Zingg Is Back!

photo: design le marche by zingg

This is an example of Zingg's later work;
simply titled 'Le Marché.'

Original, Right Now, For Sale

Paris:- Wednesday, 23. February 2000:- A person's initial geography can affect their whole lives. It can make the difference between becoming a 'grand maître' or merely being a 'petit maître' - of a painter, of an artist.

Jules-Emile Zingg was born in a small town in the Canton of Bern in 1882. This is in eastern France, in the mountainous Jura area. He had an older sister and two older brothers, and his father was a wood cutter. Before long, the family moved to Montbéliard and his father found a job in clock manufacturing.

Jules-Emile Zingg started drawing when he was four and was not discouraged by his family. At the turn of the century, Montbéliard was a place, but it is hard to imagine how isolated it was then.

Jules, while playing, chanced to meet a landscape painter and this encounter led to him getting a place in a local course in design - industrial - clocks. In this he excelled and he got a tiny scholarshipphoto: design peasant by zingg from the town of Montbéliard which allowed him to enter the Beaux-Arts school in Besançon at 17 in 1898.

Besançon, ancient capital of the Franche-Comté, is in the Doubs department. It has a clock-making school, and was a centre for metalworks, textiles and leather; and is much closer to Bern than Paris. Victor Hugo came from the same area.

This sketch, done in 1912, of one of a series of portraits of the Nardin family.

In Besançon, Jules lived extremely modestly, in a garret. With a pal, he sang in the streets to add some cash to his allowance. His teacher, Giacomotti, said, "C'est bien, ça ne va pas mal... continuez, vous êtes sur la bonne voie."

Jules Zingg continued, but was quickly beyond the course and Besançon was 'used up.' But Jules was who he was, so he made no sudden moves and stayed close to his roots.

In 1900 he went to Paris with his brother Constant, to represent the Montbéliard clock industry at the 1900 Exhibition. They stayed with an aunt who lived on Montmartre. For a country boy, fashionable and flashy 'Belle Epoque' Paris was a bit much - but he visited the Louvre for the first time, and it was too much.

Within a couple of months this backwoods country boy had screwed up his courage enough to apply for entry to the Beaux-Arts in Paris. At an intimidating encounter he managed to present his works to Cormon - his chosen 'maître' - and was accepted.

But his father died so he returned to Montbéliard. The winter of 1901-02 was very hard in the mountains and Jules spent a lot of time sketching and painting local scenes of the region; its woodcutters were a major theme.

Jules Zingg would sketch and paint for another 40 years but this winter's work would become an inescapable trait - drawing outside, in extreme weather. He did this instead of tending to the PR necessary for making the difference between being 'petit maître' or a 'grand maître.'

In May of 1902 Jules returned to Paris and the class of Cormon at the Beaux-Arts, passed the exam in June 1903 and was admitted as a student. He had success with the academic training, but the city oppressed him.

At the end of the summer he was conscripted for a year. When he returned to Paris he was tempted to quit the school - something possible for more middle-class students who were excited by all the new, less formal 'isms' - but as a scholarship student, Jules had no choice but to stay.

The following years began a pattern of oscillating between Paris and the countryside, where he continued to work outside. He did not have robust health, but the sketching and painting came first.

A painting done in the winter of 1908 - one of peasants working outside - was entered in the 'Salon' where it received the Prix Bouland; and was purchased by Baron Rothschild.

Two paintings done in 1910, 'Les Tireurs de Glace' and another one showing a funeral in snowy countryside, were bought by the state.

Jules Zingg was doing okay, and in 1912 he got himself an atelier in the Rue du Saint-Gothard in the 14th, which is next to the RER tracks today. A year later he got married and moved west and south in the 14th, to 3. Villa Brune.

This year, 1913, was a big year for Jules Zingg. For the first time he saw the works of Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Cézanne. Imagine - Camille Pissarro; the 'impressionist' specialist for images of countryside and 'rustic scenes.'

Zingg has been doing the same type of thing since before going to the Beaux-Arts in Besançon, 15 yearsphoto: design crepscule by zingg before. In 1913, Cormon, Jules' 'maître' at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, told Jules that the impressionists were impostors!

This is typical early scene by Zingg, but without snow.

