Ziem was Born February 26, 1821 in Beaune (Cote d’Or, France). Died November 10, 1911 in Paris.
Felix Ziem is an artist of the pre-impressionist generation who has a style all his own. His view paintings of Venice were very successful amongst the collectors of the time and remain sought after icons of 19th century travel painting today. His contemporaries; Théophile Gautier, Théodore Rousseau and Chopin all held him in great esteem.
Originally an architect student at the “Academie d’architecture” in Dijon, Ziem was excluded from a scholarship there due to “disciplinary” problems. With this excuse, Ziem decided to leave for Rome, on foot, exchanging sketches for food along the way. Ziem stopped in Marseille, giving a few lessons to Monticelli. After a long stay in Nice, he finally arrived in Rome. Ziem was disappointed by the city, so he continued on to Naples and finally Venice. There, his amazement and wonder at the otherworldly city never ceased. Théophile Gautier would say that every artist has an ideal country, often far away from his own and for Ziem, that country was Venice. In 1845, Felix Ziem returned again to Venice for a three year stay. Ziem rented a flat-bottom boat (a “topo”) that he transformed into his atelier. Ziem accumulated a multitude of sketches, drawing evening festivals, the quiet of early morning, and the historical monuments that made up the city. Ziem returned to Paris and successfully exhibited his view paintings of Venice at the Salon of 1849.
Ziem exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon in 1849 and remained a frequent exhibitor there until 1868, with Constantinople and Venice as his favourite subjects. From 1860 Ziem lived in Montmartre in the winter and in Nice in the summer, and in 1864 Princess (later Queen) Victoria was his pupil.
He resumed exhibiting regularly at the Salon from 1888, with a much more atmospheric and impressionist style, concentrating on dramatic skies full of colour and light.
At the suggestion of Decamps he also travelled to Holland. The French Government purchased several of Ziem paintings of Venice and many foreign collectors – visitors to the Exposition Universelle – took an interest in him.
Ziem also was a visitor to Barbizon where he purchased the house that had once belonged to the Barbizon school painter Charles Jacque. Close to other landscape painters of his generation, Ziem painted alongside Daubigny in Jouarre and with Boudin in Le Havre. The naturalist approach of the Barbizon School influenced Ziem’s later paintings and he became a renowned and successful artist. Felix Ziem won many medals for his oil paintings and was created Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1857, ascending to an Officer in 1878.
Although he did not return to Venice after 1892, Felix Ziem continued to paint his beloved city from the numerous studies he had done before up until the end of his life.
Felix Ziem died in Paris on 10th November 1911, leaving part of the contents of his studio to the City of Paris.