There is a sketch of a seated lady on the reverse.
Although the exact location of the present work is unknown, the composition captures the vibrant coastline near Pont-Aven and Concarneau in Brittany, France. The two girls are wearing traditional Breton dress and O'Kelly has captured an intimate moment between two friends on their way to market day.
O'Kelly first went to Brittany in 1876 during the summer months whilst studying in Paris and the fresh rural subject matter would have been in direct opposition to the meticulous studio training Gérôme advocated. Like most of his contemporaries, he cannot have failed to be inspired by the naturalism of Jules Bastien-Lepage and his followers.
The loose handling of Breton Girls on a Beach clearly reflects O'Kelly's knowledge of the French master's edict of painting directly en plein air. The fluid style and manner of O'Kelly's signature in the present work suggest that it most likely dates to the first decade of the 20th century. Having returned from the United States, O'Kelly went to Brittany in 1902 and stayed there for prolonged periods over the next twenty years.
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