Lot 420
  • 420


60,000 - 80,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean Eugène Buland
  • La lecture
  • signed Eug. Buland and dated 1901 (lower center) 
  • oil on canvas, in a painted oval 
  • 33 1/2 by 39 3/8 in.
  • 85 by 100 cm


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work has recently been restored. The varnish is slightly soft, but the work looks well in general. The canvas is lined. The paint layer is cleaned. There is no abrasion to the paint layer. The artist created quite a textured surface in some areas, which remains unaffected by the lining. Retouches are visible under ultraviolet light. There are a few spots of retouching above and below the signature, and a few tiny dots in the upper right. In the pink dress of the young girl, there is a restoration in her collar beneath her chin, and in the elbow on the right. Her mother is in beautiful condition, with only one retouching in her forehead. The condition is good overall.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The son of an engraver, Jean Eugène Buland studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and in the studio of Alexandre Cabanel. After winning the Grand Prix de Rome for two consecutive years in 1878 and 1879, he was able to stay at the Villa Medici for five years, studying Renaissance masters and honing his technical skills.  Returning to France in 1884, Buland was inspired to abandon his classical and allegorical subjects in favor of Naturalism, working closely with Jules Bastien-Lepage. He was enormously successful in his lifetime, earning medals at Barcelona’s Universal Exhibition of 1888, Paris’ Exposition Universelle of 1889,  London’s International Exhibition of 1890, and the Legion d’honneur in 1894. Having been awarded major commissions from the State and being included in the collections of museums and institutions throughout France and Europe, it is surprising that his oeuvre is not more broadly known. Buland chose a rich variety of subjects as he documented scenes from the world around him. In Un Patron (1888, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden, fig. 1), Buland draws attention to the advancement of manufacturing and industry following the Franco-Prussian war. In Propagande (1889, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, fig. 2) he shows a travelling salesman offering prints in a poor family’s home, his tricolor rosette revealing his political motivations. Buland used photography extensively to render the faces and gestures of his characters, giving these compositions a graphic impression, as if assembled by collage. This process anticipates the paintings of Norman Rockwell, and it is easy to draw a stylistic comparison.

In La lecture, two generations sit side by side, the young girl enthusiastically reading to her grandmother, who is entranced. As in many of his other paintings, all of the elements seem to be pushed to the front of the picture plane, as if in a frieze. His extraordinary attention to detail and technical wizardry is evident in the spools of thread, patchwork of textiles and lace, the figures’ costumes and beautifully modelled faces, and especially their expressive hands. This careful arrangement of four hands positioned in the center of the canvas, drawn with photographic conviction and painted with naturalistic coloration, is an arresting display of artistic ingenuity.