Jean Charles Cazin (1841 - 1901)
JEAN CHARLES CAZIN, a French painter whose distinction is to have struck a new note in modern landscape painting, was born in the village of Samer, near Calais, in 1841, and died in Paris in 1901. The regret of his life was that he was not able to die in the old house where he was born. In the first days of his success he had bought the house, which some years before had passed out of the family, and with great care and expense had restored it to conform to his boyhood memories. Only his intimates were aware that Cazin was so full of sentiment, his acquaintances being deceived by his brusque manner and reserve into believing him a pronounced skeptic and materialist. In reality, sentiment was strong in Cazin and shows itself in most of his painting. A strange mixture he was of culture and instinct, of nature and art, of spontaneity and reserve, of care and carelessness, of whim and method, of simplicity and complexity, of discipline and rebellion, of caution and audacity, of emotion and reason.
He was shy and mysterious, and at times boisterously sociable. His father, a country doctor, was able to give him a university education, at Lille. He early exhibited a strong artistic inclination, and while his family was not enthusiastic, he was not discouraged. At nineteen he went to Paris and entered the then popular Ecole-de-Medicine, under Lecoq de Boisbaudran, who also had as pupils Lhermitte, Rodin, Ribot, Legros and Fantin-Latour. Nine years later, through the influence of Lecoq, Cazin was made curator of the Museum of Tours and also conducted a school of drawing there.
Then came the Franco-Prussian War, and for six months of the military occupation of Tours Cazin lived in mortal terror lest the museum be looted. It seems to have been spared, largely owing to the work of Cazin in organizing a hospital service and installing beds in the museum. Surreptitiously, it is related, he boxed and buried in the cellar of the building several famous pictures by Montagna that the Prussian authorities, well acquainted with the existence, if not the location, of the great French art treasures, were hunting for everywhere.
Cazin did not really begin exhibiting until 1876. It was four years later at the Paris Salon, that he was awarded a medal of the first class for his painting of "Hagar and Ishmael." He became a member of the Legion of Honor in 1882.
As a painter, especially of landscapes, Muther says, "Cazin has his own hour, his own world, his own men and women. His hour is when the sun is setting and the moon is rising, when shadows fill the world."
Cazin will paint the entrance into a French village, and we see a few cottages, a clump of thin poplars, and red-tiled roofs lacquered with the pale shadows of evening. Soon it will rain in torrents. Or it is night, and the sky is banked with clouds, behind which a moon is struggling. Lamps are lighted in the village windows, and an old post-chaise rolls heavily over the slippery pavement. Or dun-green shadows are cast over a solitary green field, in which are featured a windmill and a sluggish stream. Silence mysteriously possesses the scene, and only in the sky is there any movement, that being a faint silver flash of lightning stabbing the dark. Sometimes the humor of a landscape is associated with the memory of kindred emotions which passages in the Bible or in old legends have awakened in Cazin. In such moods he painted his great Biblical or mythological pictures. His pictures of this character are peculiarly satisfying.