Adolphe Monticelli was born in 1824 in Marseille. But his parents, who were not married at the time of his birth, would not recognize him until eleven years later. In the meantime, the child was entrusted as a nurse to peasants in Ganagobie, in the Alps, where he was raised in the greatest freedom. When Monticelli returned to Marseille, after his parents had recognized him, it was the beginning of a new and unusual life for him. He took refuge in his passion for drawing and attended Augustin Aubert's classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He also enrolled in the watercolor workshop of Felix Ziem. All his life, the painter will come and go between Marseille and the capital. But another passion tormented him: the opera, and if painting took over, he never abandoned this violin of Ingres.
Monticelli's work has been extensively studied, in France and abroad, and the interest in it has never waned. The proof of this is the exhibition organized by the Vieille Charité in Marseille in 2008, which brought together two artists who stood apart in the 19th century: Monticelli and Van Gogh. Indeed, Monticelli owes much of his fame (especially abroad) to the admiration he aroused in Van Gogh, a real emotion that the latter would share with his brother Theo in their correspondence. This is how a wider public gained access to the artist's work, seeking in his abundant work the traces of the genius detected by Van Gogh.
From Narcisse Diaz de la Pena, the romantic barbizonian, to Eugène Delacroix, the fiery colorist, Monticelli's direct influences exalt the best of the pictorial research of the end of the 19th century to give them their own meaning. Monticelli was not only an excellent portraitist but also an expert landscape painter. His powerful work is built on a mythology inspired by theater, opera, Watteau's figures, haloed by the lights of the rough country of Ganagobie where he spent his childhood. A genius that the art historian Germain Bazin described as "a necessary link between Delacroix and Van Gogh".