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NAPOLEON´s Wars in paintings at Versailles

Napoleon’s Wars, seen with Louis François Lejeune´s eyes


VERSAILLES: From 14 February to 13 May 2012, the palace of Versailles presents the exhibition Napoleon’s Wars. Louis François Lejeune, general and painter in the Africa and Crimea rooms.

The curatorship of this exhibition is provided by Valérie Bajou, Curator at the palace of Versailles.

Detail photo: Henning Høholt

From 14 February to 13 May 2012, the palace of Versailles presents the exhibition Napoleon’s Wars. Louis François Lejeune, general and painter in the Africa and Crimea rooms.

At Versailles this summer’s exhibition in 2012 is an interesting presentation of Napoleon III’s wars. At that time film and photographic equipment didn´t exist, if one would prove something, they had to ask artists to documentary it in the form of drawings and sketchesrecorded at the first site, which then was brought in to the artists’ studies and developed into paintings, small and large, as in Versailles some in very large sizes. These are participating to provide an interesting insight into how this happened, but this is also a innfalsport, a documentation of how one should go dressed at that time, which of course has inspired contemporary fashion, and also continues to inspire fashion creators when they need to renew themselves, or perhaps during dry for ideas.

Introducing text and all detail photos, most of which are details from a very large paintings by Henning Høholt

Photo: Henning Høholt

The soldier, spy, painter and diplomat Louis François Lejeune(1775 – 1848) is a unique figure in the history of his time: as a soldier, he fought in all the wars of the Revolution and the Empire before reaching the rank of brigade general. But that was not enough for him: during his military career he painted the principal battles in a dozen paintings, then described the Napoleonic campaigns at length in his Souvenirs.

Detajl photo: Henning Høholt

The exhibition is designed to do justice to this colourful artist. It presents his drawings and his paintings in the context of the artists of his time, as well as his personal memories of military and civilian life during the Empire, the Restoration and the July Monarchy.

Six sections present his production of battle paintings, from his observation of the theatre of operations until their exhibition in the Parisian salons. Through the life and works of Louis François Lejeune, the visitor discovers an eyewitness account of the wars of Napoleon.

Stéphane Baron (1830-1921) after Jean Urbain Guérin (1760-1836)
Portrait of Louis François Lejeune
Oil on cavas. H. 1,16 m ; W. 0,70 m
Château de Versailles, MV 6536
© J.-M. Manaï


In the course of his life, the general and painter Louis François Lejeune (1775-1848) alternated between military missions and periods consecrated to painting.

Lejeune studied painting in the private studio of the landscape painter Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819), and at the Royal Academy of Painting, which he entered in 1789. In 1792, aged 17, he abruptly interrupted his studies and enrolled in the army, in the Compagnie des Arts.

He rose up rapidly through the ranks: after being incorporated into the Engineering Corps, he became one of the aides de camp of marshal Alexandre Berthier in 1800. During twenty years he took part in most of the military campaigns, including the siege of Charleroi (1794), the crossing of the Rhine (1795), the second Italian campaign (1800), the first German campaign (1805), the war in Spain (1808-1812) and the Russian campaign (1812).

Photo: Henning Høholt

While he embraced his military career with enthusiasm, Lejeune did not forget his vocation to be a painter. In 1798, he exhibited for the first time in the Salon with The Death of General Marceau. The success of The Battle of Marengo, exhibited in the Salon of 1801, led him to undertake a cycle of paintings of battles in which the triumphal marches of the armies are balanced by the long hours spent in bivouacs and sieges.

Detail Photo: Henning Høholt

The Battle of Aboukir and The Battle of the Lodi Bridge were exhibited in 1804. The Bivouac of Napoleon on the Eve of Austerlitz was the only commission he ever received. This cycle of paintings shows an encyclopaedic aim as Lejeune also depicted battles in which he did not participate. While fully pursuing his military career, he managed to have works presented up until 1845 in nearly all the Salons during the Consulate, the Empire and the Restoration.

Detail Photo: Henning Høholt

In 1835, the July Monarchy put an end to the functions of Lejeune in the army. He then began a career as a public figure: he was appointed Director of the School of Beaux-Arts in Toulouse.

He was also appointed interim Mayor of that city in 1841.

At the same time he was writing his Souvenirs, in which he presented his experience of Napoleon’s wars.

He died in 1843 in Toulouse at the age of seventy-three.

Catalogue of the exhibition

Les Guerres de Napoléon. Louis François Lejeune, général et peintre
edited by Valérie Bajou
co-published with Hazan, 2012
28 x 24 cm, 280 p., €39

Les Guerres de Napoléon.

Louis François Lejeune, général et peintre

Of the 120 works – paintings, drawings, maps and scientific instruments – presented in this catalogue, thirteen paintings of battles by Louis François Lejeune(1775-1848) are kept in the palace of Versailles and reveal a unique figure of the 19th century who had three full careers: artistic, military and political.

Detail photo: Henning Høholt

After his apprenticeship under the painter Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, Lejeune participated in seventeen military campaigns around Europe as an indefatigable aide de camp, then an engineering officer drawing on his skills in mathematics, and later as a reconnaissance officer with an eye for detail that made him a perfect spy.

Louis François Lejeune fought and painted for 20 years, becoming the war reporter of the Napoleonic adventure. His works are both historical documents of the wars of the Revolution and the Empire and instruments of propaganda in favour of the Emperor.

