Thursday, December 31, 2009


Clipart image of Jules Breton
From Clipart ETC

Jules Breton (1827-1906)
Private collection
This image is courtesy of the Don Kurtz
From ARC

One idea at the core of nineteenth century painting is known as the Theory of Sacrifices. A poetic quality, it was believed, comes from the sacrifice of needless detail. As one writer put it: “Nature instills sentiments in the spectator through the selective sacrifice of details in order to improve the overall effect.”
Jules Adolphe Breton said: “Painters without experience often weaken the effect they wish to produce by a prodigality which multiplies uselessly the figures and accessories of a picture. It will not be long before they learn that, the greater the conciseness and simplicity with which a thought is interpreted, the more it gains in expressive force.”
(James Gurney at Gurney Journey)

Courtesy of the Don Kurtz
As one of the primary painters of peasant themes in the nineteenth century, and an artist strongly influenced by his own native traditions from northern France, Jules Breton’s reputation rivaled that of Eugène Delacroix or Jean-Dominique Ingres at the time of his death in 1906. Since then, after a long period of relative obscurity, Breton has returned to considerable favor; he is now regarded as a primary painter of daily life with an inherent and substantial understanding of the old masters form the Italian renaissance especially Raphael. The latter artists helped Breton fashion a highly idealist version of peasant beauty. By examining Breton’s background, it will be possible to understand how he evolved as an artist.
(Rehs Galleries, Inc)
Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton was born on May 1, 1827 in Courrières, a small Pas-de-Calais village. His father, Marie-Louis Breton, supervised land for a wealthy landowner. His mother died when Jules was 4 and he was brought up by his father. Other family members who lived in the same house were his maternal grandmother and his uncle Boniface Breton. A respect for tradition, a love of the land and for his native region remained central to his art throughout his life and provided the artist with many scenes for his Salon compositions.
His first artistic training was not far from Courrières at the College St. Bertin near St. Omer. He met the painter Félix de Vigne in 1842 who, impressed by his youthful talent, persuaded his family to let him study art. Breton left for Ghent in 1843 where he continued to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts with de Vigne and the painter Hendrik Van der Haert. In 1846, Breton moved to Antwerp where he took lessons with Baron Gustaf Wappers and spent some time copying the works of Flemish masters. In 1847, he left for Paris where he hoped to perfect his artistic training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
In Paris he studied in the atelier of the Michel Martin Drolling. He met and became friends with several of the Realist painters, including François Bonvin and Gustave Brion and his early entries at the Paris Salon reflected their influence. His first efforts were in historical subjects: Saint Piat preaching in Gaul then, under the influence of the revolution of 1848, he represented Misery and Despair. The Salon displayed his painting Misery and Despair in 1849 and Hunger in 1850-51.
Both paintings have since been destroyed. After Hunger was successfully shown in Brussels and Ghent, Breton moved to Belgium where he met his future wife Elodie. Elodie was the daughter of his early teacher Félix de Vigne. In 1852, Breton returned to France. But he had discovered that he was not born to be a historical painter, and he returned to the memories of nature and of the country which were impressed on him in early youth. In 1853 he exhibited Return of the Reapers, the first of numerous rural peasant scenes influenced by the works of the Swiss painter Léopold Robert. Breton's interest in peasant imagery was well-established from then on and what he is best known for today.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Le Rappel des Glaneuses, 1859
The Recall of the Gleaners

Roberto Fabris' photostream at flickr

The Last Gleanings
Oil on canvas
Private collection

From le web pedagogique

He returned to Paris in 1859 and shared a studio at 53 rue Notre Dame des Champs with Delalleau. Perhaps his most important work of the 1850s, Le Rappel des Glaneuses (The Recall of the Gleaners) was awarded a first class medal at the 1859 Salon and was also sent to international exhibitions in Vienna and Luxembourg. This work was inspired by his sojourn in Marlotte on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. In 1861 he was named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (promoted to Officer in 1867).
While many immediately recall Breton’s peasant figures when they think of the artist, this was not his only interest, nor did his interests remain unchanged throughout his artistic career. He wrote that:
"The too prolonged sight of the same objects in the end dulls the emotions. The mind constantly revolving in the same circle of observation loses its elasticity. The peasant no longer inspired me as formerly, and my imagination exhausted itself in chimerical dreams.”

Les Vendanges A Chateau-Lagrange
The Grape Harvest at the Chateau-Lagrange
Oil on canvas
Private collection
From ARC

The Vintage at Chateau Lagrange
Oil on canvas, 1864
Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha, Nebraska, United States)
From torredahistoriaiberica

Feeling without inspiration, he was invited by Count Duchâtel, one of Louis Phillipe’s former ministers, in 1862 to the Médoc region in southern France to paint a vintage at Château Lagrange (Les Vendages à Château-Lagrange - The Vintage at Chateau Lagrange was later exhibited at the 1864 Salon, a painting now in the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, Nebraska). He had the opportunity to travel through southern France and found Arles a most remarkable city. Of this experience Breton wrote “What remained in my mind of all the keen emotions awakened in it by the scenery of the South? Nothing which I could profit by, as far as my art was concerned, but enough to make me admire anew, and more enthusiastically than before, the simple sylvan beauty that surrounded me.” From 1865 on, he also visited Brittany on several occasions, each time focusing his pictorial interest on the people working the land and local traditions such as the frequent religious pilgrimages. Works inspired by his time in Brittany – he often returned to Douarnenez during this period - form a large and important portion of Breton’s oeuvre. In 1867 he exhibited ten paintings at the Exposition Universelle and was given a first-place medal. Although he suggests that he was losing interest in depictions of peasant life, his work had come to be recognized as an idealized version of it, which appealed to the Second Empire public and government officials who wanted to reference the tranquil nature of these works which shifted attention away from the real issues that Paris faced. Increasingly, many of his paintings have overt and covert references to work from the Italian Renaissance, especially imagery by Raphael.
Breton’s work in the 1870s should be viewed against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian war. In Jules Breton and the French Rural Tradition (New York: The Arts Publisher, Inc: 1982, pg. 16), Hollister Sturges highlights the changes in Breton’s work in response to these influences:
"The rising importance of naturalism in French painting and the nationalist sentiment following the Franco-Prussian War were the most important external forces influencing the development of Breton’s work in the 1870s. While he continued to interpret rustic life with the blend of poetic sentiment, elevated style, and realistic observation that earned him so much acclaim during the Second Empire, two new, even opposing, tendencies can be seen in his work of this decade. He made his classicized peasants more monumental than those in even his most ambitious earlier works, and he painted them in a more naturalistic, vigorous, less controlled fashion."

