Édouard Detaille

Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille (French: [ʒɑ̃batist‿edwaʁ dətaj]; Paris 5 October 1848 – 23 December 1912 Paris) was a French academic painter and military artist noted for his precision and realistic detail. He was regarded as the "semi-official artist of the French army."[1]

Édouard Detaille
Ferdinand Mulnier - Édouard Detaille.jpg
Born(1848-10-05)5 October 1848
Paris, France
Died23 December 1912(1912-12-23) (aged 64)
Paris, France
Known forPainting
Notable work
The Defense of Champigny (1879); Le Rêve (1888)
MovementAcademic art


Education and early careerEdit

Detaille grew up in a prosperous military family in Picardy; his grandfather had been an arms supplier for Napoleon. An amateur artist who was friends with a number of collectors and painters, including Horace Vernet, Detaille's father encouraged his son's artistic endeavors. He began his artistic studies at age seventeen under the famous military painter Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier; he had originally approached him to ask for an introduction to the renowned Alexandre Cabanel but Meissonier decided to teach Detaille himself. Meissonier became a major influence on his style, and it was he who inculcated an appreciation for accuracy and precision in Detaille.[2]

Detaille made his debut as an artist at the Salon—the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts—of 1867 with a painting of Meissonier's studio.[2] At the Salon of 1868, he exhibited his first military painting, The Drummers Halt, which was based solely on his imagination of the French Revolution. With Repose During the Drill, Camp St Maur, which he debuted the following year, Detaille established his reputation as a painter.[3] In the spring of 1870, he went on a "sketching trip" to Algeria with three other young painters, Étienne-Prosper Berne-Bellecour, Alexander Louis Leloir, and Jehan Georges Vibert.[2]

Franco-Prussian WarEdit

Detaille enlisted in the 8th Mobile Bataillon of the French Army when the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870; by November he was seeing and experiencing the realities of war. This experience allowed him to produce his famed portraits of soldiers and historically accurate depictions of military manoeuvres, uniforms, and military life in general. He eventually became the official painter of the battles. He published a book called L'Armée Française in 1885, which contains over 300 line drawings and 20 color reproductions of his works.[citation needed]

Detaille was one of the first artists to buy photographs from Eugène Atget.[4]

Later lifeEdit

Test uniforms created in 1912 by Édouard Detaille for the French line infantry. From left to right : trumpet in parade uniform, private in service uniform and kepi, private 1st class in parade uniform, private in service uniform and leather helmet, officer in parade uniform, officer in service uniform and bonnet de police (side cap), private in field uniform and leather helmet, private in field uniform and kepi.

In 1912, Detaille created new uniforms for the French army. They were never adopted by the Minister of War, but the blue-gray greatcoats would influence later French World War I uniforms, and the Adrian helmet was heavily influenced by his designs.[5]

During his life, he had amassed an impressive collection of military uniforms and artifacts and bequeathed to the Musée de l'Armée in Paris following his death.

Literary referencesEdit

Detaille appears as a guest at a party at the home of the Princesse de Guermante in Part Two: Chapter One of Marcel Proust's novel, Cities of the Plain, where Detaille is referred to as "the creator of the Dream", his 1888 painting also known as Le Rêve which shows soldiers asleep on a battlefield dreaming of military glory. The painting, which is located at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, also appears in Paintings in Proust by Eric Karpeles, published by Thames & Hudson.


His niece married Charles Otzenberger, who subsequently called himself Otzenberger-Detaille.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Dearinger, David Bernard; Stanley Ellis Cushing (2004). Virginia Wageman; Phil Freshman (eds.). Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design: 1826-1925. Manchester, Vermont: Hudson Hills. p. 154. ISBN 9781555950293.
  2. ^ a b c Artfact. "Edouard Detaille (1848-1912)". Grove Art excerpts. Oxford Art Online. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Art". The Nation. New York, NY: New York Evening Post Company. 93 (2479): 21. 2 January 1913.
  4. ^ Atget. Paris. Taschen. p. 82. ISBN 9783836504713.
  5. ^ Dean, Bashford (1920). Helmets and Body Armor in Modern Warfare. Yale University Press. p. 9.

Further readingEdit

  • Humbert, Jean. Édouard Detaille : l'héroïsme d'un siècle, Paris, Copernic, 1979.
  • Masson, Frédéric. Edouard Detaille and his work, Paris, Boussod, Valadon and co., 1891.
  • Duplessis, Georges. M. Édouard Detaille, Paris, J. Claye, 1874.


External linksEdit

  Media related to Édouard Detaille at Wikimedia Commons