Émile Friant painted portraits and scenes of the French countryside. He
had, to me, a decidedly cinematic eye — his genre paintings are not
sentimentalized and they have a bold, dynamic quality based on spatial
compositions of great though subtle power. They remind me of Bertolucci’s
images in 1900.
The painting above uses a technique Tissot was fond of — creating a
space in the foreground that instantly occupies one’s attention but
which also opens up into a deep space beyond. Spaces opening up
into deeper spaces instantly summon up the idea of movement, of the
potential for movement — they almost produce a sensation of movement. This
and their photorealistic quality are what to me give them a cinematic
Friant was a late Victorian — he lived until 1932, well into the era
of the Impressionist triumph. Like John Singer Sargent he
borrowed a freer approach to brushwork from the Impressionists while
remaining true to the basic aesthetic ideals of the Victorian academy.