Alphonse de Neuville (31 May 1835 – 18 May 1885) was a French Academic painter who studied under Eugène Delacroix. His dramatic and intensely patriotic subjects illustrated episodes from the Franco-Prussian War, the Crimean War, the Zulu War and portraits of soldiers. Some of his works have been collected by the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Born Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe Deneuville to wealthy parents at Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais, earned his degree of bachelier ès-lettres, and in spite of family opposition, he entered (1856) the naval school at Lorient; it was there that his artistic instincts started.
He was discouraged by several painters of repute, but he was admitted to work in the studio of François-Edouard Picot; he did not remain there long. He was painting by himself when he produced his first picture, The Fifth Battalion of Chasseurs at the Gervais Battery (Malakoff). In 1860 Neuville painted an Episode of the taking of Naples by Garibaldi for the Artists' Club in the rue de Provence, and sent to the Paris Salon in 1861 The Guard Chasseurs in the Trenches of the Mamelon Vert.
He participated in illustrating the Pierre-Jules Hetzel's editions of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He also illustrated Le Tour du monde and François Guizot's History of France. At the same time he painted a number of remarkable pictures: The Attack in the Streets of Magenta by Zouaves and the Light Horse (1864), A Zouave Sentinel (1865), The Battle of San Lorenzo (1867), and Dismounted Cavalry crossing the Tchernaia (1869). In these he showed peculiar insight into military life.
His full power was reached after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. The long-term French reaction was revanchism: a deep sense of bitterness, hatred, and demand for revenge against Germany, especially because of the loss of Alsace and Lorraine. Paintings that emphasized the humiliation of the defeat were in high demand, such as The Spy by de Neuville.
He then aimed at depicting in his works the episodes of that war, and began by representing the Bivouac before Le Bourget (1872). His fame spread rapidly and was increased by The Last Cartridges (1873), memorializing an episode involving the Blue Division of the French marines, in which it is easy to discern the vast difference between the conventional treatment of military subjects, as practised by Horace Vernet, and that of a man who had lived the life that he painted.
Fight on a Railroad (1874) was equally successful, and was followed by the Attack on a House at Villersexel (1875) and the Railway Bridge at Styring (1877). In 1878, the painter exhibited (not at the Great Exhibition) Le Bourget, the Surprise at Daybreak, The Intercepted Despatch-bearer, and a considerable number of drawings. He also exhibited in London some episodes of the Zulu War. Fifty thousand people paid to see his impression of The Defence of Rorke's Drift (1880), which the infant Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney paid a large sum to acquire.
In 1881, he was made an officer of the Légion d'honneur for The Cemetery of Saint-Privat, The Despatch-bearer, and Huns in the Battle of Chalon. During these years Neuville was at work with Édouard Detaille on an important although less artistic work, The Panorama of Rézonville.
Neuville died in Paris on May 18, 1885. At the sale of his works the state purchased for the Palais du Luxembourg the paintings Bourget and Attack on a Barricaded House, watercolor The Parley, and the drawing Turco in Fighting Trim.
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