Louis Rémy Mignot (1831–1870)

The career of Louis Rémy Mignot defies easy categorization. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Mignot studied painting in the Netherlands, began his professional career in the fold of the Hudson River School (specifically, in the Tenth Street Studio Building), painted in the Andes alongside Frederic Church, and experimented with European aestheticism toward the end of his life.

Celebrated for his delicate use of color and atmospheric depiction of space, Mignot was held up as the equal to Church himself. After the pair’s South American sojourn, a critic summarized the prevailing feeling that “Mignot has fearlessly entered on a race with Church…It may yet be ‘neck and neck.’” Mignot again came to the forefront of the art world in 1996, when the North Carolina Museum of Art mounted a major retrospective of his life and work. Despite the fame that he achieved during his lifetime, Mignot inherited varying posthumous critical fortunes. This is now attributed to the premature nature of his death, just four months before his fortieth birthday, and to the historical complexities surrounding his peripatetic career. The North Carolina exhibition, which was also installed at the National Academy of Design Museum, restored Mignot to his rightful place in the canon of nineteenth-century art.

The mutability of place that defined Mignot’s life and career also forms a significant theme in his work. Mignot’s boundless imagination led him to mix real and fantastic elements into romantic, ethereal visions. He experimented with composite landscapes after journeying to Panama and Ecuador with Church in 1857, creating a group of paintings that combined the most dramatic elements of different South American sites. The technique recurred in the last eight years of his life, when the Civil War forced the Southerner into European exile. The move pushed his work in new directions: Mignot befriended James McNeill Whistler in Paris and became one of the only members of the Hudson River School to embrace the nascent aestheticism of Europe. His late work bears a mysterious, dramatic force heightened by his increasingly atmospheric technique.

During his tenure in New York, Mignot sat on the admissions committee of the Century Association, helped to form the Artists Fund Society, and was named an academician of the National Academy of Design. In Europe, he exhibited at the British Institution, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the Paris Salon. His paintings are now in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Newark Museum, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.