Detail photo: Henning Høholt

The catalogue of the exhibition also shows how he used topographical reports for the composition of his battle paintings.

For the first time, paintings kept until now by descendents of the artist will be presented to the public, portraits and landscapes that will offer a more intimate view of this outstanding artist.

Detail photo: Henning Høholt


Great Victory for Andris Nelsons and BSO in Paris

Once again we had the pleasure of a vist by Birmingham synphony Orchestra at Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris. This time wit a full concertversion of Richard Wagners opera Tristan and Isolde, Sunday 11. March 2012.

Review by Henning Høholt

It became a great victory for the orchestra and its extraordinary conductor Andris Nelsons. – And for them who couldnt attend it, – as it was completely sold out. France Musique broadcasts the concert Saturday June 2nd. 2012. Don´t forget it!!!

The male choire who followed very well up were accentus, leaded by Pieter-Jelle de Boer.

The role list was as following:

Isolde: Lioba Braun. Tristan: Stephen Gould. Kurvenal: Brett Polegato. King Marke: Matthew Best. Brangäne: Christianne Stotijn.  A sailor, a helmsman: Ben Johnson. A shepherd: Benedict Nelson.

Wonderful Orchestral Soloists: English horn ? outstanding of stage.  Solo bratch ? 1st. Violin? and many more.

The roles are demanding, the leading five roles are something extraordinary, and out of them Tristan and Isolde deserves experts in their repertoar. And specially in the demanding Wagner repertoar. To day in the world there are only a few.

The one who immediately was fitting in to the Wagner feeling, and who keeped it during the whole evening was  Brett Polegato as Kurvenal. He has the right voice, the right “flavour” for this demanding role, in which we have heard more or less all the leading ones. A good job.

I liked both King Marke: Matthew Best, deep floating beautiful sound and Brangäne: Christianne Stotijn, mezzosopranoI was feeling that her voice is perfect in this kind of repertoar, but I could have prefered even a stronger power during some parts.

Stephen Gould as Tristan ended very well, as it also shall. His third act was the best. It sounded to me like it took a time before he was feeling really warm. He has absolutely the power needed for a heroic tenor, he has a strong personality in his voice, and was allways shining on the top of the orchestra, impressing. In his pianissimo parts the voice is beautiful, but it is sometimes lacking beauty when it is very powerful, however, I do know, that it is not easy to do both things at the same time, and it is very important that we hear Tristan on the top of the orchestra in the powerful parts, which there are many of. But it was beautiful in his pianissimo parts, specially in the love duet with Isolde.

Lioba Braun, mezzosopran, as Isolde did a good job, her voice is beautiful all the way. she dont have so much power as tristan, but she has the beauty, and for her many difficult parts it worked very well, and also for her the last act was the best. But she had the beauty all the way. Isoldes Liebestod was a masterpiece. However. I prefer a dramatic soprano, and not a dramatic mezzosoprano as Isolde. I am grown up in the Scandinavian tradition with the Kirsten Flagstad, Aase Nordmo Løvberg, Ingrid Bjoner and Birgit Nilsson sound in my ears, with this background I feel that a dramatic soprano in this role is perfect. Specially as Brangäne is a mezzo, then in their duet part, it sounds a bit strange that it is two voices in the same sound feeling. Lioba Braun, must be carefully, because a few times i had the feeling that she was using the ascenseur technique, as for exempel in “Liebe”. It is more beautiful to go directly in on the tune, than lifting it up. – Well it is easy to sit and criticise and write about these details. But the result as Isolde was amazing.

Furthermore, visually,  Lioba Braun three outfits: Black long evening dress with lace arms in first act, Pink extra long evening dress with shawl in the lighter pink colour with lining in the same as the dress in the second act, – the love act, and in the last act a deliciouse light grey long evening dress with a slim coat in the same lenght in black laces,  was elegant and deliciouse. This lifted all the performance visually.

Musically Andris Nelsons gave it all he could, and he did a really good job. We could all hear that the orchestra has been working hard on the preparations, and it is so that “practice makes perfect”, and as I feel that the wish for Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is to be on the master level. They are on the very right way. – Unfortunately I have not had the possibility to listen to any of their records, but I hope i ill succeed with that in the future. To find out if they keep the same master level on CD. I have even not been informed from the orchestra on what label they are?


Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde, or Tristan and Isolda, or Tristran and Ysolt) is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a german libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von strassburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans vn Bülow conducting. Wagner referred to “Tristan und Isolde” not as an opera, but called it “Eine Handlung” (literally drama or plot), which was the equivalent of the term used by the Spanish playwright Calderón for his dramas.

Wagner’s composition of Tristan und Isolde was inspired by his affair with Mathilde Wesendonck and the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Widely acknowledged as one of the peaks of the operatic repertory, Tristan was notable for Wagner’s advanced use of chromaticism, tonality, orchestral colour and harmonic suspension.

Please enjoy our reviews from the new Tristan and Isolde production at the Nationalopera in Oslo, premiered Sunday March 4th:



From Tristan and Isolde in Oslo: Isolde: KAREN FOSTER; Tristan:ROBERT GAMBILL surrounded by poppies and an amazing young nude couple. Foto: Erik Berg by Claus Drecker. (in norwegian language)

and by Tomas Bagackas (in english language)