The Reapers
Oil on canvas
Private collection
From ARC

The Song of the Lark
Oil on canvas, 1884
The Art Institute of Chicago
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jules Breton's Song of the Lark has long been a popular artwork in the Art Institute's collection. This was particularly the case in the 1930s, when the painting was judged America's Best Loved Picture in a contest sponsored by the Chicago Daily News. When the contest winner was announced in 1934, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt unveiled the painting at a ceremony held at the museum.

The Solitary Reaper:
(William Wordsworth)
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?--
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;--
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
(A Poem for the Day - "The Solitary Reaper" By William Wordsworth, 1805 at lonebearimagesprose.blogspot)

Paper Bell said at lonebearimagesprose.blogspot:
"It is a lot of fun to stand in front of it and channel Thea Kronberg (from _Song of the Lark_): “That was her picture. She imagined that nobody cared for it but herself, and that it waited for her. That was a picture indeed. She even liked the name of it, ‘The Song of the Lark.’ The flat country, the early morning light, the wet fields, the look in the girl’s heavy face—well, they were all hers, anyhow, what-ever was there. She told herself that that picture was ‘right.’ Just what she meant by this, it would take a clever person to explain. But to her the word covered almost the boundless satisfaction she felt when she looked at the picture.”

The Song of the Lark:
(Jean Parkes)
From the rustic village pleasant
Came a sturdy working peasant
Now she stops to listen. Hark!
Hear the pretty warbling lark.
Now the lark is soaring high
Disappearing in the sky.
Peasant pictures he did paint
The artist thought them very quaint.
(By Jean Parkes at Book of short Stories)

"Growing up in Chicago I had the opportunity to visit some of the world’s greatest museums – which included frequent visits to The Art Institute of Chicago. There are incredible works of art there, but one always caught my attention: The Song of the Lark by Jules Adolphe Breton. I didn’t realize what it was about the painting that fascinated me until college. In the background of the painting, there is an orange sun setting. When you take a macro look at the painting, the size of the sun is pretty insignificant. But, if you were to take it out, the painting wouldn’t be as effective in portraying the sadness on this woman’s face. It inspires me to know that one small, seemingly insignificant detail can convey an idea as grand as sadness."

Summer, 1891

Raccommodeuse de Filets
(Mending the Nets)
Oil on canvas

Breton’s depiction of a woman mending a net offers a vision of rustic beauty that is serene, harmonious, and imbued with poetic sentiment. The peasant girl is expertly rendered in traditional clothing, as she goes about her chore in contemplative silence at the shoreline. As a highly regarded painter of peasant landscapes, Breton was one of the most celebrated artists of his generation. He was strongly influenced by Millet and the Barbizon School, but romanticized the peasants he painted and concentrated on idealized compositions.

Washerwomen of the Breton Coast

Polly Sartori, Director of Sotheby's 19th Century Paintings, said, “We achieved a strong sale total of $10.8 million with a selective offering of important works. Collectors continue to be interested in high quality pictures, and we saw great interest leading up to the sale; however we did see caution among bidders and a higher unsold rate than usual. Four bidders competed for John Frederick Lewis’s The Kibab Shop, which sold for $3.4 million, the second highest price ever paid for a work by the artist and our highest price for a 19th Century painting in New York since spring of 2006. To sell a painting at this level in this new market is a wonderful accomplishment.”
Among the highlights were a number of recently rediscovered works by artists such as Giovanni Boldini, Ludwig Deutsch, and Jules Breton, including his Washerwomen of the Breton Coast, which had been lost since the 1890s (est. $400/600,000). The Washerwomen was one of the first major Breton pictures to enter an American collection, purchased most likely in the early 1870s by Edwin Denison Morgan, Governor of New York during the beginning of the Civil War, and trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln. Morgan promoted Breton’s reputation in America (as well as his own as a major collector) by sharing his impressive art collection with friends in his Washington, D.C. and New York homes, where The Washerwomen was a visitors’ favorite. After Morgan’s death, the painting was sold in his estate sale to another wealthy New York financier. Despite the importance of the work to Breton’s early career, his American reputation, and the power of the men who first owned it, by the turn of the 20th Century the painting had disappeared from view and record – only to emerge recently in a private French collection. The Washerwomen of the Breton Coast’s exhibition at Sotheby’s New York was the first public viewing in the United States in over 130 years.
(Art Knowledge News)
Throughout his career, which spanned nearly sixty years, Breton painted with an idealistic vision of the beauty and harmony of the peasant laborer working the land. In tune with these thoughts, he lived a life of sober regularity - sure and balanced without serious conflict or great difficulty. His later years were spent balancing time between the busy energetic life of Paris and the tranquility and serenity of Courrières, where he worked in a garden studio at the family brewery. Breton died in Paris on July 4, 1906.


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