Émile Friant (1863-1932) was highly praised in his lifetime, but like many artists from the second half of the 19th century, he was wrongly forgotten until the 1970s, when art historians and scholars started shedding light on the quality and relevance of these innovative and interesting painters.

Professor Gabriel Weisberg’s research was crucial in bringing new awareness to the realist and naturalist painters. He published for example The Realist Tradition, French Painting and Drawing (1830-1900) in 1980 and in 1992, Beyond Impressionism, The Naturalist Impulse in European Art, which dedicated several pages to Émile Friant. In 2007, the acquisition by the musée d’Orsay of Ombres portées, a superb painting by Friant dated 1891, as well as the high prices obtained by his works at auction in the recent years, confirm that Friant is about to regain the place he deserves. Also, three important exhibitions on Friant were critically acclaimed: Émile Friant, regard sur l’homme et l’œuvre in 1988 at the musée des Beaux-Arts of Nancy; Émile Friant, un nouveau regard in 2006 at the musée Georges de la Tour of Vic-sur-Seille; and Émile Friant, le dernier naturaliste? in 2016-2017 at the musée des Beaux-Arts of Nancy. The public especially praised Friant’s perfect technical skills, as well as the truth and sincerity shining through the exhibited works.

Friant specialized in portraits and scenes of everyday life in Lorraine, revealing his love of precision and quest for authenticity against the superficial and the anecdotical. His humanity and aim to showcase the individuality of his models are also evident in his œuvre. Perfectionist, Friant worked relentlessly to fulfill this ambition. He also sometimes used photography to accurately capture his models’ natural attitude, gesture and facial expression, while also succeeding to show their inner darkness and mystery. He literally brought life to his models. Art amateurs today cannot but be touched by the art of this sensitive painter and acute observer of the human soul.

Members of the A.E.F. hope that internet users will enjoy browsing through Friant’s most beautiful works and appreciate his art as much as they do. Hopefully, this will prompt the users to visit or revisit the musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy which holds the most extensive collection of works by Émile Friant. 

Translated from French to English by Ms Agnès Penot