Lot 6
  • 6

William Bouguereau

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  • Le goûter aux champs 
  • signed W. BOUGUEREAU and dated 1891 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 36 5/8 by 26 in.
  • 93 by 66 cm

Provenance

G.W. Carner (acquired from the artist through Mr. Kruger, acting on behalf of Adolphe Schloss, 1891) 
Rainone Galleries Inc., Arlington, Texas (June 1983)
Private Collection
Borghi & Co., New York
Acquired from the above in September 1985

Exhibited

New York, Borghi & Co., William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825-1905, March-April 1984

Literature

Braun & Clement, Oeuvres choisies des maîtres, n.p., no. 5444, illustrated
Mark Steven Walker, "William-Adolphe Bouguereau: A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings," William-Adolphe Bouguereau, L'Art Pompier, exh. cat., Borghi & Co., New York, 1991, p. 73
Damien Bartoli and Frederick C. Ross, William Bouguereau, New York, 2010, p. 271, no. 1891/02, illustrated (as location unknown); and in the revised 2014 edition, p. 271, no. 1891/02, illustrated (as location unknown)

Catalogue Note

In his sensitive portrayals of peasant girls, Bouguereau elevates the image of France's most humble citizens.  While some artists of the nineteenth century, such as Jean-François Millet and Léon-Augustin Lhermitte and other Barbizon school painters sought to document the arduous lives of the working class, Bouguereau romanticized them. His peasants, almost exclusively female, are pensive and seem to be unaffected by any social or economic injustice. According to Alfred Nettement, Bouguereau’s student at the Académie Julian, his teacher "had absolute horror of what we would call realism and he always said that reality is charming when it borrows a gleam of poetry from the imagination" (Alfred Nettement, "William Bouguereau", L'Academie Julian, January 1906., p. 3, as quoted in Mark Steven Walker, "Biography," William Bouguereau, exh. cat., Montreal, 1984, p. 57). As more people relocated to industrialized cities, urban audiences viewed their pastoral counterparts with fascination and probably envied what they perceived to be a humble, uncomplicated and more gratifying way of life. As a result, there was a ready market for these scenes and this demand contributed in large part to Bouguereau’s tremendous commercial success.

In 1891, when Le goûter aux champs was painted, Bouguereau had reached artistic maturity. Other works from this period and which feature the same model, such as La cruche casée (1891, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco) and Petites mendiantes (1890, Syracuse University Art Collection), offer clear evidence of the artist’s technical virtuosity and his interest in creating subtle narratives while depicting peasants within the landscape. In the present work, a young girl looks directly at the viewer with wide eyes and a gentle smile, relaxed as she is about to eat the bread and apple in her hand. There is a naturalistic truth to Bouguereau's representation of the young girl, with her loosely combed hair and roughly woven dress, but the composition's smooth, expert brushwork eliminates any sense of the artist's process. In discussing Bouguereau’s imagery of the period, Fronia Wissman asserts that the artist’s “smooth technique almost fools us into thinking we are looking at something real, or if not real, photographic. Many artists of the nineteenth century used photographs to help plan their paintings; Bouguereau, despite the appearance of his paintings, did not” (Fronia E. Wissman, Bouguereau, San Francisco, 1996, p.60). The carefully constructed canvas demonstrates that Bouguereau saw the work as a record of his time spent in the French countryside, and the elevation of his sitter's individual feelings and experiences to a universal level may well be the singular achievement of his long and illustrious career.

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