At the Paris Salon of 1892, La Bienvenue hung among military subjects by Édouard Detaille and Étienne-Prosper Berne-Bellecour. In comparison to these works, which detail the strategies and postures of soldiers on the battlefield, Jacquet appears less interested in describing military maneuvers in favor of the camp's accoutrements. While these myriad details may at first seem a flight of fancy, in reality each element was carefully studied by the artist. In contrast to the group's elaborately detailed costumes, weapons, and armament, the camp cuisine is served on simple pewter plates resting on a spindly-legged table, and pocketknives are the best eating implements available. Effectively capturing the make-shift nature of a military camp site, Jacquet repurposes a drum (the beats of which called the soldiers to come and eat) as an end table while a wreath, perhaps symbolizing victory and the promise of rest and relaxation, hangs from a slender tree trunk, itself a useful pole to support a tent awning.
In the 1909 sale of Jacquet's estate at the Galerie Georges Petit, over 300 lots of mid-to late eighteenth century period costumes were offered along with an elaborate assortment of period objects. Such a collection, as Robert de Montesquiou wrote in the auction catalogue, allowed Jacquet to become the "beau cavalier" who created compositions of such "grace and force of elegance and of seduction" in their "erudite and charming" assembly of "shivering satins and shining of the dresses... which seem like a refrain from a poem made up of lingerie, lace, various items of clothing... weapons, armour, old musical instruments" (as translated from the French, Tableaux, aquarelles, pastels, dessins par Gustave Jacquet, Paris, 1909, p. 6). His consideration of detail, combined with technical skill and aesthetic flair, is what Montesquiou argued was Jacquet’s "security in his science," and made works such as La Bienvenue comparable to the best by "Watteau, Degas and Boldini" (Tableaux, p. 11).
La Bienvenue received great praise when it appeared at New York's Brandus Gallery in 1898 alongside William Bouguereau's Reverie, from the Salon of 1897, Ary Scheffer's The Repentance of Peter, Adolph Schreyer's Arab Horsemen, and works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Charles-François Daubigny. A writer for The Art Collector was immediately captivated by Jacquet's work, which he described as "an unusually large canvas. The usual woman faces, for which the artist is best known, are grouped here together, with all their belongings of satin gowns, lovely hands, dainty slippers, and form a bright and lively group.... The picturesque costumes and attitudes of the cavaliers add zest to the composition" ("The Brandus Gallery," p. 22). The painting also appeared in The New York Times Illustrated Magazine, pictured next to Rembrandt's The Man with a Cane (Portrait of the Artist in Armenian Costume) also available at the Brandus Gallery.
The first recorded owner of La Bienvenue was John Warne Gates, the American collector whose biography and collecting sensibilities follow the era's most powerful New York art patrons. A native of Winfield, Illinois, Gates went from an entry-level position selling barbed wire throughout Texas to become a mogul of industry with his Southern Wire Company. The success of his early company lead him to become a force in the steel industry, eventually merging his company with that of J.P. Morgan's to create the United States Steel Corporation. Gates' fortune was advanced by his founding of the Texas Company (which became Texaco), as well as railroads (he acquired the Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad), which in turn allowed him to become a great civic leader of the town of Port Arthur, Texas, near the crossing of his train lines (James E. Hofman, ed., The Cyclopaedia of American Biography, New York, 1918, vol. 8, p. 61-62).
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