Félicien Rops (Namur 1833-1898 Essonnes) L'olivierade (Monte Carlo, 1876)

Born in a wealthy family, Félicien Rops got interested in Art already at young age, sketching and drawing in the blank margins of music scores while his father played Beethoven and Mozart. He abandoned his studies in Law and Philosophy and his artistic career begins with Rops' society-criticising satirical illustrations for "Uylenspiegel, journal des ébats artistiques et littéraires (1853-1863)"

In 1857 he marries Charlotte Polet de Faveaux, who inherits chateau Thozée, where Félicien hosts most of his artistic friends. Through the editor Auguste Poulet-Malassis Rops is introduced to the famous etcher Félix Bracquemond and Charles Baudelaire, the latter who brings a radical change into his career. Together with his friend Armand Rassenfosse Félicien develops the Ropsenfosse technique.

Rops had a love-hate affair with Paris where he would become one of the best-paid and most famous illustrators (Les Epaves, Les Diaboliques). He boasted to be even better paid than Gustave Doré. Every year he felt the urge to visit the artistic capital for some three months, after which he needed to recover from the sultry climate of the metropole. It is here in Paris, where he meets the sisters Léontine and Aurélie Duluc, who became his maîtresses. The meandering rest to recover from Paris, Rops finds during travels to Swiss, Belgium, Scandinavia, Hungary, Spain, Holland, USA, Africa, Bretagne and Monaco where he recovers from the gloominess. It is here in the countryside, where Rops unwinds and draws his serene pure subjects, which form a welcome contrast to the feverish Parisian crucible.

In 1876 Rops worked with Cadart and Lemerre in Paris. For Cadart he illustrated Alexandre Piednagel's "Sounenirs de Barbizon" on Jean-François Millet. The frontispice Rops made for this book shows great stylistic similarities with our drawing. The theme from Millet's "Les Glaneuses" has been reworked by Rops into an olive picker.

Between 1873 and 1877 Rops made several travels to Monte Carlo, Monaco. Here in the mediterranian hilly olive groves he must have seen this vibrant young woman, carrying a large basket of olives. Ever since his academic period, Rops had idealised the living model which he seems to have found in this olives carrier in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The split in her top piece has been suggested to be a phallic symbol. In the same year he etched after the original drawing.[1]

Rops drew the subject just prior to his Magnum Opus of 114 drawings commissioned by the Parisian bibliophile Jules Noilly "Les Cent Légers Croquis sans prétention pour réjouir les honnêtes gens" (One Hundred light-hearted sketches without pretentions to rejoice the honourable people) (1878-1881), The Temptation of Saint Anthony, and Pornocrates. 

Finally, Rops found his comfort in the countryside of Corbeil, where he bought the "Demi-Lune", close to the river Seine. He died in 1898 surrounded by Léontine, Aurélie, his daughter Claire and his close friends Rassenfosse and Detouche.




[1] L'olivierade. Etching, 360 x 245 mm. Maurice Exteens, L'oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Félicien Rops. Pellet, Paris, 1928. No. 225 (= Ramiro 166, Mascha 563).

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