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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection Part II

Marchande de fleurs à Londres

Marchande de fleurs à Londres
signed, inscribed, and dated 'J.BASTIEN-LEPAGE/LONDRES 82' (lower left)
oil on canvas
68 1/2 x 35 3/8 in. (174 x 89.9 cm.)
Painted in London in 1882
The artist; estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 11-12 May 1885, lot 6.
Marie-Auguste Flameng, Paris.
Jean-Louis Burtin, Nancy.
Mlle Petit-Dossarise, Nancy (by 1933).
Private collection, France (by descent from the above); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 7 May 2015, lot 6 (detail illustrated on the cover).
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
L. de Fourcaud, "Peinture en danger" in Le Gaulois, Paris, 22 December 1882, p. 1.
C. Frémine, "Exposition de la Société internationale des peintres et sculpteurs" in Le Rappel, Paris, 24 December 1882, n.p. (titled Marchande de fleurs).
L. de Fourcaud, "Exposition des Œuvres de Bastien-Lepage à l'Hôtel de Chimay" in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1885, vol. 31, pp. 265 and 267.
A. Theuriet, Jules Bastien-Lepage: L'homme et l'artiste, Paris, 1885, p. 47 (titled la Marchande de fleurs).
A. Theuriet, "Jules Bastien-Lepage: L'homme et l'artiste" in Revue des Deux Mondes, Paris, 1 March 1885, p. 822 (titled la Marchande de fleurs).
P. Eudel, L'Hôtel Drouot et la Curiosité en 1884-1885, Cinquième Annéé, Paris, 1886, XXXVII, p. 397.
A. Theuriet, Jules Bastien-Lepage and His Art: A Memoir, London, 1892, p. 59 (titled La Marchande de Fleurs (The Flower Girl)).
J. Cartwright, Jules Bastien-Lepage, London, 1894, p. 59.
R. Muther, History of Modern Painting, London, vol. 3, 1896, p. 27 (illustrated with the engraving, p. 16).
D. Stanley, “Bastien-Lepage in London” in The Art Journal, 1897, p. 56.
Mrs. A. Bell, Representative Painters of the Nineteenth Century, London and New York, 1899, p. 116 (titled Flower Girl).
W. Brownell, French Art, Classic and Contemporary, New York, 1901, p. 86 (titled London Flower Girl).
S. Bernstamm, "Un grand Peintre Bastien-Lepage" in L'Eclaireur du Dimanche, Nice, 9 September 1923, p. 9 (titled Marchande de fleurs).
W. S. Feldman, The Life and Work of Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884), unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, February 1973, pp. 166-167 (illustrated, fig. 57).
K. McConkey, “The Bouguereau of the Naturalists: Bastien-Lepage and British Art” in Art History, vol. 1, no. 3, Henley-on-Thames, 1978, p. 374 (illustrated, fig. 48).
K. McConkey, A Painter's Harvest: works by Henry Herbert La Thangue, R. A. 1859-1929, Oldham, 1978, p. 8 (illustrated, p. 9, fig. 6; titled Marchande de Fleurs a Londres).
C. Debize and P. Pagnotta, Jules Bastien-Lepage: Damvillers 1848-Paris 1884, Bar-le-Duc, 1984 (illustrated, p. 126).
M.-M. Aubrun, Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884): Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre, Paris, 1985, p. 234, no. 368 (illustrated).
G. P. Weisberg, Redefining Genre: French and American Painting 1850-1900, Washington, D.C., 1995, pp. 87-88 (illustrated, p. 87, fig. 2.14; titled The Flower Vendor (Le Marchande de fleurs)).
H. Claude, "Peinture et Art Nouveau: L'exposition du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy" in Le Pays Lorrain, Nancy, July 1999, vol. 80, p. 198 (illustrated in color).
B. Ponton, Jules Bastien-Lepage, peintre lorrain, Charenton-le-Pont, 1999, p. 21 (titled La Marchande de fleurs à Londres).
J. Thuillier, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Metz, 2005, p. 118 (illustrated, p. 119; titled Bouqetière à Londres).
K. McConkey, "Un petit cercle de thuriféraires- Bastien-Lepage et La Grande Bretagne" in 48/18 La revue du Musée d'Orsay, no. 24, Spring 2007, p. 25 (illustrated in color, p. 24, fig. 6).
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Société internationale des peintres et sculpteurs, 1882, no. 3 (titled Marchande de fleurs).
Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, Hôtel de Chimay, Exposition des oeuvres de Jules Bastien-Lepage, March-April 1885, no. 156.
Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, Peinture et Art Nouveau, April-July 1999, pp. 52 and 54, no. 28, ill. 47 (illustrated in color, p. 54).
Paris, Musée d'Orsay and Verdun, Centre mondial de la Paix, Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884), March-September 2007, pp. 40-41, 44, 154-156, 158, 160, no. 54 (illustrated in color, p. 155).
Arc-et-Senans, Saline Royale d'Arc-et-Senans, Courbet, Proudhon: l'art et le peuple, June-September 2010, (titled Le petite bouguetière à Londres).
Seattle, Pivot Art + Culture, A Closer Look: Portraits from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, December 2016-March 2017.
Baschet, n.d.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

