Émile Munier (1840 –1895) was a talented French academic artist who is best known for his light-hearted paintings of children. Munier was a student of Bouguereau, which is evident in his adoption of Bouguereau’s subjects, compositions and style. The artists were close friends, Munier often visited Bougereau’s studio; Bouguereau refered to him by the nicknames “La sagesse” and “Le sage Munier”.
The work of Bouguereau’s circle is often dismissed as Kitsch: the epitome of bad taste, but such an attitude I believe misses the essence of art. When I was searching the web for craft supplies I happened to come across this amusing Bob Ross t-shirt with the message: Create your own happy little world. Most would take it as a shallow statement made just to make a person feel good, but the curly haired master’s attitude actually reflects more wisdom than what is predominate in the philosophy of culture today. After all, Herbert Marcuse stated “Whether ritualized or not, art contains the rationality of negation. In its advanced positions, it is the Great Refusal- the protest against that which is”. To accept the world as it is as “reality” is to be without hope of a better world. Traditional art refuted the state of the world in its ugliness by creating an image of a better world. This is due to the fact that western art was rooted in the Messianic tradition. So I believe Munier’s art is a higher art than work which is a slavish copy of nature or work which is like an aesthetic tick tack toe game or work which reflects an ironic detachment from life. Like many artists, Munier’s art reflects the wisdom of childhood.
The title of this painting is rather interesting; Armistice (A Truce). The title implies that these cupids were fighting and have made peace. The subject of the painting seems to be an invention of Munier’s, since I have not seen a truce of cupids before. If the painting was an allegory of events in Munier’s time, the reference remains obscure.