Being an official painter for the French Navy doesn’t allow any wages or remuneration but they ban board a ship to paint life on board or marine landscapes throughout the world. The job has been opened to photographers ( the most famous being Yann Arthus Bertrand) , illustrators,engravers and sculptors.
To me, painters remain the most interesting artists in the Navy. Their sensibility and imagination are expressed in many ways and follow the trends of painting throughout the years. Artists such as Signac, Méheut, Sévellec , Maufra … An anchor on their paintings next to their signatures reveals they were, once, official painters for the Navy.
The fresco we are talking about below was painted in 1979 by Pierre Péron, as a tribute to the town of Morlaix but has many historic faults. It is supposed to represent the trip to India of a 18 year-old young man from the city called Joseph François Dupleix, whose father was a wealthy merchant in charge of collecting taxes in the tobacco manufacture for King Louis XIVth.
First of all a vessel as big as the one represented on the painting couldn’t sail up the river in Morlaix. The vessels working for the The French East India company had a tonnage much superior to what the river could take!
Secondly, even if Dupleix’s father was a prominent character in the city then, no local sailors- they were brilliant – in charge of the ship maneuvers up the river would have accepted to jeopardize such a big ship. Too risky!
So? I am not saying Joseph François Dupleix didn’t start from Morlaix on a trip to India, but certainly not on board such a big vessel. He might have have boarded the company vessel further on, in a place at the mouth of the river opening up to the bay of Morlaix, 9 to 10 km north of the town.
Click on the painting to enlarge, please.
I said that fresco travelled the world. That is absolutely true. It was on board the French frigate Dupleix which has been all over the oceans up to may 2014! When the boat finished her career the painting was given recently to the town of Morlaix. We saw it in the nice Town Hall staircase and have been talking about it ever since 🙂
No one asks Navy painters to be historically accurate 😉 Pierre Péron has drawn a paint composition and it will speak to the people’s imagination 😉 That’s what is important, isn’t it? But talks in our house are still going on! 😉