Laslett John Pott (British 1837 – 1898), The Jester, exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts 1884
Laslett John Pott, born and raised in Nottinghamshire, specialized in historical paintings set in the 16th through the 19th century, many chronicling Napoleon’s bloodstained battles. Catering to the preferences of the middlebrow Victorians, he also painted emotionally laden narratives and sentimental scenes from classical English literature.
From 1860 to 1897, Pott exhibited an impressive 43 works at the Royal Academy of Arts. Some of his most famous paintings are: Mary Queen of Scots on Her Way to Her Execution, Charles I After His Trial, and On the March from Moscow. Disinherited was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1884.
Pott expressed a passion for painting and displayed extraordinary talent at a very young age. However, Pott’s father insisted that his son pursue a career in architecture and forced him to become an apprentice to a local architect at the age of sixteen. Bored of columns and corbels, the younger Pott eventually persuaded his father to enroll him at a well-known art school in Bloomsbury, London. A few years later, Pott became a student of Alexander Johnstone (1815 – 1891), a Scottish history and genre painter. While training in Johnstone’s studio, Pott produced his first paintings accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy. Almost instantly Pott won the respect and admiration of the top professional art critics, as well as the general public.
When he was only 26 year old, Pott’s painting, Puss in Boots, was selected to hang “on the line” at the 1863 Royal Academy Exhibition – a huge honor, since many paintings were hung too high or too low to be viewed properly. The next year, Pott’s Rebecca describes the Fight to Ivanhoe was exhibited at the Academy, followed by Old Memories in 1865.
Pott continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy throughout his career, and was often praised by the critics at the Art Journal for both his sentiment and skill. His painting called On the March from Moscow (1873), an image of Napoleon’s defeated and downtrodden army during his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, was thought to be one of his most impressive and emotive compositions. Another subject from France’s dismal history appeared at the Academy in 1874; the painting, Paris, 1793, depicts two victims on their way to the guillotine. Although Pott was clearly drawn to the tragedy of war and the dark side of human life, he sent several paintings to the Academy that were more joyous in nature; Don Quixote at the Ball (1875) and The Jester’s Story (1891) are two of his more humorous and romantic compositions.
The Works of Laslett John Pott, James Dafforne, The Art Journal (1875-1887), New Series, Vol. 3 (1877), pp. 289-292; http://archive.org/stream/jstor-20569117/20569117_djvu.txt
The Master Painters of Britain, edited by Gleeson White, Published by T. C. & E. C. Jack (1909), pg. 288-289
“Fletcher’s of Collins Street”: Melbourne’s Leading Nineteenth-Century Art Dealer, Alexander Fletcher (1837– 1914)
Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz (Spanish, 1848-1921), Doña Juana la Loca – Death of Felipe The Handsome (1877), oil on canvas, hung in Prado Museum, Madrid, 55″ x 74.75″
Philip the Handsome and Juana the Mad – Showing “Juana the Mad” holding vigil over the coffin of her husband, Philip the Handsome.
Fransisco Pradilla y Ortiz is perhaps the most celebrated Spanish artist of his time, and Doña Juana La Loca – Death of Felipe The Handsome is a magnificent example of Pradilla’s anecdotal historical paintings.
By the end of his life, Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz had served as the Director of the Prado Museum, won numerous international awards, including the French Legion of Honor, and held the position of the Director of the Spanish Academy in Rome. He is best remembered for having taught the painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida in Rome, and for the painting Doña Juana La Loca, which toured several European nations as a masterpiece and galvanized a new generation of history painters in Spain.
Pradilla was heavily influenced by Velázquez, Titian, El Greco and Ribera, all of whom are well represented in the Prado Collection. Even late in life, he regularly copied Old Master paintings in order to improve his technique. He was known for his dedication to the study of Greek and Roman texts and Spanish historical documents, which inspired many of his paintings. He was also well noted by friends for a large library of rare books and an ability to speak several languages.
Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz was born to a poor family in Zaragoza, Spain. He was accepted to the local Institute of Zaragoza. But, due to a lack of money, he was unable to pay for his own supplies and tuition and had to end his studies there.
