Narcisse Diaz (French 1807-1879) Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Pena was born to Spanish emigrant parents on August 20, 1808 in Bordeaux. He survived the loss of a leg in a childhood accident and further suffered the death of his parents at age fifteen. Diaz’s artistic training was as a porcelain painter and he studied briefly with the painter Souchon. His early paintings catered to the popular taste for 18th century style Rococo and resulted in financial success for the young artist. Fetes galantes were favorite subjects and the women depicted in Diaz’s canvases were often cloaked in exotic Turkish garb, reflecting the artist’s admiration for Delacroix and his orientalist followers. Indeed, Diaz’s first Salon entry in 1831 was titled Scene Amour.
Diaz first visited Barbizon in 1835 and it was in 1837 that he met Rousseau. The influence of Rousseau could be seen in Diaz’s Salon entry of that year depicting a view of the Fontainebleau Forest. Through the 1840s, his figure paintings continued to be the major part of his work, and are thought to have influenced the female subjects of Corot, Renoir and certainly Monticelli. Though figure painting would always remain important for Diaz, it is his landscapes for which the artist is most remembered.
A regular exhibitor at the Salon, in 1848 Diaz won a first-class medal, and received the Legion d’honneur. A good-natured and generous man, Diaz’s financial success enabled him to lend a helping hand to his friends when in need, including Troyon, Rousseau and Millet. The artist died at Menton on November 18, 1876.
Museum Collections Include:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Detroit Institute of Art, MI; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge; Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; Musee du Louvre, Paris; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN;