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Ribot Théodule Augustin

St Nicolas d’Attez 1823 – 1891 Colombes

French Painter

La Leçon de Chant – The Singing Lesson

Signature: signed lower left 't.ribot' 
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: mage size 55,5 x 46 cm, frame size  74 x 65 cm

Théodule Augustin Ribot, born on August 8, 1823, and passing away on September 11, 1891, was a distinguished French realist painter and printmaker, known for his evocative depictions of everyday life. Not to be confused with Théodule-Armand Ribot, he hailed from Saint-Nicolas-d’Attez and initially received training at the École des Arts et Métiers de Châlons before making his way to the bustling art scene of Paris in 1845.

In Paris, he initially found employment in adorning gilded frames for a mirror manufacturer. While assisting Auguste-Barthélémy Glaize, he gained some artistic guidance, yet his skills as a painter were largely self-taught. After a formative journey to Algeria around 1848, he returned to Paris in 1851 and continued to support himself through his craftsmanship. However, it was during the late 1850s, laboring under the lamplight, that Ribot earnestly began to pursue painting, capturing everyday subjects with a keen eye for realism.

Ribot demonstrated his artistic versatility by working in various mediums, including oil paint, pencil or crayon drawings, and etchings. His works ranged from complete drawings to powerful sketches that served as preparations for his painted canvases. Although there are only a limited number of etchings, they showcase a diverse range of techniques and themes, representing the middle period of his artistic practice.

Debuting at the Salon in 1861 with four kitchen-themed paintings, Ribot quickly garnered attention from collectors. His works exhibited in the Salons of 1864 and 1865 were awarded prestigious medals. He was known for his depictions of domestic scenes, still lifes, portraits, and religious subjects, such as his successful Salon piece “St. Sebastian, Martyr” in 1865. His earlier works exuded a dry and austere quality, while his later pieces displayed a freer and broader style. Ribot’s preference for painting directly from nature allowed him to emphasise the contrasts of light and dark, influenced by the chiaroscuro techniques of Spanish and Dutch baroque masters like Ribera and Rembrandt, a passion he shared with contemporaries like Courbet and Bonvin.

Many of Ribot’s figure compositions were likely inspired by members of his own family, depicting them engaging in humble activities, such as meal preparations or gathering to share stories. Through adept use of lighting, he skillfully highlighted the faces and hands of his subjects, which emerged sharply from dimly lit surroundings.

Despite his realist approach aligning him with the progressive artists of the pre-Impressionist era, Ribot’s work was received favorably by both the public and critics, demonstrating a nuanced balance between traditional technique and contemporary sensibility. In 1878, Ribot was honoured with the Légion d’honneur. Amid declining health, he ceased painting and relocated to Colombes, where he passed away in 1891.

His son, Germain Théodore Ribot (1845–1893), followed in his artistic footsteps, specialising in still lifes and genre paintings that echoed the stylistic essence of his father’s work.

Exhibitions: 1934 at Colombes (cat. no. 1, with ill.); Paris 1880, Galerie des Arts;  probably École des Beaux-Arts in 1892 (as no 21, no illustration);  Den Bosch, Kunsthandel Gebr. Douwes, Amsterdam and Vanderven & Vanderven,  "Franse Schilders 1820 – 1920", March - April 1975, cat.no.36, with ill.;  Opening exhibition Douwes Fine Art, London, March- April 1980, cat. no. 23, with ill. 

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