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Rouen, Abbey-Church of Saint Ouen from the Cathedral

Collection particulière © Dominique Langlois

Charles Frechon

(1856 - 1929)

Date : 1891 | Medium : Oil on canvas

The original feature of this painting by Charles Fréchon, compared with many of the other canvases presented in the exhibition, is the fact that it is not a view of the cathedral, but rather a view from the cathedral. The real subject of the painting is the city of Rouen, its slate roofs, the Saint Ouen abbey church which overlooks them and the verdant surrounding hills. The painter skilfully plays on the contrasting colours of the city bathed in morning light and the more sombre, cooler colours of the foreground. The architectural foreground, which acts as a bold frame, seems unusual at first glance; it consists of a stone wall and a column supporting the beginnings of a vaulted arch and is visibly elevated in comparison with the city. What is this strange viewpoint? The feature which shows us that we are on the gallery of Rouen cathedral is the gargoyle silhouetted against the sky; it serves as a point of reference, or rather a point of recognition. The gargoyle embodies the entire building, which we imagine without actually seeing it. The animal, overrun with vegetation, seems to be staring enviously at the birds flying off into the distance. As well as balancing out the composition, the gargoyle also allows us to understand the coherence of this commanding view.


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