Thereafter, Pradilla joined the workshop of the stage scenery painter Mariano Pescador. The work gave him needed money, which he used to attend the Fine Arts School in the Academy of San Luis in Zaragoza and, eventually, move to Madrid.
In Madrid, he continued to make a living painting scenery for theaters. His ambition and talent eventually won him a place in the School of Painting and Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid. In addition to his classwork, the records of the Prado show that, beginning in 1869, he regularly visited the Collection in order to copy Old Master paintings.
Pradilla was among the first group of students given government scholarships to study at the new Spanish Academy in Rome, founded in 1873, but opened to students in 1874. The Spanish School in Rome would become the most important center for artistic training in Spain and Pradilla would become one of its most influential students (1874-1877) and teachers (1877-1896).
During three years, students were required to produce copies of Old Master paintings and Greek and Roman statuary, in addition to regular travel in order to encourage a broader perspective. While a student, Pradilla traveled extensively, visiting Venice, Florence, Milan, Piza, Paris, and six cities in Germany. The culmination of each student’s study in at the Spanish Academy in Rome was a large, multi-figural history painting. In Pradilla’s case his final painting for the Academy, Doña Juana la Loca, would be an internationally-praised work and awarded a Medal of Honor at the 1878 National Exposition of Bellas Artes.
The painting depicts a scene from the life of the Spanish Royal Joanna (1479-1555), the second daughter of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain. After the death of her husband, Joanna accompanied the body to its place of burial. Refusing to sleep or leave the casket, she kept vigil over the casket in torrential rain and winds. This, combined with other behaviors deemed as eccentric, estranged her from other royals. She spent the last years of her life isolated in a convent.
Pradilla’s portrayal is notable for its underlying classical composition combined with Realism. In addition to his strong figural work, the painting reflects Pradilla’s understanding of landscape. He was a member of the Spanish Watercolorist Society, which specialized in disseminating landscape skills, and a student of the famous Spanish landscape painter Carlos de Haes. Several sketches for the landscape of Juana la Loca reveal the enormous amount of work he did to effectively portray the atmosphere, clouds, and ground convincingly.
Retrospectives of his life and works were held in Madrid (1948 and 1985) and Zaragoza (1985). Three of his major works are now held in the Prado, but the majority are held in private hands or regional museums and government buildings, especially in his native Zaragoza.
Queen Juana I of Castile (1479-1555) is generally known as “Joan the Mad”. Despite her nickname, Juana’s “madness” has often been disputed; she may have been locked up for political reasons only. Either way, she was a passionate woman, who fell madly in love with her handsome husband and continued to love him even after his death.
Philip the Handsome of Austria was born in the year 1478 in Bruges; what is now a part of Belgium. When Philip was eighteen years old he took on rulership of the inherited Burgundian lands himself, although as a youth he was known to be irresponsible and lazy. In 1496 he married Joanna (Juana), the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, in Lier Belgium. Juana, who was often sick as a child, had developed into a sullen, reserved young woman, aloof and emotionally unstable. This was to be a politically arranged marriage that sought to strengthen Spain through Portugal against the French.
At their first encounter they were immediately smitten with each other, demanding that they be married on the spot. For Philip, whose past-times included mostly drinking, philandering, and feasting, but Juana, naive in her expectations of court marriage, was utterly infatuated with her new husband.
In 1501 Philip and Juana were summoned back to Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella no doubt wanted to reconnoiter their position after the recent loss of their only male heir to the Spanish Crown, the son of her sister Isabel, (who also died), and her elder brother. This left Juana as sole heiress to Spain, Mexico, Peru, and the whole of the Caribbean!
Philip had a lousy time in Spain. The continual religious rituals, the awful heat, and the fact that Spanish kept all the women hidden away somewhere, sent Philip running and screaming back to Flanders. Juana’s sanity seemed to worsen under the cold discipline of her mother. Indeed, when she attempted to fly after Philip she was imprisoned by her mother in Castle La Mota. Isabella would not hear of Juana’s rejoining Philip until she had been properly tutored in Queenship. Juana, who tried to escape but was thwarted by her mother, went from periods of brooding silence to frenzied fits of rage.
Juana’s mother died in 1504 and she was proclaimed Queen of Castile.
