Title: The death of General Beaupuy.
Author : BLOCH Alexandre (1860 - 1919)
Creation date : 1888
Date shown: 1793
Dimensions: Height 200 - Width 160
Technique and other indications: Oil painting on canvas
Storage location: Rennes Museum of Fine Arts website
Contact copyright: © Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adelaide Beaudoin
The death of General Beaupuy.
© Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adelaide Beaudoin
Publication date: March 2016
The Chouannerie is a vast uprising of peasants hostile to the policy of the revolutionary assemblies and to the local patriots who impose it. The refusal to give up religious values is a decisive element in their motivations. The insurgency affects Brittany, Vendée and parts of western France. The peasants allied themselves with the local nobility who would supervise them and form with them the Catholic and Royal Army of Vendée. The first Chouannerie of 1793-1794 was accompanied by violence, hatred and resentment.
The episode immortalized by Alexandre Bloch refers to the passage of the Loire by the Vendeans in October 1793, before reaching Granville. On October 25, the town of Château-Gontier, in Mayenne, was taken by the Vendée army. This day sees the perishing of the Republican General Beaupuy who would have declared in falling: "I could not win for the Republic, I die for it. The general, who barricaded himself with his men in a house, collapsed under fire from one of the attackers who had just forced the door. The general of the Republic in uniform, who falls dramatically in the midst of his men, opposes the leader of the peasant-assailants on the right, who already brandishes his saber in victory.
A sometimes fanciful history painting
Encouraged by the republican state, Alexandre Bloch specializes in history painting evoking the repression of the Chouannerie.
The painter is little concerned with historical truth: General Beaupuy, only wounded in combat, died in 1796 during an offensive on the Rhine during the Emmendingen campaign. It is Blosse, another general, who is killed at Château-Gontier. In addition, the fighting at Château-Gontier took place at night, around 11 p.m.
These historical errors demonstrate the sometimes whimsical aspect of official history painting. The main thing is the dramatic and pathetic intensity of the scene. The Death of General Beaupuy is a pretext to show the heroism of the besieged Republicans, who prefer to fight to the death rather than surrender. This type of painting could not remain without resonance in the spirit of "revenge" following the defeat of 1870, which led to the loss of Alsace-Lorraine.
The painter does not escape the taste for the anecdote which characterizes the painting of academic history of the IIIe Republic. The uniforms and attitudes of the Republicans contrast with the sinister outfits and looks of the Chouans, winners thanks to their superiority in numbers.
Like Marat and the young Bara, Beaupuy is a martyr of the Republic.
Art and politics
Republican painting participates through Chouan in the construction of a national memory. From the 1880s, on the eve of the celebration of the centenary of the Revolution, dozens of painters reproduced episodes relating to the Chouannerie. This appropriation of the French Revolution by the very young IIIe Republic becomes a major political stake, intended to establish its still fragile legitimacy in the face of religious fanaticism. By commissioning historical themes borrowed from national history, the IIIe République is a great consumer of images evoking the courage of revolutionary heroes.
A fanciful and folkloristic vision of the wars of Vendée illustrates the look that the “Parisian” painters have on events which allow them to give free rein to their imagination and their marked taste for the “exoticism” of a then still remote province. . Alexandre Bloch obeys an educational duty dictated by the Republic and this taste for the cult of the martyred heroes of the Revolution, whose genre David had inaugurated with his Murdered Marat (1793, Brussels, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium).
XIX sculpturee century is crossed by this same craze. Few cities then escape this "statuomania" which invades public places. In western France, Rennes inaugurated in 1892 the statue of Leperdit, who was mayor of the city under the Terror and became the symbol of the tolerant revolution. The City of Saint-Brieuc had a statue erected in 1889 representing Poulain Corbion, former mayor and deputy to the States General of 1789 (destroyed in 1942).
- revolutionary wars
- Third Republic
François FURET, "Vendée", "Chouannerie", in François FURET and Mona OZOUF (dir.), Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, Paris, Flammarion, 1988, reed. coll. "Champs", 1992.
Jean-Clément MARTIN, "The Vendée region of memory" in Pierre NORA (dir.), Memorial place, t. 1, The Republic, Paris, Gallimard, 1984, reed. "Quarto", 1997.
Jean-Clément MARTIN, Whites and Blues in the torn Vendée, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Discoveries", new. edition, 2001.
COLLECTIVE, Bretons or Chouans ... Breton peasants in history painting of revolutionary inspiration in the 19th century, catalog of the exhibition Quimper - Saint-Brieuc, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of History, 1985-1990.
To cite this article
Patrick DAUM, "The chouannerie under the gaze of the IIIe Republic "