About the Artwork
Émile-René Ménard’s Homer is a reprise of Camille Corot’s painting of the same subject, Homer and the Shepherds, exhibited at the Salon of 1845. Corot’s inspiration was a verse by the 18th-century poet André Chénier, which Ménard reprinted in the Salon catalogue of 1885 to accompany his version of the venerable bard reciting poetry to three shepherd boys. The antique theme, though hardly unusual during the century and a half following the rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the mid-1700s, recalls the Parnassian poets’ continuing fascination with the ancient Mediterranean world. Beyond referring to these antiquarian interests, Ménard’s canvas also manifests classical ideals of harmony, balance, and calm. The image of the aged poet imparting his wisdom to a group of enrapt youths provides an allegory of artistic authority and grateful discipleship, echoed in the background through the motif of the shepherd with his flock. Homer was exhibited again at the Salon of 1896, when it was purchased by a British collector in Paris.
Resource: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, Sue Taylor and Richard Born, eds. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1990, p. 90-91. Looking and Listening in Nineteenth-Century France, Martha Ward and Anne Leonard, eds. Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, 2007, pp. 17-25.
About the Artist
Born to a family of distinguished artist intellectuals, Émile-René Ménard trained under the academic painter Paul Baudry (1828–1886) and studied at the Académie Julian in his native Paris. His lyrical landscape paintings, populated by timeless nudes or classical or mythological figures, reflect the early influence of Camille Corot (1796–1875), a friend of Ménard’s father. The younger Ménard first exhibited at the Salon of 1883 but became associated with the anti-academic Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, founded as a rival exhibition society to the officially organized Salon. In addition, Ménard was a member of an informal anti-Impressionist group, known as la bande noire, surrounding the painter Charles Cottet (1863–1925), a protégé of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824–1898). Rejecting the Impressionists’ contemporary subject matter and their focus on ephemeral phenomena, Cottet and his circle privileged the moral content of a work of art.