Then in September of 1506 Philip fell ill for six days and died at Burgos. He was 28 years old. She refused to leave his corpse but for short periods and she wore only black. Philip’s coffin was eventually moved to a monastery, but five weeks later she had him exhumed amid rumors that for some crazy reason his body might have been stolen. She tried to kiss his very dead feet and had to be forcibly removed from the tomb.
When a plague broke out in Burgos she decided to make off for Torquemada, take the coffin with her, and leave it en-route at Granada. There she was compelled again to check to make sure he was still in there.
She had the coffin guarded by armed escorts, and other women were warned to keep away. Traveling only at night, resting at monasteries whilst avoiding nunneries, she moved along stopping finally at a small village where, refusing the help of midwives, she gave birth to a daughter, Catalina. By this time Ferdinand had ordered her back home where she was once again locked up in the castle. But before she left she had the coffin opened just one more time, just to make absolutely sure that Philip, the very likely not-so-handsome-anymore, was still in there. And sure enough…they found he hadn’t gone anywhere!
Oil on canvas, Framed 81″ x 55″
During his lifetime, Draper was one of the most admired painters of classic mythologies and elegant portraits. He studied at the Royal Academy in London and participated in their official expositions for most of his career. After winning the Royal Academy Gold Medal and Travelling Studentship in 1889, he traveled frequently to Rome and Paris. His painting The Lament For Icarus (which hangs at the Tate) won the highest honor at the Paris Exposition in 1900. Contemplation is a full-length portrait done in the Grand Manner – the sitter is draped in Grecian attire with surroundings that convey nobility and wealth.
Herbert James Draper (British, 1864-1920)
“Susannah and the Two Elders”
Oil on Canvas, Framed 60″ x 69″
The Venetian artist Paolo Cagliari, known as Veronese after his birthplace in the city of Verona, was born in 1528. His father Gabriele was a stonecutter by trade and by the age of fourteen his son was apprenticed to a local artist Antonio Badile. The talented young Paolo began to develop his own style including a lighter and more colourful palette. He left Badile’s workshop in 1543.
The artist then moved to the city of Mantua in the province of Lombardy and completed frescoes in the city’s cathedral. He arrived in Venice in 1552/53 and it is in Venice and the surrounding regions that he created his most memorable works.
Story: Two elders of Babylon lusted after the beautiful Susanna, and conspired to spy on her while she bathed. One afternoon, after Susanna had sent her maidservants away, the two elders approached her, confessed their lust, and insisted that she lie with them. They threaten to accuse her of adultery with a young man if she refused. When Susanna adamently refused, the elders cried out their accusations, and Susanna was sentenced to death for the crime of adultery. A young man named Daniel insisted on further investigation, and upon interrogating the elders separately, found discrepancies in their stories. Susanna was vindicated, and Daniel earned great respect.
“Napoleon Crossing the Alps”
Oil on canvas, Framed 27″ x 22″
Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche (French, 1797-1856), Signed lower left, 1848,
Delaroche was a student of the noted French Neoclassical history painter, Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835), and closely allied with one of the most enterprising dealers of the period, the Maison Goupil. For over a decade, in the mid-nineteenth century, Delaroche was considered “the most famous (and consequently the most collected) painter of the day, attracting patrons throughout Europe and beyond” (Stephen Bann). Delaroche’s early works were primarily based on classical themes from the Old Testament, but gradually his interests switched to realistic scenes from English and French history.
In response to Jacques-Louis David’s theatrical and flattering portrait of Napoleon on a rearing stallion, Delaroche was commissioned to paint a more accurate image of Bonaparte’s journey through the Saint-Bernard Pass. Combining his academic training with the emerging romantic style, we see the Emperor cold and bedraggled on the back of a tired mule. Delaroche’s intent was not to undermine the emperor; rather, he wanted people to see Napoleon as a human, not worshipped like a god.
Delaroche, a master of historical painting, produced five versions of Bonaparte Crossing the Alps: One version hangs in the Louvre; a second version, commissioned by the third Earl of Onslow, dated 1850, belongs to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool; the third hangs in Paris’ Musee Frederic Masson; and the fourth was purchased by Queen Victoria and hangs in Buckingham Palace. The painting currently in The Knohl Collection is the only version that remains in private hands and the sole canvas in pristine condition.
