Camille Félix Bellanger (Paris, 1853 – Paris, 1923) was a well-known academic painter. These two portraits of the artist at work depict him not as a bourgeois painter, but as a modern artist: the vogue for open-air painting which became so popular in the late 19th century profoundly altered artistic practice.
Bellanger therefore appears very much as a painter of his times, working on an outdoor subject without going so far as to paint it from life (at least in this example).
There is a detail which draws the eye in one of the two photographs: in the bottom left-hand corner of his easel is what could be a working photograph on which the artist is basing his canvas. We can therefore see the tricks of the trade at first hand since artists had been using photography from its beginnings both for documentary purposes, as was apparent in the recent exhibition Delacroix and photography, as well as for more structural ends.
This picture is particularly relevant to the photographic collection at the Petit Palais, which is largely based around the concept of “art in the making”.