Lot 49: WILLIAM BOUGUEREAU
19th Century European Art including Sporting Paintings
April 25, 2006
New York, NY, USA
PROPERTY FROM AN AMERICAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
45 1/2 by 27 5/8 in.
115.6 by 70.2 cm
signed W-Bouguereau and dated 1895 (lower right)
oil on canvas
Arthur Tooth & Son, London
Midwestern Estate (and sold: Sotheby's, New York, October 31, 2000, lot 112, illustrated)
Richard Green Fine Paintings, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Franqueville, William Bouguereau, Paris, 1895, p. 370 (as Le déjeuner)
Marius Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p.159 (as Le goûter)
Mark Steven Walker, "A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings", in William-Adolphe Bouguereau: L'Art Pompier, exhibition catalogue, Borghi & Co., New York, 1991, p. 74
Le goûter (The Snack) is a full-length portrait of the young Yvonne, one of Bouguereau's favorite models. She and her sisters, Jeanne and Marguerite, who also served as models, lived near La Rochelle, where Bouguereau found artistic inspiration on successive summers from 1893 until the end of his career. Yvonne is immortalized at various stages of her childhood in a succession of Bouguereau's paintings, including Yvonne (sold in these rooms on May 22, 1991), Espièglerie (The Mischievous One) (sold in these rooms on April 20, 2005) Sur la grève (On the Shore), Les deux soeurs (The Two Sisters), Fradeau agréable (The Happy Burden), and Les petites amies (The Little Friends). Painted at the same time as the present work was En pénitence (Penitence), (sold in these rooms on February 16, 1995), which, with its striking similarities, could almost be the pendant to Le goûter (The Snack).
Yvonne gazes frankly from the picture with great emotional immediacy, revealing how well the subject and artist had come to know one another. As observed by Jacques Lethève, "It was unusual for an artist to do as Bouguereau did: his favorite model was engaged by the month for a regular salary of three hundred francs, ate with the family and knitted or helped in the kitchen between modeling sessions." (Jacques Lethève, Daily Life of French Artists in the Nineteenth Century, trans. by Hillary E. Paddon, New York, 1972, p. 77). Bouguereau depicts Yvonne, life size, eating a bowl of what seems to be milk porridge, a rustic soup made of stale bread boiled in milk, sometimes sweetened, and a staple dish since antiquity. Le Goûter (The Snack), painted in an interior, is especially striking and arresting. The girl's mischievous glance is brilliantly captured and introduces a touch of caprice to an otherwise calm and classically rendered portrait. The understated colors in the background and the girl's dress --- which form a symphony of whites, light grays and straw colors --- perfectly set into relief the realistic flesh tones Bouguereau so excelled in rendering. It was precisely this process of transforming the quotidian into the ideal that Bouguereau was describing in his interview with Eugène Tardieu in 1895, the year this picture was painted: "In painting, I'm an idealist. I see only the beautiful in art and, for me art is beautiful. Why reproduce what is ugly in nature? I don't see why it should be necessary." (W. Bouguereau, interviewed by Tardieu in "La Peinture et les Peintres", L'Echo de Paris, May 8, 1895 n.p.).
We would like to thank Damien Bartoli for kindly providing this catalogue note (translated from the French). This painting will be included in the forthcoming Bouguereau catalogue raisonné being prepared by Damien Bartoli with the assistance of Fred Ross, the Bouguereau Committee and The Art Renewal Center, www.artrenewal.org.