Lot 444
  • 444

JULES BRETON | Sur la route en hiver; Artois

100,000 - 150,000 USD
375,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • After Jules Breton
  • Sur la route en hiver; Artois
  • signed Jules Breton, inscribed Courrieres, and dated 1884 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas


Samuel P. Avery (acquired directly from the artist, 1884)
Henry Field, Chicago (acquired from the above, 1884)
Florence Lathrop Field, Chicago (by descent from the above, his widow, 1890)
The Art Institute of Chicago (gifted from the above in 1894)
Florence Field Lindsay, Lynbrook, Massachusetts (acquired from the above, 1945)
Sheridan Art Gallery, Chicago (possibly acquired from the above)
Bohumir Kryl, Chicago (possibly acquired from the above, after 1945)
Private Collection, Michigan (by descent through the family)


Paris, Salon des Artistes Français, 1884, no. 356 (exhibited with three stanzas written by Breton)
The Art Institute of Chicago, 1894-1945


Élodie Breton diaries, 1881 and 1884 (wife of the artist)
George Lafenestre, Le livre d'or du salon de peinture et de sculpture, vol. 5-6, Paris, 1883, p. 29
René Ménard, "Salon de 1884: Le Salon de peinture," Le Génie Civil, vol. 5no. 6, 1884, p. 93
Théodore Veron, Dictionnaire Veron, ou Organe de l'Institut Universel, Paris, 1884, p. 60-1
Jules Breton: A Biographical notice and some criticisms upon his picture "Sur la route en hiver; Artois," exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1884, The Property of Henry Field of Chicago, 1885, p. 27-9 (translation of a letter from Jules Breton to Henry Field, May 3, 1885)
Art Institute of Chicago, Catalogue of the objects in the Museum, vol. 1, Chicago, 1896, p. 70, no. 2 (as On the Road in Winter)
Art Institute of Chicago, General Catalogue of Objects in the Museum, Chicago, January 1904, p. 161, no. 102 (as On the Road in Winter)
Art Institute of Chicago, General Catalogue of Objects in the Museum, Chicago, February 1907, p. 173, no. 102 (as On the Road in Winter)
Art Institute of Chicago, Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture and ArchitectureChicago 1917, p. 116, no. 102 (as On the Road in Winter)
Marius Vachon, Jules Breton, Paris, 1919, p. 145
Hollister Sturges, "Breton's works: Paris Salon 1849-1905," Jules Breton and the French Rural Tradition, exh. cat., Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha; Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis; Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, 1982, p. 132
Annette Bourrut Lacouture, "Works by Jules Breton Shown at the Salon between 1848 and 1905," Jules Breton: Painter of Peasant Life, exh. cat., Musée des beaux-arts, Arras, Musée des beaux-arts, Quimper, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 2002, p. 252

Catalogue Note

As recorded in his wife Élodie Breton’s diary entries, Jules Breton began Sur la route en hiver; Artois on March 17, 1881, after a harsh winter had left the fields of Courrières covered in snow. Although other projects diverted his attentions, Breton completed his painting by February 1884 and exhibited it to great acclaim at the Salon des Artistes Français of that year together with Les Communiantes (sold in these rooms, May 18, 2016, lot 8, for $1,270,000). Samuel P. Avery acquired both of Breton’s submissions: Les Communiantes was sold to Mary J. Morgan, and the present work was sold to Henry Field of Chicago, an avid collector with an impeccable eye and a founding member of the Board of Trustees at the Art Institute of Chicago. Breton’s personal admiration and fondness for Sur la route en hiver; Artois is recorded in a personal letter to Mr. Field, dated May 3, 1885: "I am happy to learn that this picture, which I executed with predilection, is in such good hands.  It is a subject often seen in the fields, and takes its poetry from the harmony of the figures with the effect in the landscape. Notwithstanding the sharp cold and sleet, the setting sun smiles over the snow, and happiness plays on the faces of the humble peasants" (As translated by Samuel P. Avery, Jules Breton: A Biographical notice and some criticisms upon his picture 'Sur la route en hiver; Artois,' exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1884, The Property of Henry Field, of Chicago, 1885, New York, 1885, p. 27-8). Field amassed an impressive collection of nineteenth century French Art over decades.  In her late husband’s memory, Florence Lathrop Field installed his collection (which included forty one oil paintings) in the Art Institute of Chicago in 1894, and in 1917, she formally presented the collection to the museum. Although the present lot eventually left the museum collection, many masterpieces remain on view today, including Breton’s The Song of the Lark, also painted in 1884 and which has become an icon of the artist’s oeuvre.  

Sur la route en hiver; Artois, poetically illustrates how Breton, a self-proclaimed "peasant who paints peasants," drew artistic inspiration from the working people of rural France.  In the present work, as with much of his painting in the period, villagers from Courrières serve as models: Bibi (the daughter of a mine worker) and Henri (one of Breton’s favorites). Just as the harvesters returning from late summer’s golden fields, these winter wanderers are elevated to icons of country life. Salon visitors admired the painting for its sensitive lighting and its harmonious composition, and many were mesmerized by the effects of pink light reflected on the snow. One critic commented "’Sur la route, en hiver' strongly raises the question of knowing that snow could be pink, for it is not the way it appears on Paris streets. But there is a state of grace for those who know how to see it, and Mr. Breton is correct when he paints the white lands with a little bit of blue in the shades and a light pink in the areas illuminated by the fading glow of a red moon.  The effect is both curious and charming, for the truth sometimes amuses by wearing a coat of improbability (as translated from the French "Le Salon," Le Temps, no. 8435, 1 June 1884, p. 1).  Just as the present work inspired critics to wax poetic, it also inspired Breton, a poet himself, to write three stanzas, which he exhibited alongside the painting at the Salon:  

Boundless as the sea, a mantle soft and new,

Across the landscape, a snow all virgin lies;

Emerging far beyond, to heavens lone and blue,

A vision tender, soft, golden green in hue

In dazzling beauty, see fair Diana rise!

In western skies, slow sinking to his night’s repose,

Out from the conch which filmy mist enfolds,

The radiant sun his countless gleaming javelins throws;

Beneath his ancient kiss the boy, pale moon now glows,

As, shrinking, she that ruddy face beholds.

The lily white expanse, so sparkling, billowy, vast,

Takes fro th’illumining flood a rosy stain;

White purplish, pallid shade the countless hummocks east;

And seems the bounty of a thousand Aprils past,

To shower the glistening, efflorescent plain.

We would like to thank Annette Bourrut Lacouture for confirming the authenticity of this lot and for providing catalogue information. This work will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist.