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  • "10th Capt. Commandant Aureil" | John Lewis Shonborn (American, 1852-1931)
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"10th Capt. Commandant Aureil" | John Lewis Shonborn (American, 1852-1931)

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In oil on panel, signed lower right "Shonborn", titled somewhat illegibly lower left
Item # 906LQB08M 

A moody and romantic work, this painting captures a thoroughbred standing before a stark landscape under a gloomy sky.  There is a serenity to the painting with soft light surrounding the horse as he stands large above the observer.  Partially illegibly titled, the lower left corner is inscribed in an inordinately fine script that was likely executed using a needle while the paint was still wet, it reads ".....10th Capt. Commandant Aureil" and is signed in the right corner using the same method "Shonborn". Expert handling of muted tones with traces of a Barbizon influence in the saturation of the scene, this is a most fine equestrian study.

Born in Hungary, John Lewis Shonborn immigrated with his family to the United States early in his life, settling in Oxford, Iowa where he began drawing the horses of the family farm.  At the age of 20, he left for France to take painting lessons in various studios and eventually studied in the workshops of Charles Crauk at Amiens and Léon Bonnat in Paris. He further attended Maisons-Alfort, a veterinary school, where he practiced his art in a context deeply rooted in animal anatomy.

He began his career by painting pastoral scenes and countryside landscapes, much of this centered around the Ile-de-France, Senlis and Montlévéque, and he exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1877 to 1894. His career was interrupted by a serious deterioration in his health which resulted in total deafness and a serious eye condition. To mitigate this somewhat, he spent several months each year living in Algeria where he found the heat and sun were beneficial; during this time he executed some magnificent studies of Arab thoroughbreds and Algerian genre studies.

Literature & Further Reading:

  • E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Vol. XII, p. 1139
  • L'Algérie des Peintres, Marion Vidal-Bué, 2002, p. 310

Measurements: 20 1/2" W x 16 1/2" H [frame];14 5/8" W x 10 3/16" H [panel]

Condition Report:
Period correct and perhaps original frame with gilt wear throughout. Painting shows beautifully - eventually it should be cleaned, but not yet as the surface grime is very minor. Under UV examination: inpainting to extreme edges of the painting, spots of touch-up to the sky and ground throughout, though the flare translucency and invisibility to the unaided eye suggest these are possibly just light pigment refreshes rather than touch-ups; spot of inpainting to the base of tail.