Clemente Pujol de Gustavino (1850 – 1905)
The Palace Guard
Oil on Panel
24 x 19.5in (61 x 49 cm)
As here, the paintings of Clemente (also known as Climent or Clément) Pujol de Guastavino are distinguished by their naturalistic style and technical virtuosity in which ornamental detail is shown to perfection. Not only was he a highly talented painter in oils and watercolours but as a skilled draughtsman, Pujol was a very accomplished engraver. His subject matter varied, ranging from portraiture, figurative and genre scenes to superb Oriental views, especially those set in Morocco and Algiers, for which he gained great renown. Of Spanish extraction, he was born near Barcelona at Olesa de Montserrat, Catalonia in about 1850. Pujol began his formal art education in Barcelona at the Escuela de Bellas Artes under the historical and portrait painter Antonio Caba (1838-1907); he firstly made a name for himself when from 1871 to 1874 he showed at the Exposiciones Barcelonas de Belles Artes. Having already established repute in his native country, in 1876 Pujol travelled to Paris where he furthered his artistic studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Louis Nicolas Cabat (1812-1893) and then under Jean Léon Gêrome (1824-1904). Gêrome, who was the most important Orientalist painter of the 19th century, had a profound influence on Pujol’s art, not only in his love of North Africa and its people but also in his use of dramatic colouring and attention to detail.
Pujol enjoyed great success at the Paris Salon from 1876 up until 1905 for his genre scenes, historical costume dramas and subsequently Oriental paintings. In addition to Paris, he showed his pictures in Austria, at Munich in 1883 and contributed to the Barcelona exhibition of Sala Parés in 1884. During the 1880s he began executing works inspired by the Orient. For instance in 1885 he exhibited an engraving after José Villegas of an Un Arabe, followed by Un Fumeur Arabe in 1887 and then later made a series of engravings based of works by his fellow Spanish Orientalist painter, Mariano Fortuny (1838-74). Pujol also gained considerable acclaim at the Paris Salon when he exhibited Prière à Mosquée in 1888 and Depart Pour la Chasse in 1889. That same year he was awarded an honorable mention for his Orientalist painting Danse Mauresque and others at the Universal Exhibition of Paris. Further awards were to follow when in 1897 he obtained a first-class medal at the exhibition of Rennes and silver medals at the exhibitions of Arcachon (1898), Le Mans (1889) and Limoges (1903). One of his last appearances was in 1908 at the International Exhibition of 1908 Monte Carlo with Les Caid Cadeaux.
The present oil epitomizes Pujol’s infinite skills as an artist. Although the main focus is upon the palace guard as he reads his orders of the day, this superb oil is not merely a description of an Arab soldier since Pujol carefully places the main figure within a dazzling setting. Included are multi-coloured tiles, a tessellated glass window and a finely woven carpet which all add significant interest to the overall composition. As a keen collector of ancient works of art, Pujol also includes additional props, notably the guard’s sabre within its scabbard and the metal brazier which appears in other of his oils. They, together with other decorative elements such as the soldier’s luxurious costume and the contrasting tonal harmonies all combine in perfect harmony to create a true tour de force.