Monsieur Olivier Lorquin and Monsieur Didier Jumaux have confirmed the authenticity of this work.
The early 20th Century marked a significant shift in the appreciation of art outside of the canon of the traditional academy. Diverse sources of influence were making their way to the Western art by way of the Paris avant-garde, with African, Pacific and Asian art forms readily being taken up as inspiration by artists such as Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Attention was furthermore drawn to painters from unlikely backgrounds; untrained, self-taught ‘naïve’ and folk artists, who formerly would not have been publicly recognised within serious, high-brow, academic art circles. Modern artists embraced and craved these new perspectives which bought with them new ways of seeing and interpreting the world, communicated through refreshing and unique visual languages from a range of perspectives.
Born in Venarey-les-Laumes in 1883, Camille Bombois came from lowly beginnings. Without significant family means to support a full-time art career, the aspirant artist worked from a young age in a variety of labouring jobs and as a sailor, painting as much as he could in his spare time. Also a talented wrestler, the young Bombois found an opportunity to join the circus which would not only provide his passage to Paris in 1907, but would later serve as the inspiration for many important works of this theme and other acts of physical performance, as is seen here in En attendant son numero d’athlète (lot 33).
German critic Wilhelm Uhde, a champion of naïve art, met Camille Bombois in 1922, the artist having returned from his successful military service whereby he was rewarded several times for his bravery. This meeting sparked fruitful support for the struggling artist that would see him representated in Paris exhibitions with other of his naïve contemporaries. In championing these artists, Uhde dubbed them the artists of the sacre-coeur, referring not to their geographical location so much as their emotional purity of expression, untainted by the uncompromising dogma of the Paris academy.
The following three paintings represent some the finest examples of Bombois’s oeuvre from the early stages of his critical success, circa 1925 to 1935. These are confidently depicted scenes, comprised of discrete, specific moments from everyday working-class life, each expressing a strong narrative which is engendered through explicit gesture, clothing (or lack thereof), and characterisation, to the brink of caricature. Here we see the artist’s famed feminine characters of voluptuous, full build; refreshing in their contrast with the elongated aesthetics of Parisian elegance seen in the upper echelons of haute societe.
Most crucially, the minute details that peek out of each canvas act like Proustian memoirs – the doll, chickens and tiny paintings-within-a-painting of Preparation pour le bain (lot 34); the miniature vase of flowers and pompoms on the shoes of the Courtesan (lot 32) – these elements, painted with the utmost care, heighten the intrigue, depth and intimacy of each painting. Here the artist presents a preciousness, a delicacy that urges one to move physically closer to the canvas to permeate and fully experience his unique world full of colourful moments.
These exceptional examples were purchased together in 1968 from Perls Galleries, New York, and have resided in one private collection ever since. They are presently offered from the collection of Roxanne Rosoman, wife of late the British artist, Leonard Rosoman O.B.E. RA. A painter, illustrator, printmaker and muralist, Rosoman began his career when his depictions of wartime London caught the attention of Kenneth Clark, the then director of the National Gallery and the War Artists Advisory Committee. Clark appointed Rosoman as an official war artist, and he was posted to the Royal Marines in 1945. On his return to London, he taught at the Chelsea School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art, where David Hockney was one of his students.