William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
Property of a Prince
William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)

Récolte de noisettes

William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
Récolte de noisettes
signed 'W-BOVGVEREAV' (lower right)
oil on canvas
63 5/8 x 44 ¾ in. (161.6 x 113.7 cm.)
Painted in 1883.
The artist.
Goupil et Cie., Paris, acquired directly from the above, 12 December 1883.
with Letts, Sons, and Co., London, 9 January 1884, transferred from the above.
with Goupil et Cie., Paris, 17 April 1884, returned from the above.
Clara Jessup Bloomfield-Moore (1824-1899), London, acquired directly from the above, 30 April 1884.
Her sale; Christie's, London, 5 May 1900, lot 8, as The Nut-Gatherers.
with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, acquired at the above sale.
Half share of the painting sold to Boussod, Valadon & Cie., Paris, 15 May 1900.
with Edward Brandus, New York and Paris, acquired directly from the above, 17 May 1900.
William Keeney Bixby (1857-1931), St. Louis, likely acquired directly from the above.
with M. Knoedler & Co., New York, acquired directly from the above, 13 December 1905.
Judge Samuel Lathrop Bronson (1834-1917), New Haven, CT, acquired directly from the above, 16 February 1906.
His sale, American Art Association, New York, 15 March 1907, lot 35, as The Nut Gatherers.
with Holland Galleries, New York, acquired at the above sale.
James 'Diamond Jim' Buchanan Brady (1856-1917), acquired directly from the above.
His sale; American Art Association, New York, 14 January 1918, lot 73, as The Nut Gatherers.
Miss E. Fitzgibbon, acquired at the above sale.
Anonymous sale; American Art Association, New York, 16 February 1922, lot 64, as The Nut Gatherers.
William Randolph Hearst, Sr. (1863-1951), New York and San Simeon, CA, acquired at the above sale.
His sale; Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 5 January 1939, lot 37, as The Nut Gatherers.
Andrew Stone, Brentwood, California.
Allan Levinson, United States.
with Borghi & Co., New York, 1984.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

M. S. Walker, 'A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings', in William Bouguereau: l’art pompier, exh. cat., Borghi & Co., New York, 1991, p. 72.
D. Bartoli and F. Ross, William Bouguereau: Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work, New York, 2010, pp. 219-222, no. 1883/10, illustrated (erroneously catalogued as dated).
New York, Borghi & Co., William Adolph Bouguereau, 1825-1905, 20 March-20 April 1984. n.p, illustrated on the cover, as The Nut Gatherers (erroneously catalogued as dating to 1899).

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Lot Essay

American collectors were among the most avid buyers of Bouguereau’s painting in the last quarter of the 19th century. This sustained interest in the work of the French Academic master was cultivated at first by the French dealer Paul Durand Ruel and then solidified by Durand Ruel’s foremost competitor, Adolphe Goupil. Between 1866 and 1887, Bouguereau would sell ten to twelve works per year to Goupil for an agreed upon sum, and Goupil then sold approximately nine out of every ten to dealers outside of France, mostly to Wallis in London and Knoedler in New York. In fact, only eight works painted during this period are recorded by Goupil as having been sold to collectors in France.
Récolte des noisettes has an interesting and varied history. As usual, Bouguereau sold this painting to Goupil in December of 1883, shortly after its completion, and in return for 26,000 francs which represented a security deposit, Goupil lent it to Letts & Sons, Co., of 33 King William Street, London on January 4th, 1888. This transaction was probably agreed to in order to allow Letts to make a series of chromolithographs after the painting and an additional fee of 8,000 francs was charged separately for this. In addition, Letts made several hand-colored lithographs of the painting, which is a testament to the appeal of the work. Subsequent to its return to Goupil it changed hands several times between British collectors, London dealers, American collectors and dealers, ultimately gracing the collections of two of the most well-known figures of the American Gilded Age. James Buchanan Brady (fig. 1), a businessman, financier and philanthropist whose enormous appetite was as legendary as his wealth and penchant for fine jewels, which earned his the nickname ‘Diamond Jim Brady,’ owned the work until 1918. Later in the century, it was purchased by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst (fig. 2) and entered one of the most renowned art collections of the Gilded Age. It was included in the Hearst sale in 1939, when the millionaire sold off part of his collection to pay debts incurred in the stock market crash. The painting remained in collections in California until purchased by the present owner.
Between 1881 and 1885, Bouguereau painted a number of works that featured young girls at play, such as Les Noisettes, 1882 (fig. 3), currently in the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Le Branche de cerisier, 1881, both of which feature the same models as the present painting. These two girls first posed for Bouguereau in 1879 in La Rochelle, where Bouguereau spent a few months every summer.
While some artists of the 19th century, such as Jean François Millet and Léon-Auguste Lhermitte, sought to document the arduous lives of the peasants and farmers who toiled in the French countryside, William Bouguereau romanticized them. His peasants, almost exclusively female, are depicted as serene and innocent, unaffected by any social or economic injustice. According to Alfred Nettement, a student at the Académie Julien, his teacher Bouguereau ‘had an absolute horror of what we would call realism and he always said that reality is charming when it borrows a gleam of poetry from the imagination' (A. Nettement, ‘William Bouguereau’ L’Académie Julien, January 1908, p. 3, as quoted in M. S. Walker, William Bouguereau, exh. cat. , Montreal, 1984, p. 57).
Strengthened by the Academic tradition of which he was so much a part, Bouguereau made notable innovations to depiction of children. ‘To him (Bouguereau) the child was king, and to honor the child as such did not entail the inevitable descent, as it did for so many of his contemporaries, into uninspired ‘genre’ painting. On the contrary, Bouguereau’s paintings of children allowed for the expression of values that formed, for the painter, the very heart of his philosophy of life: youthful hope, the warmth of the family circle, fraternal love……What marvelous sense Bouguereau had of the mimicries, the poses, and the emotions of the early years of life!' (G. Chazal, ‘The Art of William Bouguereauin Montreal, William Bouguereau, exh. cat. 1984-1985, p. 68). The artist’s sympathy with the wonderment of childhood culminates in such triumphant renditions of all aspects of childhood throughout the artist’s oeuvre.
The two figures in the present work are a perfect example of Bougereau’s complete embrace of the Academic tradition. Before beginning a complex composition such as Récolte des noisettes, Bouguereau would produce an enormous number of drawings and sketches, attacking each aspect of the composition separately; the models, the landscape, an analysis of details and studies of the interactions between the two figures would be worked and reworked in drawing after drawing. These sketches imbued the artist with all the freedom and confidence to let his inspiration flow once he set paint to canvas.
In addition to his legendary skill rendering the human figure, Bouguereau here demonstrates that he is equally adept at handling botanical renderings. While he often used dense foliage as a design element to direct the viewer’s eye to his intended focal point, here the basket of hazelnuts is in sharp focus at the center of the composition and the action of the older girl stretching out her hands for more is both a poignant symbol and poetic gesture.

(fig. 1): George Shepherd, James Buchanan "Diamond Jim" Brady, 1915. © The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.
(fig. 2): Orrin Peck, William Randolph Hearst, 1894. Hearst Castle, San Simeon.
(fig. 3): William Adolphe Bouguereau, Les noisettes, 1882. Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit.

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