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Paul Albert Besnard
Mountain Peak
c. 1895
oil on canvas
Canvas: 122 1/4 × 28 1/4 inches (310.5 × 71.8 cm)Framed: 125 7/8 × 30 3/4 × 1 9/16 inches (319.7 × 78.1 × 4 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Beatrice Hood Stroup.
Accession Number
These extraordinary panels originally decorated the salon of Siegfried Bing’s L’Art Nouveau gallery in Paris. Dedicated to modern taste, the gallery contained a series of rooms decorated by contemporary artists. Paul Albert Besnard was commissioned to decorate the circular salon, which ultimately included eleven painted wall panels as well as an illusionistic ceiling panel.

Besnard’s panels display the emphasis on nature and organic design that characterizes the Art Nouveau movement. The human presence is dwarfed by the awesome scale of the mountains, which tower majestically above the viewer. Besnard’s rich palette and loose painting technique lend a mystical, otherworldly quality to the works.

The son of artists, at age 17 Besnard entered the studio of famed academic artist Alexandre Cabanel at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and sent his first painting to the Salon two years later. In 1874, Besnard won the prestigious Prix de Rome. A producer of both easel paintings and large murals, Besnard became director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts late in life.

The Telfair’s panels were acquired by the museum’s Fine Arts Advisor, Gari Melchers, in 1910. At the time, Melchers reported in a letter to the Telfair’s