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La Morgue

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Charles Meryon
French (1821 - 1868) Primary

La Morgue

Etching with aquatint
State: 4th state

9 1/2 in. x 8 1/2 in. (24.13 cm x 21.59 cm)
Bequest of M. Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College, 1894-1922

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 1935.8
Other Number(s): Deanery.229 (Deanery Number)
Geography: Europe, France
Classification: Fine and Visual Arts; Prints; Etchings
Culture/Nationality: French
Collection: Deanery Collection
Charles Meryon (1821-1868) was born in Paris, the son of a travelling English physician and a dancer at a Parisian opera house. After spending a few years in the French navy, he returned to Paris and began painting lessons. Meryon was born color-blind, however, a condition which disrupted his painting career and led him to study etching at the studio of Alexandre Bléry.

Meryon also suffered from mental illness throughout his life. His familiarity with poverty and melancholy shaped his artistic vision, and over the course of four years (1850-1854) he produced a series of twenty-two haunting and imaginative views of the streets, buildings, and bridges of Paris called "Eaux-fortes sur Paris."

In the majority of his etchings, Meryon treats human figures as subsidiary elements in the urban landscape. The figures in "La Morgue," however, relate a narrative: a body recently dredged from the river is taken to the city mortuary, as spectators watch from the wall. The scene takes place in an architectural setting depicted with characteristic clarity and imagination. This print hung in the Blue Room of the Deanery along with other prints from the same series and etchings of the American artist, James McNeill Whistler.

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