A newly-restored painting by Édouard Manet (1832-1883) entitled Portrait de Monsieur Jules Dejouy (1879) has been unveiled in an exhibition at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Cardiff Wales.
The painting has been conserved by museum experts thanks to support from the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund, Finnis Scott Foundation and the Friends of National Museum Wales. It was acquired by Amgueddfa Cymru in 2019 after more than ninety years in a private collection. This oil on canvas, originally owned by Dejouy, had remained in a relatively untouched condition, which is rare for a work of this period.
On arrival at the museum the portrait required full conservation treatment. The painting was under a disfiguring veil of surface dirt and discoloured varnish.
As part of the conservation work undertaken by Chief Conservator, (Art, Natural Sciences and Preventive Conservation) for Amgueddfa Cymru, Adam Webster, the painting has undergone a transformative treatment which includes surface cleaning, varnish removal and strip-lining. This has improved dramatically the painting’s legibility and stability.
Technical examination including infra-red reflectography, x-radiography and examination of paint cross sections have explored the materials and techniques employed by the artist. This underpins the museum’s general understanding of Manet’s work including his working methods and painting process.
Adam Webster, Chief Conservator, (Art, Natural Sciences and Preventive Conservation) Amgueddfa Cymru, said: “As this painting had not been displayed publicly for decades, the conservation treatment was an excellent opportunity to study the materials and techniques used by the artist as part of his work. It was enlightening to see the intricacy of this accomplished portrait appear during cleaning.
“As a registered charity, we are extremely grateful to TEFAF for their support and would also like to thank the Friends of the Museum and The Finnis Scott Foundation for their contributions, which have helped us preserve this important piece of art. The technical examination and conservation means we now have a much improved understanding of the portrait, its presentation, and legibility as an artwork.
“The portrait now sits well in the wider Amgueddfa Cymru collection which features many other key Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works including three other works by Manet in our collection – Effect of Snow at Petit Montrouge (1870-71), Argenteuil, Boat (1874), and The Rabbit (1881). I am delighted that Wales can add such a poignant painting to its national collection”.
Hidde van Seggelen, Chairman of TEFAF, commented: “We are delighted that Portrait de Monsieur Jules Dejouy by Édouard Manet will be going on display at National Museum Cardiff following this intensive conservation and restoration project. Ensuring works of art are preserved for the benefit of generations to come is one of the founding principles behind TEFAF’s Museum Restoration Fund so we are thrilled to see this ambition come to fruition at National Museum Cardiff.”
Jules Dejouy (1815-1894) was not only Manet’s older cousin, but also an important figure in the artists life. He was a successful lawyer, appointed to the Imperial Court in France in 1849. After the death of the artist’s father in 1862, Dejouy was appointed as chief counsellor and guide to Manet and his brothers. Manet relied on him in throughout his life. During the siege of Paris in 1870 the artist sent valuables to his cousin for safekeeping. Dejouy was also appointed by Manet as his executor and was part of the committee that organized the 1884 exhibition following Manet’s death, alongside Emile Zola, painters such as Fantin-Latour and dealers Durand-Ruel and Georges Petit. This portrait was included in that exhibition.