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.
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