Vibert’s Gouaches

One of the masters of gouache painting was the French academician Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902). All the paintings in this post are in watercolor / gouache.

Jehan Georges Vibert The Ant and the Grasshopper, 1875

Vibert had a special gift for storytelling. Here he interprets the classic folktale of the wanton “grasshopper” falling on hard times and asking for a handout from the industrious “ant.” Notice the heavily laden pack animals, the broken shoe of the troubadour, and the dismissive gesture of the monk.

Jehan Georges Vibert Peeping Roofers

Roofers pause from their work to peep inside a building. The figures are carefully studied from models who were probably real roofers.

Jehan Georges Vibert Spanish Saddlemaker (correction –this is in oil)

He traveled to Spain and took inspiration for many of his paintings from there. The careful drawing is reminiscent of Meissonier or Gérôme.

Jehan Georges Vibert Cardinal Reading a Letter

Vibert is best known for his gently mocking paintings of cardinals. This one seems to be reading a love letter; the one below is reading some baudy bit from Rabelais.

Jehan Georges Vibert Reading Rabelais

It is deliciously ironic that one of the largest collections of his work was given by the Maytag heiress to a seminary (the St. John Vianney seminary in Florida).

Jehan Georges Vibert On the Ramparts (correction –this is in oil)

Vibert was equally comfortable with historical and costume pictures. As a playwright and dramatist, he had access to a large supply of costumes. I’m not sure exactly what period this depicts, but I’m guessing 17th century Holland, around the time of the Tulip Wars?

Jehan Georges Vibert Trial of Pierrot

The Art Institute of Chicago owns this painting of “The Trial of Pierrot,” but it’s not on display. The original gouache is about 18 x 24 inches. He also painted it in oil. The painting is based on a farce about spurned lovers, and Vibert peoples it with characters from the commedia dell’arte. 

The paint appears to be fairly thin and transparent in the outer areas, but built up in opaques in the faces.

Jehan Georges Vibert

Vibert also had a love of the fantastic and bizarre. Note the pet tarantula and the rider of the bat-winged creature.

Jehan Georges Vibert At the Breakfast Table

Wikipedia on Jehan Georges Vibert
Article on Vibert in the Aldine
There’s a double page spread of Vibert’s Gulliver in my book: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist

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By: Gurney Journey
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