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Lot 119: Jules Joseph LeFèbvre (French, 1836-1911)

19th Century European Art and Orientalist Art

by Christie's

October 22, 2008

New York, NY, USA

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Description: Jules Joseph LeFèbvre (French, 1836-1911)
Morning Glory
signed and dated 'Jules LeFèbvre. 1879.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
46¾ x 29¾ in. (118.7 x 75.6 cm.)
Painted in 1879.

Notes: Sold to Benefit the Acquisition Fund of the Saint Louis Art Museum
No sales tax is due on the purchase price of this lot if it is picked up or delivered in the State of New York.
Jules Joseph LeFèbvre, was born in Tournan, France and began his studies as an apprentice to a baker, following his father's trade. When he showed an aptitude for drawing, his father sent him to Paris to study under Leon Cogniet at the École des Beaux-Arts. Following his debut at the Salon in 1855, LeFèbvre became a frequent contributor. In 1861, he won the prestigious Prix de Rome, which enabled him to study for five years in Italy, developing his evident interest in the classical period and broadening his academic vocabulary. His paintings earned him numerous awards, culminating in the Grand Prix at the Exposition universelle in 1891.

LeFèbvre was known for his allegorical portrayals of the female nude and the popularity of his paintings rivaled that of William Bouguereau. Most famous for his portraits and genre scenes, as well as his championing of the traditional cult of beauty, LeFèbvre's atelier at the Acadmie Julien, where William-Adolphe Bouguereau taught as well, attracted many of the finest young artists of the time, including the American Elizabeth Jane Gardner (who later married Bouguereau). LeFèbvre, who had honed his skills in Italy by copying works of the Italian Mannerist painter Andrea del Sarto, emphasized precise drawing skills in his teaching. One reviewer wrote in 1881, 'It is sufficient to just mention his name in order to immediately evoke the memory and the image of the thousand adorable creatures of which he is the young father... An unusually skilled draftsman, Jules LeFèbvre better than anyone else caresses, with a brush both delicate and sure, the undulating contour of the feminine form.'

As can be seen in the quality of the present picture, LeFèbvre's work is executed with a high degree of finish. True to his academic training, he was a superb draughtsman, and paid particular care to the rendering of figures. His familiarity and appreciation for the classics is evident here in the dress and the gesture of the figure, particularly the way in which she stands.

In Morning Glory, despite the mythical atmosphere and dress of the figure, LeFèbvre has created a sense of realism with the figure's expression and specific sense of youth. Her ripe age - she is just recently a woman - and the impressive presence granted her by the size of the canvas suggest an incredible potential power in her position at the very beginning of her grown-up life, one which the intensity of her gaze suggests she is just beginning to recognize and harness.

Provenance: Daniel Catlin and Justina G. Catlin, St. Louis, Missouri, 1881-1917.

Exhibited: St. Louis, St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Art, Loan Exhibition, 1881, no. 55.
St. Louis, St. Louis Exhibition and Music Hall Association, St. Louis Exhibition and Music Hall Association - First Annual Exhibiton, 1884, p. 21 no. 72.
St. Louis, Saint Louis Art Museum, The 19th Century: Changing Styles/Changing Attitudes, 1973.

Literature: Recent Accessions, Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St. Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, 1917, vol. 3, April edition, p 12.

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