In 1984, Elisabeth Foucart-Walker wrote an excellent scholarly article on Delaroche’s painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps. The article was published in the La Revue du Louvre et des Musees de France. (see Elisabeth Foucart-Walter, Paul Delaroche et le thème du Passage du Saint-Bernard par Bonaparte, La Revue du Louvre et des Musée de France, 1984).
According to the article, in 1982, the Louvre acquired (with the help of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Lutece Foundation) the “Naylor” version of this painting — named after the previous owner, John Naylor, an English collector. After the restoration of the painting was completed, their meticulous research confirmed that the version owned by The Knohl Collection, the “Dillion” version, was executed in 1848, the same year as the original “Naylor” version, now at the Louvre in Paris. It is interesting to note that no one has yet conclusively demonstrated which of the two 1848 versions – “Naylor” or “Dillion” – was painted first. However, it is clear that the painting in The Knohl Collection is the only version that remains in private hands. Though smaller than the version in the Louvre, the painting in The Knohl Collection is “the only canvas in immaculate condition, directly from Delaroche’s brush.”
Elisabeth Foucart-Walter, Paul Delaroche et le thème du Passage du Saint-Bernard par Bonaparte, Musée du Louvre, Department des Peintures, La Revue du Louvre et des Musée de France, 1984
Bann, Stephen, Delaroche, Napoleon and English Collectors, Apollo, October, 2005
Bann, Stephen. Paul Delaroche. Princeton Univ Pr; September 29, 1997
Elisabeth Foucart-Walter is the Curator of French museums and Stephen Bann is Professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol and Professor at CASVA, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. His publications include Paul Delaroche: History Painted (1997).
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905), La Tricoteuse – translated title: The Little Knitter, oil on canvas, signed lower right and dated 1882, 44″ x 31″
Many artists in the Academy attempted to combine features of Classicism with Romanticism, but few succeeded as successfully as Bouguereau. He trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and exhibited at the Salon to an enthusiastic public. As the Industrial Revolution swept through Europe, Bouguereau made popular the depictions of young peasants personifying hope, innocence, and virtue. During his lifetime, he was recognized as a talented portraitist and awarded at many European expositions. Today, hundreds of museums and institutions around the world have his work on display, celebrating him as one of the most prolific and accomplished French artists of the 19th century.
Excerpt from the Biography of William Bouguereau, by Damien Bartoli and Frederick C. Ross:
“William Bouguereau is unquestionably one of history’s greatest artistic geniuses. Yet in the past century, his reputation and unparalleled accomplishments have undergone a libelous, dishonest, relentless and systematic assault of immense proportions. His name was stricken from most history texts and when included it was only to blindly, degrade and disparage him and his work. Yet, as we shall see, it was he who single handedly opened the French academies to women, and it was he who was arguably the greatest painter of the human figure in all of art history. His figures come to life like no previous artist has ever before or ever since achieved. He wasn’t just the best ever at painting human anatomy, more importantly he captured the tender and subtlest nuances of personality and mood. Bouguereau caught the very souls and spirits of his subjects much like Rembrandt. Rembrandt is said to have captured the soul of age. Bouguereau captured the soul of youth.
Considering his consummate level of skill and craft, and the fact that the great preponderance of his works are life-size, it is one of the largest bodies of work ever produced by any artist. Add to that the fact that fully half of these paintings are great masterpieces, and we have the picture of an artist who belongs like Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Carravaggio, in the top ranks of only a handful of masters in the entire history of western art.
Having died in 1905, we can suppose it best that he was not here to see the successful assault on traditional art that turned the art world inside out and upside down in the decades that followed his death. His fate was to be much like that of Rembrandt, whose work was also ridiculed and banished from museums and official art circles for the hundred years following his death. Rembrandt’s reputation wasn’t resuscitated until the 1790’s (he died in 1669) due to the influence of the founder of the Royal Academy in London, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Even as recently as 1910, Reynolds paintings brought higher prices at auction than Rembrandt. Bouguereau’s re-appreciation can rather accurately be traced from about 1979 when his prices at auction quadrupled that year alone, and then was further catapulted by the 1984 retrospective that traveled from the Petite Palais in Paris, to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada and finally to the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford. In 1980 The Metropolitan Museum in New York permanently hung two of his works that been left in storage from early in the century.
