- Jules Bastien-Lepage
- Marchande de fleurs à Londres
- signed J. BASTIEN-LEPAGE, dated 82 and inscribed Londres (lower left)
- oil on canvas
- 68¼ by 35½ in
- 173.4 by 90.2 cm
Collection of Marie-Auguste Flameng, Nancy
Collection of Mlle Petit-Dossarise, Nancy
Collection of Jean-Louis Burtin, Nancy (probably acquired from the above in 1933)
Thence by descent
Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Peinture et Art Nouveau, April 24-July 26, 1999, no. 28
Paris, Musée d'Orsay; Verdun, Centre mondial de la Paix, Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884), March 6, 2007-September 16, 2007, no. 54
Richard Muther, History of Modern Painting, London, vol. 3, 1907, p. 267, illustrated p. 258
William Steven Feldman, The Life and Work of Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884), unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1973, pp. 166-7
Kenneth McConkey, “The Bouguereau of the Naturalists: Bastien-Lepage and British Art,” Art History 1, no. 3, 1978, p. 374
Christian Debize, Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884), exh. cat., Conservation des Musées de la Meuse, 1984, p. 5, 12, 21, 27
Jules Bastien-Lepage: Damvillers 1848-Paris 1884, exh. cat., Les Musées de la Meuse, 1984, illustrated p. 126
Madeleine Aubrun, Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884): Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre, Paris, 1985, p. 234, no. 368, illustrated
Gabriel P. Weisberg, Redefining Genre: French and American Painting 1850-1900, Washington, D.C., 1995, pp. 87-8, illustrated p. 87
Jacques Thuillier, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Metz, 2005, pp. 118-9
Kenneth McConkey, "Un petit cercle de thuriferaires — Bastien-Lepage et La Grande Bretagne," 48/18 La revue du Musee d'Orsay, no. 24, Spring 2007, p. 25, illustrated p. 24
What is unusual about this Marchande de fleurs is that she is not French but English, and one of only two working-class subjects that Bastien-Lepage completed in London, the other being Le petit cireur de bottes (1882, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, fig. 2). Bastien-Lepage first visited London in 1879 when two of his portraits were included in the Royal Academy exhibition of that year. He used this opportunity to find prospective clients for portraits, returning to paint a portrait of the Prince of Wales (Portrait du Prince de Galles, 1879, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London), and again, for the last time, in 1882.
Marchande de fleurs and Le petit cireur de bottes were painted in the studio of Dorothy Tennant (later known as Lady Stanley after her marriage to the explorer, Henry Morton Stanley, in 1890) herself an artist who had been very impressed by the young Bastien-Lepage as he made his impact on the London art scene. She recalled her impressions of the artist and of his two English subjects in an article published in 1897 in the London Art Journal, noting that the artist was so interested in the city “We undertook… to show him London – not the sights… but… those bits of London most characteristic or more picturesque.” (Stanley, p. 53) After painting the shoeblack in Le petit cireur de bottes, Bastien-Lepage decided, together with Tennant, that a flower girl would be an appropriate English subject. His model was found near Charing Cross and according to Tennant was “a tall, graceful girl, with sloping shoulders, wrapped in a thin weather-stained shawl, her hair tangled over the eyes, and drawn back in a knot at the back” (Stanley, p. 53). Tennant reproached him for not putting enough sentiment into the picture, to which he responded “I don’t put literature into the painting, like you English; I am satisfied to represent nature just as I see her” (Stanley, p. 56). While the flower girl is situated confrontationally in the foreground, as if ready to speak to an approaching client, Bastien-Lepage added well-dressed figures farther away in the upper left, visually establishing the stratification of the social classes.
Many nineteenth century art critics, and their twentieth century followers, have tried to find correspondences between Bastien-Lepage’s style or manner of painting and his peers. Émile Zola described him as “le petit-fils de Courbet et de Millet." His flower girl in the present work has been compared with Édouard Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1881-82, The Courtland Institute, London), exhibited at the Salon of 1882, and the tilt of the sitters' heads, black chokers and indifferent yet enticing expressions certainly align. While Manet is mainly concerned with rendering the psychological state of his sitter, Bastien-Lepage is more interested in conveying the narrative of his scene and its implications for the principal character.
Marchande de fleurs à Londres also lends itself to comparison with a much earlier work by Manet, Street Singer (circa 1862, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, fig. 3). Bastien-Lepage undoubtedly knew this earlier work, and sensitively depicts the resignation of his subject with the same sense of realism and empathy.