Jean-Baptiste Henri Durand Brager (1814-1879)
Bosphorus in Istanbul
Oil on cradled panel
24 x 41 in. (62 x 104 cm)
Signed and dated 1871
Durand Brager was born on the 21st May in Dol (Ille et Vilaine), France. He was an adventurous soul, which was inherited, from his father, the explorer Jean-Baptiste Leonard Durand. He explored the world’s reaches and if not for some fateful moments he would have settled into a naval career rather than that of an artist. His repertoire contains scenes from his youthful travels to the coast of Africa, Asia and South America, including being shipwrecked in Senegal. To avoid these traumas and hardships, his father encouraged him to study art, as he had been convinced of his son’s great natural talent. He became a painter of naval subjects and he studied under Gudin after which he entered the atelier of the celebrated French painter Eugène Isabey.
Durand-Brager decided to set up a studio in Istanbul where he would work between his travels and his other home in Paris. Istanbul influenced him with its Turkish society and the numerous daily-changing scenes around the Bosphorus. The turquoise coloured coastal scenes and the quality of the light reflecting the shimmering reflections and numerous white minarets and white mosques. The crowded waterways with constant movement of small boats and cargo ships typifies the bustle of everyday life of this magical city and it inspired Durand Brager on a daily basis.
Durand Brager in 1840 accompanied the fleet, which brought Napoleon’s remains from St Helena. He went to Buenos Aires and explored Uruguay and Brazil as the official court painter. His being awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1844 followed this. He spent time on the French frigate Nieman recording naval combats between the English frigates Arethusa and Amethyst and the French navy. He continued under the direction of the French naval department painting many grand French battles in the Mediterranean Sea, notably the bombardment of Mogador, Algeria. Further important paintings were commissioned at the grand siege of Sebastopol and the expedition of Kluburn. Paintings of the emperor of Russia’s campaigns in the combat of Sinope and the Emperor of Austria’s battle of Lissa were commissioned and thus provided Durand Brager with more accolades and international recognition of his wonderful natural talent.
Our painting of the Bosphorus in Istanbul is painted on a large wooden oak panel and the preparation of the painting and superb academic quality of the light and numerous figurines encapsulates the atmospheric life of Istanbul of which Durand Brager is the master.
A summary of his painting technique demonstrates the plein-air methodologies of the important Impressionist movement, the basic tenets of emotional strength and interpretive loose brush strokes are demonstrated within his skies while his subjects – ships and figures – hold to a realistic academic reality.
The museums of Paris, Bordeaux, Laval, Nantes and of course Versailles exhibit Durand Brager’s finest works. He passed away in 1879 in Paris, leaving behind a military and naval record of France’s history in Europe, unrivalled in the 19th century, with the exception of Howard Vernet.