Jean André Castaigne
Jean André Castaigne (1860-1929), an important artist during the Golden Age of Illustration, is not widely known in America. French by birth, he produced paintings and book and magazine illustrations in both France and America.
His paintings were first exhibited in America at the New Orleans Exhibition of 1884.
A master of composition and form, he was equally at ease drawing humans, animals, architecture and landscapes. Asked by a New York Times writer how he was able to render the human figure in any conceivable position with such facility, he replied, “Sixteen hours a day when I was young.”
As a youth, Castaigne read prodigiously and studied classic Greek, Latin, French, and German literature from books provided by his grandfather, the librarian of Angoulême, his home town.
He expressed an early gift for art, sketching imaginary scenes inspired by books.
At the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, under Alexandre Cabanel and Jean-Léon Gérôme, he trained to become a painter in the Salon tradition. His interest in visually interpreting history led Castaigne to become an illustrator as well as a portrait painter.
André Castaigne first came to the United States in 1890 after a six-month stay in England and became a director of Baltimore's Charcoal Club. His first of many illustrations appeared in The Century magazine around 1891.
In 1894 he returned to France and became a painting instructor in Paris, where he maintained a winter studio in addition to his summer studio in Angouleme.
He traveled extensively in Europe, and wrote and illustrated stories for The Century in Germany, Corsica, and Greece.
As the principal draftsman for French president Felix Faure, Castaigne was awarded the ribbon of the Legion of Honor. In 1901 he returned to America as an official representative of the Imprimerie Nationale to study American printing plants in various cities.
His travels throughout the United States gave him an opportunity to create a series of illustrations reflecting America in the early twentieth century.
André Castaigne's work influenced a generation of illustrators with its sense of realism and drama, vivid story-telling, and attention to accurate detail.
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Castaigne traveled widely in Europe with his sketchbook, drawing a crowd wherever he went. He enjoyed capturing local color and the attitudes and costumes of onlookers. Here, a fellow artist sketching on the Rhine in Germany attracts, among others, a curious chicken to his paint box.
When Castaigne visited the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, he was as fascinated by the gawkers as the Fair's architectural wonders. He titled the young man on the left, “Speechless,” and the young lady, “An Unframed Picture.”
His story illustrations often features dramatic body movement that leads the eye around his compositions. He rendered complex poses with ease and dexterity, 1907.
Castaigne often illustrated stories he wrote for The Century and other publications. Here, for Harper's Monthly in 1901, he sketched street performers for his account of “Strolling Montebanks” of France.
Cairo in 1906 provided Castaigne with lush compositions This depicts a fictitious courtyard feast viewed by the potentate's harem.
At home in in any period of history, Castaigne rendered period detail with accuracy. Here, he recreated a scene set in ancient Rome, complete with background architectural detail; “The Banks of the Tiber Under the Caesars, 212 A.D.”
"Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Enliven a Hamlet," 1901. Castagine had no diffuculty introducing subtle humor into his illustrations.
Characteristic of Castaigne's work, his illustrations, whether set in the past or present, feature bold compositions rich with detail. At right is “The Sacred Boat of Isis,” 1907. Below, a scene from a 1906 story featuring the Nile.
One of Castaigne's 1907 illustrations in The Century for Victor Hugo's letter describing why he wrote “Les Misérables:” Jean Valjean and Cosette watching a chain of convicts at St. Denis Prison.
Castaigne also created color illustrations for the first edition of Gaston Leroux's novel “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Illustration from "The Money Masters," 1903. Castaigne's masterful use of dramatic lighting and facial expressions influenced a later generation of pulp magazine artists.
Here, his leaping figure in 1894 presages the "dynamic anatomy" style popularized by Burne Hogarth and later fantasy artists of the Marvel Comics generation. “The Leap” is from a story in Harper's entitled “A Romance of the Faith.”
André Castaigne at work in his Paris studio, 1901.
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