- 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
Private Collection, Denmark (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above
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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