Beautifully talented: the painting team
The Bourbaki Panorama’s collection contains a special bijou: a painter’s palette painted with a strikingly photographic depiction of a young man smoking a pipe with relish, lying in a hammock with his legs crossed. In the background, a panoramic round, weakened Bourbaki soldiers trudging through the snow and those on horseback. Just then the master’s slipper falls from his right foot and in a black spot, almost sinking, stand the wine bottle and the still (or already) empty glass ... Henri Hébert, who signed the picture, was obviously having a joke with the boss: it might not always have been as cosy as in the picture when he was painting the panorama. But then perhaps “après le panorama” ...
The man in the hammock is Edouard Castres, the main painter of the Bourbaki Panorama. The Geneva enamel and portrait painter went to the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 as a Red Cross volunteer and experienced the internment of the Bourbaki army at Les Verrières. For five years he made sketches of his memories. In addition to his talent, he was helped by the skills he had acquired in Geneva with Barthélemy Menn and in Paris at the École des Beaux Arts. In 1881, the circular painting was created in the Rotunda that had just been built in Geneva. The latter no longer exists today. Under Castre’s direction, the team of 10 painters completed the giant panorama in only about 3 months - an entertainment medium was not allowed to take longer. The client, a Belgian public limited company that also operated panoramas in Lyon and Marseille, was naturally interested in this.
The team of painters
There is no doubt that the production of a panorama painting was a considerable feat of strength and an unattractive field of work: standing on a high scaffold, they each painted a part of the canvas strictly according to the instructions with long brushes. In any case, the 28-year-old Ferdinand Hodler was not very enthusiastic - on 12 May 1881 he wrote to a friend: “Je crains bien que Castres me fasse venir dans peu de temps. La toile du Panorama était déjà mise au carreau samedi.” (I’m already afraid Castres will have me come shortly. The canvas of the Panorama was already hung on Saturday). Nevertheless, an offer must have been tempting for many painters, as it offered a secure income for a while.
Edouard Castres recruited his assistants mainly from among the students of the famous Swiss landscape painter and teacher at the Geneva School of Art Barthélemy Menn (1815-1893). In addition to Ferdinand Hodler, Gustave de Beaumont was also among them. The staircase of Geneva’s Grand Théâtre and the frescoes in the Zeug and Town Halls were his work. He also restored the frescoes of the Maccabees Chapel here.
All the artists involved in the Bourbaki Panorama:
Gustave Henri de Beaumont (1851-1922)
Auguste Frédéric Dufaux (1852-1943)
Louis Dunki (1856-1945)
William Henry Hébert (1849-1917)
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
Aimé Nicolas Morot (1850-1919
Louis Evert van Muyden (1853-1922)
 From: Kämpfen-Klapproth, B: The Bourbaki Panorama by Edouard Castres, Lucerne 1980, p. 36