One of the most notable French Academic painters of the late 19th century to the early 20th century was the Rennes-born Guillaume Seignac. Born in 1870, Guillaume started training in 1889 at the Academie Julian in Paris. He was there till 1895 when he fully began his career. The works he created were heavily influenced by his teachers, most notably William-Adolphie Bouguereau, Gabriel Ferrier, and Tony Robert-Fleury.
Seignac’s academic training was evident in his works which featured classical themes such as diaphanous drapery over a woman’s nude body. His style was reminiscent of Parthenon sculptor Phidias and quattrocento artists like Botticelli. Despite his historical influences, Seignac’s technique appealed to the contemporary audience in belle epoque Paris.
His works mostly feature women, either in a semi-nude form, covered only in transparent clothing, or modestly robed in full-body Greek-style attire. Whichever depiction he chose for a particular painting, he could still reveal the body beneath the clothes, usually in homage to the proportional ideal of Western beauty. The poses of his subjects were almost as fascinating as his technical skills, which were renowned among art enthusiasts then.
The last few years of the 19th century were monumental to Seignac as he started exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Francaises in Paris.
He started the 20th century on a high note, winning an honorable mention in 1900 and a Third-Class medal in 1903.
He went on to win more honors and accrue notable financial success, evident in his move to the Montparnasse neighborhood in 1902.
Classical themes and artists heavily influenced Guillaume Seignac’s academic style. While he drew human figures, he employed the compositional strategies he learned at the Academy and added his touch to create distinguishing pieces. The result was a unique style that appealed to traditional art connoisseurs and contemporary art lovers. The images of Greek and Roman figures like Cupid, Venus, Psyche, and Diana were depicted artistically, with related landscapes like Roman fountains, Greek urns, and Pompeian benches in the background.
Some of Seignac’s most famous works include Young Woman of Pompeii on a Terrace, The Muse, Cupid and Psyche, Venus and Cupid, and Diana Hunting. These works showcase the strength of his academic training, which emphasized maintaining a balance between warm and cool hues as an ideal example of color harmonies. The depiction of his subjects is also reminiscent of standards set by the famed Athenian sculptor, Polykleitos in his Canon of Proportions. The technique enables artists to showcase the dynamism of their work through a solitary figure.
Before he died in 1924,Seignac left a robust body of work currently on display in museums worldwide and in personal collections of connoisseurs.
After his death, there was a decline in art sales as the world grappled with the first world war and the Great Depression that came after it. The situation improved in the 1940s, and Seignac’s works began gaining ground again in the markets. Since the 1990s, his works have gained greater critical acclaim due to the reevaluation of works made by academically-trained painters.