Large engraving of Notre Dame signed by Charles Meryon (1821-1868) matted and framed, circa 1854.
Dimensions: 13.25"H x 17"W
Charles Meryon was a pioneering master of original etching in France. Meryon was a solitary and disturbed genius of great creative power. The illegitimate child of a travelling English physician and a dancer at the opera house, Charles only assumed the surname Meryon in 1837 upon entering the Naval School at Brest after first discovering the true circumstances of his birth. While serving in the Navy, Meryon sailed as far as Austrailia and the South Seas, recording his voyages in sketches that would later be included in his etchings through the years.
Upon his return to France at the age of 25, Charles resigned his naval post and became determined to make it as a professional artist. While based in Paris he focused on painting, where it was then discovered that he suffered from Daltonism, a form of color blindness. Meryon’s painting career had already ended.
It was as a graphic artist, especially as an original etcher, that Meryon excelled. He studied in the studio of engraver E. Blery, copying portraits and engravings. One master in particular, Renier Zeeman, seized the imagination of Meryon and transformed him into the etcher that he became. Rapidly Charles Meryon developed a brilliant ability with the etching needle and by 1849 he conceived the idea of a series of etchings devoted to the city he loved. He dedicated this series to his revered idol Zeeman. Between 1851 and 1854 they appeared in the Eaux-fortes sur Paris. The technical mastery of these brilliant works would be enough to establish Charles Meryon as one of the greatest of etchers.
Meryon lived with little to no means, few friends and in suspicion of the whole world. He became increasingly unsocial and mentally unstable. By the spring of 1858 he worked only intermittently and began digging up his garden to find those he believed to be buried there. Meryon’s condition bordered on delirium and he began to stay homebound and flourished a gun whenever anyone entered. In May of 1858 he was committed to the asylum at Charenton St. Maurice and held for 15 months. He briefly revisited the asylum in late 1866, but was released in 1867 to attend the Universal Exposition where several of his etchings were shown. Meryon had a severe relapse, believed himself to be Christ being held by the Pharisees claiming there was not enough food in the world and that he would wrong the poor by taking their sustenance. He refused to eat and died of starvation on February 14, 1868.
A thoroughly novel artist, who was at the leading edge of the etching revival in France, Charles Meryon created an outstanding body of highly concentrated etched work unique to a mind of abnormal genius.