Lot 130
  • 130

Albert Aublet

Estimate
600,000 - 800,000 USD
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Albert Aublet
  • L'Heure du bain au Tréport
  • Signed Albert Aublet and dated 1885 (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 39 3/4 by 63 3/8 in.
  • 101 by 161 cm

Provenance

Vingaarden A/S, Odense, Denmark (acquired by circa 1915)
Private Collection, Denmark (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above





Exhibited

Paris, Salon des Artistes Franҫais, 1885, no. 81 (probably)

Catalogue Note

From the mid-to-late nineteenth century, vacationers inundated Normandy’s fishing villages and ports, forever transforming the once-quiet communities. By the 1870s, newly expanded railways made Parisians’ trip to the region an efficient three hours, while British tourists made the relatively short sea crossing over the Channel in droves. While visiting spas and thermal baths had long been a restorative recommendation for the elite, both upper and middle classes were enticed by specially priced seaside holiday packages. Contemporary writers such as Jules Michelet, with his Le Mer (1861), promoted the almost spiritual power of bathing in the sea for city dwellers disconnected from nature (Robert L. Herbert, Impressionism, Art, Leisure, & Parisian Society, New Haven, 1988, pp. 265-68). Beyond its health benefits, a day at the beach afforded another opportunity to see and be seen—in and out of the water—wearing the latest trends. With the tourists came throngs of artists, including Charles-François Daubigny, Gustave Courbet, Johan Barthold Jongkind, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet and Berthe Morisot, whose paintings, along with those of area native Eugène Boudin, helped further promote the seaside towns and their beaches, local landmarks and a growing number of hotels, restaurants and casinos which soon crowded out fishermen’s cottages. The area’s popularity boomed just as Alfred Aublet made his debut at the Paris Salon of 1873; the young artist's travels in southern Spain, Turkey, North Africa and Tunisia inspired his famous Orientalist compositions, while holidays in Northern France informed L'Heure du bain au Tréport, one of his series of paintings of bathers on sun-splashed beaches that earned him international fame.

As a contemporary critic remarked, Aublet’s beach paintings did not depict “la crème” of Trouville, the elite of Dieppe or the elegant people of Deauville (the locales of Monet, Morisot and others) but the village of Tréport, where “every summer one can pluck a small bouquet made of the peasant bourgeoisie” (Paris-Salon 1883, Paris, 1883, p. 51, translated from the French). Indeed, by the end of the nineteenth century, guides recommend Tréport specifically for its “realness,” as a place for artists to “go and work...without feeling that you are about to tackle a set of hackneyed themes” (Frank L. Emanuel, “Le Tréport as a Sketching Ground” in The Studio, vol. 23, 1901, p. 96). Local shops offered a wide variety of painting materials, area hotels were competitively priced and the pebbled beaches afforded many opportunities, as Aublet’s painting illustrates, to see a “wonderful stream of humanity in bathing costumes, swathed in flowing white togas, pushing its way through a quizzing crowd up and down the planks to and from the sea... all a-bob and a-splutter with rotund men and coquettish dames. The whole performance of bathing is superintended by a couple of tough seamen in a boat and a score of equally tough and jovial bathing men,” employed to pull women and children through the water as entertainment (ibid., p. 96). In the present work, these bathing men, dressed in their characteristic black, are seen at the water’s edge while a multitude of women are dressed in the fashionable silhouette of the 1880s: angular bustles and upturned “flower pot” hats under bright parasols shielding the sun (pale skin had long been a marker of the leisure class, and was a status symbol for middle class Parisians unfamiliar with working outdoors). The children wear sailor uniforms—once reserved for the upper classes, but by the late nineteenth century they were mass produced and available at a reasonable price.

While many of the Impressionists rejected narrative detail in favor of capturing the natural effects of sea and sand, Aublet, like other painters of Belle Époque life, populated his compositions with dozens of beachgoers posted in multiple vignettes of activity and leisure, self-display and observation—combined to create a vivid view of modern life. As a contemporary critic best explained, Aublet’s paintings of Tréport beachgoers “do not need to be dated because we recognize their period: they carry it with them and within them,” a testament to the artist’s fine eye for detail and shared experience with the subjects he captured (Énault, ibid, p. 52).

 
Fig. 1 Eugène Boudin, Scène de plage à Trouville, 1864, oil on panel, sold: Sotheby's, London, June 22, 2010, lot 6 for $1,358,295
Fig. 2 Photograph of the beach at Le Tréport, circa 1885, Roger-Viollet Paris, Getty Images

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