Gerveux’s Study of a Wounded Soldier

by mitchellgallery

Henri Gervex, Study for Le Blessé de Guerre

Henri Gerveux (French, 1852-1929). Study for Le Blessé de Guerre (The wounded soldier). Charcoal, red and white chalk on blue paper.

In this study by the academically-trained artist Gerveux, a young man lies awake in bed. Moonlight from a window to the left cuts through the bluish darkness and falls on him. Instead of just delineating the form of the man in a dark outline all around, Gerveux touches his left side where the light falls with white chalk. Only under his right shoulder are there deliberate shadows made in black charcoal. These darker lines suggest the substantiality of the young man’s body, the weight of it lying on the mattress. But the mass of his body is also shown more indirectly by the rumpled sheet that has fallen around his waist and the folds that lie in the foreground, also touched by the moonlight.

Again, Gerveux works with the effects of moonlight to suggest the atmosphere of the scene and the inner state of the wounded soldier. You can just see, by the contrast of his dark eyelashes against the moonlit parts of his face, that the man’s eyes are open. He’s not completely at rest; instead of sinking all the way into the bed, he seems contained within himself, and aware of his position on the pillow (in the way that someone injured needs to hold themselves in a certain position in bed to be comfortable). Even though he’s not in complete repose, the lines of his body are sinuous all the same, recalling paintings of sensuous reclining Odalisques or Venuses by Ingres and Titian.

Gerveux’s work is in harmony with the best of the Academic tradition of drawing represented in the exhibit. As the painter and fierce proponent of this tradition, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, said,”Drawing is the probity of art. To draw does not mean simply to reproduce contours; drawing does not consist merely of line: drawing is also expression, the inner form, the plane, modeling. See what remains after that.”