Georges Rochegrosse entered the Académie Julian in Paris at the young age of 12, becoming a pupil of Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre. The artist later enrolled at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, and was a finalist in the Prix de Rome competition twice. Around 1890 he married his great love Marie Leblond, who became Rochegrosse’s favourite model. From 1900, the artist and his wife spent the winter months in El-Biar, in the hills above the Bay of Algiers, where the painter found inspirations for many of his orientalist compositions. Rochegrosse died in El-Biar, but he was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. His fame was international, commensurate with the ambitious nature of his major historical, mythological and literary compositions.
In the present painting Rochegrosse captures a very intimate scene. The artist’s modulation of light and cropping of the composition is highly impressionistic. Set in Barbizon, during a lazy afternoon, his wife Marie is depicted laying down on a hammock, looking intensively at her husband who is painting the scene, the sun caressing her face and reflecting on her white dress. To the right, dressed in black, is the famous Belgian actress Berthe Bady. Sitting on the ground is the artist Henry Bataille, a very good friend of Rochegrosse and lover of Berthe. Memé, the maid, is about to bring refreshments to the group of friends enjoying the warmth of the sun in such a lavishly painted garden. To complete the scene, La Femme Palme and Yack, the two adored dogs.