Since 1960, his values in the market place have literally exploded, doubling on average every 3.5 years. From works selling for and average $500 to $1500 in 1960, they have accelerated to where in the last three years alone his auction records have been repeatedly broken another 4 times. In 1998 The Heart’s Awakening sold for $1,410,000 at Christie’s New York. In 1999 Cupid et Psyche, Enfants sold for $1,760,000 also at Christie’s to be surpassed the very next day at Sotheby’s when Alma Perens owned by Sylvester Stalone sold for $2,650,00. That record only lasted one year until May of 2000, when Charite sold $3,520,000 back at Christie’s. Over the last 20 years his paintings all over the world have been taken out of their crates, basements, storage rooms and attics, dusted off, many cleaned and expertly restored, and today over a hundred museums and institutions proudly have his works on permanent exhibit. Reproductions of his paintings are selling by the millions in poster shops and gift stores world wide, and there is much evidence that they are even outselling the reproductions of paintings by any of the most famous modernists.
Art Renewal Center Articles about William Adolphe Bouguereau
William-Adolphe Bouguereau and the Craft of Picture-making
Bouguereau’s Legacy to the Student of Painting
William Bouguereau and his Religious Works
Catalog Raisonné on William Bouguereau
Introduction to the Catalog Raisonne of William Bouguereau
Biography of William Bouguereau
Bouguereau at Work
William Bouguereau and The Real 19th Century
“Dr. Johnson’s Tardy Gallantry”
Oil on canvas, signed and dated 1886, Framed 46.5″ x 40″
William Powell Frith, R.A. (British 1819-1909)
William Frith’s anecdotal illustration was inspired by a scene described in the famous biography of Samuel Johnson written by James Boswell. Samuel Johnson, often referred to as Dr Johnson, was one of the most famous literary figures of the eighteenth century. His best-known work is his ‘Dictionary of the English Language’. The painting, Dr. Johnson’s Tardy Gallantry, is dated 1886 and hung in the Royal Academy of Arts the same year.
The author describes Mr. Johnson bidding farewell to an important visitor. Mr. Johnson realizes that he has not sent his guest off in a fashion befitting “a foreign lady of quality.” Eager to show himself “a man of gallantry,” he hurries outside, takes her hand, and guides her to her coach. “His dress was a rusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shriveled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round, and were not a little struck by this singular appearance.”
Excerpt from the Royal Academy of Arts – Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their works (1769 – 1904)
275 Dr. Johnson’s Tardy Gallantry.
“When Madame de Boufflers (the mistress of the Prince of Conti) was first in England,” said Beauclerk, “she was desirous to see Johnson. I accordingly went with her to his chambers in the Temple, where she was entertained with his conversation for some time. When our visit was over, she and I left him, and were got into Inner Temple Lane, when all at once I heard a voice like thunder. This was occasioned by Johnson, who, it seems, upon a little reflection, had taken it into his head that he ought to have done the honors of his literary residence to a foreign lady of quality, and, eager to show himself a man of gallantry, was hurrying down the staircase in violent agitation. He overtook us before we reached the Temple Gate, and, brushing in between me and Madame de Boufflers, seized her hand and conducted her to her coach. His dress was a rusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round and were not a little struck by this singular appearance.”
William Powell Frith, R.A. (British 1819-1909)
William Powell Frith was arguably the most prolific and financially successful British artist ever to have lived. Born in the same year as Queen Victoria, Frith originally wanted to be an auctioneer but was forced by his parents – who were convinced of his genius – to take up art as a career. His work spanned the entire Victorian age and he became famous for large-scale panoramic paintings, overflowing with colorful characters and vivid vignettes. Fascinated by the newly industrialized British society, Frith used his canvas as an opportunity to explore the best and worst of Victorian life.
Barely out of his teens, Frith celebrated his first Royal Academy success – a painting depicting a scene from novel The Vicar of Wakefield. But his success didn’t stop there – the ultimate coup came when he received a request from Charles Dickens for several illustrations. Even in his apprentice days Frith recognized the significance of a commission from the famed author Charles Dickens. Little did Frith know that this business arrangement would eventually lead to a lifelong friendship.
