly freedom was encouraged without losing the logic of creating form by color tone. Using thick paint seemed to enable more paint to flow on the canvas; carefully layered glazes were replaced by these thick, bold strokes. Carolus-Duran reminded his students that the real business of painting is learned from nature ultimately.

for further study:

  1. James Gurney’s weblog:Dinotopia
  2. Https://





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