Paris, 1822 - Paris, 1886
After beginning his artistic training in Paris as a pupil of Léon Cogniet (1794–1880), Alfred Dehodencq developed a fondness for exotic countries at a very early age and travelled to Algeria. A deep admirer of the impassioned Romanticism of Géricault and Delacroix, he made his début at the Paris Salon of 1844 with Dante and St Cecilia, winning a third medal at that of 1846 for a portrait and a painting of St Stephen Led to Martyrdom. In 1849 he travelled to Spain from Barèges, where he was recovering from a bullet wound, and on passing through Madrid was deeply impressed by his discovery of Spanish Golden Age painting in the Museo del Prado, especially the work of Velázquez. It was then that he painted Bullfight with Young Bulls at the Escorial (Musée de Pau), his first work on a Spanish theme, which he submitted to the Exhibition of the San Fernando Academy in 1850 and to that year’s Paris Salon.
While in Madrid Dehodencq came into contact with the Duke of Montpensier, who took him under his wing, and he travelled to Seville in November 1850. There he would produce some of his finest works for the Montpensiers, among them the two that now belong to the collection of Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza.
From Spain he sent to Paris the painting Gypsies Returning from a Fiesta in Andalusia, which won another third-place medal at the Salon of 1853.
Dehodencq married a woman of Cadiz in 1857 and in 1863 he returned to France, where he failed to achieve the success he had enjoyed during his stay in Spain. Even so, he won a first-place medal at the Salon of 1865 for the pictures entitled A Jewish Feast in Morocco and Fortune-telling, Andalusian Gypsies and was made a knight of the Legion of Honour in 1870, although that year he took part out of competition.
A painter of human types and genre scenes, Dehodencq was also a foremost portraitist and produced many oil paintings and watercolours on Oriental themes during his travels to Morocco. These works are characterised by the exoticism of the human subjects and the brilliant sensuality and warmth of colour learned from Delacroix.
His son, Edmond Dehodencq (1860–1887), also became a painter.
José Luis Díez