François Bonvin (French, 1817-1887)
François Bonvin (French, 1817-1887)

Roses in a Vase

François Bonvin (French, 1817-1887)
Roses in a Vase
signed and dated 'F. Bonvin, 1878.' (center right)
oil on canvas
21½ x 13¼ in. (54.6 x 33.7 cm.)
Painted in 1878.
François Delestre, Paris, until circa 1978.
Mr. and Mrs. Deanne Johnson, New York and Los Angeles, until 2004.
Gabriel Weisberg, François Bonvin 1817-1887: his life, his work, his family, his friends, Paris, 1979, p. 230, no. 160 (illustrated) (also illustrated on p. 122, fig. 69).
Anisabelle Berès and Michel Arveiller, François Bonvin, the Master of the 'Realist School', Paris, 1999, no. 86 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie D. Rothschild, Exposition de tableaux et de dessins par François Bonvin, 10-31 May 1886, no. 70.
New York, Wheelock Whitney & Co., François Bonvin: An Exhibition of Paintings, 26 April - 24 May 1984, no. 20.

Lot Essay

Born on November 22, 1817 in Vaugirard, Francois-Saint Bonvin was the son of a policeman and a seamstress. His mother died four years later and his father left him in the care of a neighbor while he tried to earn a living in a cotton mill. The young boy was moved about from year to year and perhaps starting drawing to amuse his younger siblings.

Bonvin's first exhibitions were of drawings and watercolors, many of which represented his daughter. The artist slowly found a market and began to enlarge his circle of acquaintances in the Parisian art world, including the critic Theophile Gautier and Gustave Courbet. The two artists formed a unique friendship and agreed completely on the artistic search for the depiction of reality. Unlike the older master, Bonvin's canvases were small and precise, perhaps their size and detail influenced by his training as a draughtsman and printmaker.

Although a significant part of the artist's oeuvre is dedicated to Realism, the artist was a central figure in the still life revival of the 1850s, and contemporary critics often referred to him as the direct heir of the tradition of the great 18th Century artist François Chardin.

Roses dans un vase is a superb example of both the simplicity and complexity of the floral still life. Bonvin has chosen a very tightly controlled palette of pink, green, earth tones and a most extraordinary red. The vase of roses is set slightly to the left of the center of the picture plane in order accommodate the one pink rose which has fallen to the table. The placement of this one rose is the artist's surety that he has depicted this simple subject with all the immediacy and realism that he can muster. The draughtsmanship is extraordinary while the subject matter is simple, and through his mastery of his medium, Bonvin has raised this simple still life of roses in a vase to a monumental testament to his Realist ideals.

More from 19th Century European Art

View All
View All