One afternoon in June 1880 the high Victorian visionary painter, George Frederick Watts, introduced his current sitter, a young woman named Dorothy Tennant, to Jules Bastien-Lepage (fig. 1). The encounter took place in the hallowed halls of the Grosvenor Gallery summer exhibition which, three years earlier, had provided the spark for the notorious contretemps between John Ruskin and James McNeill Whistler that resulted in an infamous lawsuit. This occasion was more cordial and, in its way, more significant. Miss Tennant, a talented young artist and fluent French speaker, was the daughter of a wealthy Member of Parliament, Sir Charles Tennant, and his wife, Gertrude.

Her widowed mother, an old friend of Gustave Flaubert, now presided over an important Francophile political and cultural salon at the family home in Richmond Terrace, Whitehall. Dorothy, now twenty-five, had been one of the first female students to study under the French Realist master, Alphonse Legros, at the Slade School of Fine Art, before completing her training in 1879 with a year in Paris at the atelier of Jean-Jacques Henner. Meeting Bastien-Lepage changed both their lives, for in 1880 he was the most important guest exhibitor at the Grosvenor and every day, around Les Foins 1877-8 (fig. 2), one of his nine paintings on show, a little crowd of young worshippers would gather in lively argument.

Appreciation for Lepage’s work in London was unlike anything in Paris where his distinct brand of rural Naturalism was derided by traditional classicists and Impressionist radicals alike. In Paris, at the current Salon, Jeanne d’Arc écoutant les Voix, (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), despite Emile Zola’s defence, was sharply criticized, while in the Royal Academy, his depiction of the Prince of Wales in Tudor costume and looking like a modern Holbein, courted controversy. Nevertheless, lionized by London society, of all those with whom he socialized, including the actor-manager, Henry Irving, the writer, Bram Stoker, of later Dracula fame, and Laura and Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Miss Tennant was the most important. It was she who offered him her studio on subsequent visits to the city, and it was she who helped him find the flower girl, the subject of the present remarkable canvas.
With London dealers such as Arthur Tooth, and EJ Vaughan, the manager of the United Arts Gallery, vying for his work after the Grosvenor display, Lepage had good reason to keep in touch with the London art trade and in the following summer it was convenient to take up Dorothy Tennant’s kind offer of her studio, while painting scenes of the Thames. He told her as they mused over the differences of light, colour and atmosphere between London and Paris, that his real ambition was to paint a type très anglais – a London street vendor.

“He told her as they mused over the differences of light, colour and atmosphere between London and Paris, that his real ambition was to paint a type très anglais – a London street vendor.”
The topic was not unusual; the treatment would be. By the 1870s, the social survey of life in the metropolis expressed in Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (3 vol., 1851) coupled with the novels of Dickens, had found visual form in popular illustration. New impetus was supplied to illustrated journalism with the appearance of The Graphic as a rival to The Illustrated London News, and flower sellers, bootblacks and other street vendors began to appear on a variety of levels, from Frank Holl’s, Luke Fildes’s, Hubert von Herkomer’s and Gustave Doré’s illustrations up to the level of the Royal Academy exhibition-piece (figs. 3 and 4).

