- Jules Bastien-Lepage
- Le petit ramoneur (Damvillers)
- signed J. BASTIEN –LEPAGE and dated 1883 (lower left)
- oil on canvas
- 40 1/4 by 45 5/8 in.
- 102 by 116 cm
Maurice Fenaille Collection, Paris
Private Collection (by 1940)
Thence by descent to the present owner (by 1967)
Paris, Exposition Universelle, 1889, no. 21, illustrated
“Nécrologie,” La Liberté, December 12, 1884
Albert Leroy, “Au jour le jour. Bastien-Lepage,” La Presse, December 12, 1884
“Jules Bastien-Lepage,” La Ville de Paris, December 12, 1884
Philippe Burty, “Jules Bastien-Lepage,” La République française, December 13, 1884
“La mort et les obsèques de Bastien-Lepage,” Journal d’Indre-et-Loire, December 14, 1884
L’Evènement, December 15, 1884
Emmanuel Ducros, “Bastien-Lepage,” L’Artiste, 1884, vol. 120, p. 390-94
Louis de Fourcaud, Bastien-Lepage, sa vie, ses œuvres, 1848-1884, Paris, 1885, n.p., illustrated (the print after Le petit ramoneur (Damvillers))
André Theuriet, ‘Jules Bastien-Lepage, L’Homme et L’Artiste’, Revue des Beaux Arts, 1885, p. 831
Armand Dayot, Un siècle d’art. Notes sur la peinture française à l’exposition centennale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1890, p. 117
André Theuriet, Jules Bastien-Lepage and his Art, A Memoir, London, 1892, pp. 69, 132, illustrated
“Jules Bastien-Lepage,” La Lorraine Artiste, July 30, 1893, p. 491
Julia Cartwright, Jules Bastien-Lepage, London, 1894, p. 71, illustrated
Henry Roujon ed., Bastien-Lepage, n.p., circa 1913, p. 64, illustrated
Fr. Crastre, Bastien-Lepage, New York, 1914, p. 60, illustrated
“Bastien-Lepage 1848-1884,” Les Peintres Illustres, vol. 47, circa 1930, p. 62, pl. VII
P. Errard, Commémoration du Centenaire de la naissance de Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884), Verdun, 1948, p. 63
W. S. Feldman, Jules Bastien-Lepage, His Life and Work 1848-1884, Ph.D. dissertation, New York, 1973, p. 175-6, illustrated fig. 67
Philippe Pagnotta, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Damvilliers 1848-Paris, 1884, exh. cat., Musée de la Princerie, Verdun and Musée, de la Citadelle, Montmédy, 1984, p. 127, illustrated
Marie-Madeleine Aubrun, Jules Bastien-Lepage, catalogue raisonné de l'Oeuvre, 1985, p. 266, no. 436, illustrated (location unknown)
Dominique Lobstein, Jules Bastien-Lepage 1848-1884, exh. cat., Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 2007, p. 39 (the 1881 engraving illustrated)
It is not surprising to find that Jules Bastien-Lepage, on regular visits to London around 1880, should have conceived the idea of painting a type très Anglais, for which a flower-seller and bootblack served.2 The same concept applied to his home village in the Meuse, where he would find a barge boy, a school-girl, a peddler and others. The present "chimney-sweep" forms part of this series.
Through it Bastien-Lepage was remaking genre painting. The diversions of a little cook or naughty schoolboy in the work of Pierre-Edouard Frère in the 1850s are brought to a much more serious conclusion in the present work. Where formerly Lepage’s country characters adopt frontal poses and are held in focus, this boy, unlike the barge boy and school-girl, is presented in situ, tempting the household cats with his frugal meal. And where formerly, such a moment would be captured on a small scale for the connoisseur’s cabinet, here the canvas is over a meter square. A poised cat, leather knee-pads, the "damper" from an iron stove, blackened hands, beautifully rendered, give more than circumstantial authenticity. They are part of the human chain that brings this character, these furnishings, in this moment, vividly alive. Naturalism, in short, achieves its fullest statement. We can almost say where precisely we are – for the chair in the background was a favorite of the artist’s grandfather (fig. 1).
André Theuriet reported that Bastien-Lepage was working on the canvas in March 1883, at the same time as he was sending his L’Amour au Village (Pushkin Museum, Moscow), an English-inspired theme, to the Salon. He declared that in this scene of rustic lovers he was hoping to express a "very English sentiment." It was not "sentimental" in our modern sense, so much as the feeling of the moment expressed objectively. In the same way with Le petit ramoneur, the coarse, maudlin amusements of Paul-Charles Chocarne-Moreau are rejected. Few around him could achieve this rigour, this linear precision, this depth of scrutiny that we find in Bastien-Lepage.
A watercolour version, presumably a study of the Ramoneur appeared in the studio sale but has since disappeared, and a fine engraving by the artist’s friend, Charles Baude, is known.
1 See for instance, Luce Abélès and Ségolène Le Men, Les Français peints par Eux-Mêmes, 1993 (exhibition catalogue, Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
2 For reference to Bastien-Lepage’s Little London Bootblack and London Flower Seller (sold in these rooms, May 7, 2015, lot 6), see Lobstein, 2007, no. 53, 55.