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Charles Meryon

Art Encyclopedia:

Charles Meryon

(b Paris, 23 Nov 1821; d Charenton, 14 Feb 1868). French printmaker. He was the illegitimate son of Lady Hester Stanhope's companion and chronicler, Dr Charles Lewis Meryon, and Narcisse Chaspoux, a dancer at the Paris Op?ra. He was acknowledged in 1824, but initial separation from his father and the stigma of illegitimacy oppressed him throughout his life. After private schooling at Passy, he entered the French Naval Academy at Brest in 1837 and travelled with his parents in western Europe and on voyages to North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. A precocious draughtsman, Meryon took some drawing lessons on his return to Toulon in 1840 from Vincent Courdouan (1810-93), from whom he learnt to value the elegant precision of line he was later to develop to a supreme degree. He served as midshipman on the corvette Le Rhin during its mission to the French possessions in Oceania (1842-6). Meryon drew small but lively sketches of shipboard life, minor ethnographic studies and more laboured topographical views. Signs of incipient mental instability occurred as he resigned from the navy in 1848. Having travelled in northern France, Belgium and to London, he settled in Paris to study painting with the minor David pupil, Charles-Fran?ois Ph?lippes (d 1867), when he was diagnosed as colour-blind. Despite his unusual visual acuity, Meryon suffered from a common form of Daltonism, or red-green confusion, as is poignantly attested in the pastel the Fishing Boat (Paris, Louvre).

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