You see, Jules Zingg spends so much time doing 'the right thing' - at the Beaux-Arts and doing his own thing, being out in the deepest - and unfashionable part of the countryside, in all weathers - that he doesn't find out he has been mining art's past mainstream until the Dadaists are making so much noise - to be closely followed by the almost political Surrealists - that the mainstream is only noise and slogans.

Mind you, 1913 was still a big year for Jules. He also won the Prix National for his 'La Terre,' and the prize came with 10,000 francs in cash.

It didn't really matter that Jean-François Millet had painted 'The Sower' in 1851; what mattered was that Jules could paint the same sort of subject more freely - 'to hell with details' - and get a prize for it, which Millet did not because in 1851 he was considered a heretic.

Impressionism was still around and it sold well. Zingg's version of it - of his preferred country, done on the spot - a sort of landscape 'brut,' has simplicity and power.

In the night of 3. August 1914 Jules Zingg was dragged out of bed by gendarmes, who were rounding up men for the new war. Jules was exempted on account of his health, and during the war was tormented by citizens who thought he should be at the front.

Zingg did go to the front, in 1917, but as an illustrator. Meanwhile the traditionalists were constantly trying to get him to return, as 'one of them.'

But he wasn't. His line, applied to his countryside - and he acquired a variety of these due to his Breton wife - and his increasingly 'fauve' colors, kept him apart.

He met Maurice Denis, founder of Nabi, and Paul Sérusier in 1915. In 1918, together with Sérusier, Vuillard and Bonnard, Zingg had his first exhibition in the commercial gallery of Druet - which led to his 'overnight success,' 15 years after being a runner-up for the Prix de Rome.

From this time he had regular exhibitions at the Druet gallery and at the major salons, up until the Salon d'Automne in 1940 and Les Independants in 1941.

After 1923 his work was also shown around France. In 1920 his paintings also went to the US and Brussels. The highlight years were 1926-27 with shows in Geneva, Tokyo, Stockholm, Cairo and Boston.

Retrospectively, since his death in 1942 at 60, Zingg has been shown in several Paris galleries, atphoto: design le vie au village by zingg the Salon d'Automne in 1943 and 1985, as well as in museums at Bescançon, Montbéliard and Belfort. Several French museums have also acquired his works.

I'll bet you've never heard of Jules Zingg. Neither had I before I received an invitation from the Atelier An. Girard, to help out with the vernissage of an exhibition of Zingg's sketches and watercolors, held this evening.

A later Zingg design; village detail done in bold strokes, bold colors.

At the gallery, I am introduced to Rosine Zingg and she has the grace to answer some of my idiotic questions, such as, "Why are you selling off Zingg's drawings?"

Frankly, if they were mine I wouldn't sell them. But they aren't mine - so this is why they are for sale. I have a couple of lithos I like a lot; but here are real drawings, real watercolors - by a guy who drew them outside, up in the mountains, in winter.

On show are 116 designs and watercolors for sale, and four paintings from private collections; one of which is Zingg's self-portrait.

I take photos of the ones I find representative and when I check them against the price list, I see that I've chosen several of the most expensive. But my favorite is the man in profile - which may be a print because it has a '10' after the signature and no sticker-number to match the list.

It is one done of a series of members of the Nardin family, who were neighbors of the Zingg family in Montbéliard. Its original was done in 1912.

Jules Zingg, although he did not like Paris, lived at two addresses in the 14th - so in some slim way he was a Montparnassian too. I think this ties everything together: artist from a humblephoto: l'atelier an girard background, finds success in Paris but dies prematurely, leaving a body of work - considered in his time as that of a 'petit maître.'

Not everybody can be a hero. Zingg worked at painting instead of his personal PR. Despite some tough times in the late '30's, he lived off his work. Like the country, art was 'work.'

The wine and cheese part of the 'vernissage' does not take place in the small gallery, but in the restaurant next door. I have my usual café, But Allan has a glass of white wine from the Jura - from Zingg's country.

On view and on sale now, until Friday, 21. April. At L'Atelier An. Girard, 7. Rue Campagne Première, Paris 14. Métro: Vavin. Info. Tel/Fax.: 01 43 22 01 16.

All illustrations, except the photo of the gallery above, are
Rosine Zingg©2000 and are used here by permission.
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