Frith was elected Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1845 and became a full member in 1852. For over sixty years, from 1840-1902, Frith exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy. Similar to a Dickens’ novel, his images portrayed contemporary social life with “characters” from all segments of society. His first panorama of Victorian life, Ramsgate Sands, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854 and was purchased by Queen Victoria – the first of many paintings acquired by the Royal Family. Encouraged by the Queen’s endorsement, Frith went on to paint a succession of similar large-scale panoramas. He is best known for Derby Day (1858) and The Railway Station (1862), both critical commentaries on the collision of wealth and poverty. When Derby Day was displayed at the Royal Academy’s annual exhibition it was so popular with the viewing public that it needed to be shielded by a special rail to protect it from the admiring crowds.
Henri-Pierre Picou ( 27 February 1824 – 17 July 1895) was a French painter. His oeuvre began with portraits and classical historical subject matter but he later moved on to allegorical and mythological themes.
He was an academic painter and one of the founders of the Neo-Grec school, along with his close friends Gustave Boulanger, Jean-Léon Gérôme, and Jean-Louis Hamon, also academic painters. All of them studied in the workshops of both Paul Delaroche and later Charles Gleyre. Picou’s style was noticeably influenced by Gleyre. While the rest of the group generally painted classical and mythological subjects, Picou also received commissions for large religious frescoes from many churches, including the Église Saint-Roch.
His artistic debut was at the Salon in 1847. The next year he was awarded a second-class medal for his painting, Cléopâtre et Antoine sur le Cydnus. Also known as Cleopatra on the Cydnus, it is commonly regarded as Picou’s masterpiece. This showing at the Salon in 1848 was written about by the critic Théophile Gautier, who felt that the subject matter was too ambitious, but also said that “As it is, it gives the best hope for the future of the young artist, and ranks among the seven or eight most important paintings of the Salon.” In 1875, the painting was exhibited in New York, and afterward found lodgment on the walls of a private art gallery in San Francisco.
Picou maintained a large workshop in Paris on the Boulevard de Magenta, which provided him room to work on his expansive frescoes. His popularity continued to rise and he went on to win the Second Prix de Rome in 1853 for his painting, Jésus chassant les vendeurs du Temple (The Moneylenders Chased from the Temple), and another second-class medal for his Salon painting in 1857. From his debut in 1847, he was a regular at the Salon, showing almost every year until his final exhibit in 1893. He has been called the most fashionable painter towards the close of the Second French Empire.
Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (also known as Benjamin Constant), born Jean-Joseph Constant (10 June 1845 – 26 May 1902), was a French painter and etcher best known for his Oriental subjects and portraits.
Benjamin-Constant was born in Paris. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Toulouse, where he was a pupil of Alexandre Cabanel. A journey to Morocco in 1872 strongly influenced his early artistic development and lead him to produce Romantic scenes under the spell of Orientalism. Among his noted works in this vein are Last Rebels, Justice in the Harem (both in the Luxembourg Gallery), Les Chérifas, and Moroccan Prisoners (Bordeaux). His large canvas, The Entrance of Mahomet II into Constantinople (Musée des Augustins Toulouse), received a medal in 1876.
After 1880, he changed his manner, devoting himself to mural decorations and to portraits. Prominent examples include the great plafond in the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, entitled Paris Convening the World; his paintings in the New Sorbonne, representing Literature, The Sciences, and the Academy of Paris; and the plafond of the Opéra Comique theatre. He was distinguished as a portrait painter, especially in England, where he was a favorite of the aristocracy. His portrait Mons fils André (Luxembourg) was awarded a medal of honor at the Salon in 1896.
Benjamin-Constant painted Pope Leo XIII, Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom (1901), Lord John Lumley-Savile, and Henri Blowitz (1902). He was made a member of the Institute in 1893, and was a commander of the Legion of Honor. He visited the United States several times, and painted a number of portraits. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owns a large mural decoration by Benjamin-Constant entitled Justinian in Council.
Benjamin-Constant also taught; among his pupils was the miniaturist Alice Beckington. He was a writer of repute, contributing a number of studies on contemporary French painters. He died in Paris on 26 May 1902.