Eugène Carrière was a painter and printmaker. He was the eighth of nine children of a poor insurance salesman and was brought up in Strasbourg. His brother Ernest (1858-1908) was a ceramicist.
Carrière received his artistic training in commercial lithography at the Ecole Municipale de Dessin in Strasbourg. In 1868, inspired by the paintings of Rubens in the Louvre, he decided to become an artist, studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Alexandre Cabanel until 1879, and working from 1872 to 1873 in the studio of Jules Chéret. In 1878 he made his debut at the Salon. From 1880 to 1885 he worked part time with his brother Ernest at the Sèvres porcelain factory where he met Auguste Rodin.
Carrière's paintings with their near monochromatic brown palette and painterly technique were influenced by Jean-Jacques Henner, e.g. Sick Child (1885; Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Most of Carrière's paintings concern family relationships. It has been suggested that his pictures of mother and childs may have been influenced by Whistler (see Mother and child reclining on a couch (M.1297)).
His method of laying in the preliminary underpainting, which showed a debt to the techniques of the old masters, was developed by Carrière by adding subtle variations in colour and was treated by him as a finished work of art. In this way he was akin to Whistler who also worked with a subdued tonal palette and challenged conventional notions of finish. However, their work had a different motivation. Carrière was a spiritualist, and the mysterious, dreamlike nature of much of his work suggested something of the ethereal and universal.
Carrière's work was favourably received at the 1884 Salon, causing the art critic Roger Marx to take up his cause. Carrière was from this point accepted into the fashionable circle of artists, critics, writers and collectors in Paris. Carrière came to occupy a significant place in the Symbolist movement and was admired by Symbolist critics such as Charles Morice and Jean Dolent. He frequented the Café Voltaire and was involved in Symbolist theatre.
Carrière was a founder member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and of the Salon d'Automne, of which he was elected honorary President. Carrière exhibited with the Libre Esthétique in Brussels in 1894, 1896 and 1899, the Munich Secession in 1896, 1899, 1905 and 1906 and the Berlin Secession in 1904. Following his death from cancer of the throat, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and the Salon d'Automne in 1906, and the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts and the Libre Esthétique in 1907, held major retrospective exhibitions of his work.
Carrière, E., Ecrits et lettres choisies, ed. J. Delvolvé, Paris, 1907.
Bantens, Robert J., Eugène Carrière: His Work and his Influence, dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, 1975; microfilm, Ann Arbor, 1976); Bantens, R. J., Eugène Carrière: The Symbol of Creation, New York, 1990; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Bantens, Robert J., 'Eugène Carrière', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 8 August 2002).