When he returned to the Richmond Terrace studio in 1882, Lepage was to radically re-envision this imagery. There was much discussion about sentiment and the differences between French and English approaches to sensibilité and sensiblerie. These thoughts took shape in the wish to pluck living specimens from the streets and bring them to the studio/laboratory for rigorous examination. The idea at first repelled the haute bourgeoisie of Richmond Terrace, but when the Petit cireur de bottes à Londres, a full-length portrait of an unruly lad removed from a corner in Cheapside, and the young woman in the present work arrived from Charing Cross, the point was taken (fig. 5).

In both cases Tennant-fille was his accomplice. ‘After the shoeblack’, she recalled, “we decided that a London flower girl would be a type Anglais. She was found near Charing Cross; a tall graceful girl with sloping shoulders wrapped in a thin weather-stained shawl, her hair tangled over her eyes, and drawn back in a knot at the back; a flat round basket, in which “button-holes” were bedded out in moss, was balanced on her left hand. Bastien-Lepage was most enthusiastic over this painting. He vowed he would return in ’83 to paint a group of London flower-girls. “for I have done nothing yet compared with what I can do – what I shall do …”

The longed-for return never took place due to the painter’s slow decline into ill-health and at his death in December 1884, his brother, Emile, received two affectionate letters of condolence from Dorothy and her mother. After his death Tennant produced what may be her own sentimental memorial to the marchande in London Street Arabs (1890), a volume of studies of vagrants. Yet the most important souvenir of this remarkable friendship is what is arguably Lepage’s finest self-portrait, inscribed with a dedication to Tennant (fig. 6).

During that summer, Tennant had the opportunity to observe Lepage’s working practices at close quarters. Using methods more often associated with Whistler, he adopted long handled brushes and did not follow the convention of posing the model on a ‘throne’ or raised platform, insisting that the nearer the feet came to the bottom of the canvas, ‘the greater the impression of reality’. While a preparatory watercolour (fig. 7) concentrates upon the figure, this sense of an encounter in the present canvas is inevitably increased by the indication of passers-by - particularly the jaunty bearded male figure sporting a cigar, like Degas’s Comte Lepic in Place de la Concorde, c. 1876 (Hermitage, St. Petersburg).

The flower seller might expect to be ignored by the majority, but there were undoubtedly moments when other services might be required, and these rippled through popular literature, taking their most obvious form in George Bernard Shaw’s creation of the eponymous Eliza Doolittle (1913).

Before he left Paris to come to London that year, Lepage would have seen Un bar aux Folies Bergère, Edouard Manet’s last great coup de dé at the 1882 Salon (fig. 8). He would have noted the passivity in the young woman’s face – her gaze susceptible to any and all interpretations - a neutrality that objectifies the subject, tempting, while at the same time denying, explanation. It was precisely in line with his own early works such as the vacant facial expression adopted by the young harvester in Les Foins. Furthermore, in the Folies Bergère, Manet had reverted to his own exercises in social recording, seen in The Street Singer, 1862 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and the beggar-philosophers of 1865 (Art Institute, Chicago). Like other second-generation realists of the 1860s, Manet had, from time to time, been contributing to a rich strand of feuilleton imagery that had found early expression in Les Français peints par eux-mêmes (1839-41).

When Lepage exhibited Marchande de fleurs à Londres on his return to Paris, the connection with Manet seemed obvious. At this point Arsène Houssaye famously observed, ‘M. Manet a semé, c’est Bastien-Lepage qui récolte’, and while one was sincere the other was only smart (habile). Sadly, with both painters’ premature deaths, there was no opportunity to remove this stigma, and in photographs and etchings of the painter’s studio in Paris, the Marchande de fleurs … can be seen silently awaiting its removal to the memorial exhibition in 1885. In both literary and visual terms, the commitment of the école naturaliste to life, to social documentation, would stretch out from Zola to Maupassant and Proust on the one hand, and from Courbet’s and Manet’s generations to Tissot, Raffaëlli, Béraud and Toulouse-Lautrec on the other. As George Clausen, one of those who visited the Grosvenor display, would note - ‘all his personages are placed before us in the most satisfying completeness, without the appearance of artifice, but as they live; and without comment, as far as is possible on the author’s part’. This was obvious to those who congregated around Lepage’s work on the day Watts called his young sitter to meet the French painter. It was not the clever translator of other painters’ ideas that the astute Miss Tennant remembered most.

We are very grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for preparing this catalogue entry.

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