Jeune bergère debout
January 27, 10:47 PM GMT
800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
1825 - 1905
Jeune bergère debout
signed and dated W. BOUGUEREAU 1887 (lower left)
oil on canvas
canvas: 62 by 29 in.; 157.5 by 73.6 cm
framed: 73 by 40 in.; 185.4 by 101.6 cm
By 1885, William Bouguereau devoted more than one third of his output to chronicling French country life. The little girls and young women who constituted the shepherdesses, fisherwomen, knitters, and even beggars and gypsies, became consistent themes that Bouguereau treasured and repeated.
The present composition belongs to a series of works painted during summers in Bouguereau's native La Rochelle where he vacationed. Jeune bergère debout was most likely painted during the summer of 1887 and completed later that same year, after Bouguereau returned to his atelier in Paris. This two-step painting process was common practice for Bouguereau, and hardly any exceptions exist. Bouguereau completed and varnished his compositions known as "de vacances" upon returning to Paris.
Painted as nearly life-size and set in this vertical picture space in front of a carefully rendered landscape, Bouguereau's model is iconic. At the same time, the composition's smooth brushwork erases the presence of the painter, and creates a balance between immobile, static form and rich surface details. The young girl in Jeune bergère debout seems to radiate light, for at Bouguereau's hand the secular subject is made sacred. He creates a dream-like universe of peace and serenity that is exquisite and transcendent. The model’s face and hands are exquisitely painted, and her bare feet appear firmly planted in the cool earth.
Robert Goddard, a prominent banker, industrialist, state senator and philanthropist from Providence, Rhode Island, acquired Jeune bergère debout from Arthur Tooth & Sons, Bouguereau’s dealers in London, a year after it was executed. Among the many prominent positions he held, Goddard was also a long serving director of the Rhode Island Hospital Trust Company, which may explain how the painting entered into the hospital’s possession.
Americans had an almost insatiable appetite for Bouguereau's work. Made up of entrepreneurs and tycoons, this group of millionaires was eager to decorate their new mansions with iconic compositions that showed a high level of quality and artistic virtuosity. Their taste effectively laid the foundation for museum collections and helped to develop a visual identity for the country.