La Tricoteuse was painted at La Rochelle, the artist's birthplace, while he was on holiday at his hotel particulier in the rue Verdière. The model was most likely a young resident of La Rochelle or the vicinity, and she appears in other paintings executed in 1890 and 1891 such as Petites mendiantes and Pêcheuse of 1890 and Petite bergère, La cruche cassée, and Gardeuse d'oies of 1891.
La Tricoteuse has been lost since its execution in 1891. It appears that the painting was sold directly from the artist to Tooth & Sons of London in the beginning of 1891 at the same time as a painting entitled La petite bergère. Because Bouguereau's knitter is also a shepherdess, the provenance of the two paintings has been confused.
La tricoteuse is characteristic of Bouguereau's work throughout his oeuvre: the elevation of the peasant in a time of increasing industrialization and urbanization. The young girl in the painting stands upon a path bordered by hollyhocks, and confronts the viewer while still working on the knitting she holds in her fingers. By choosing to execute the figure in three-quarter length, the artist has monumentalized her. She dominates both the picture plane and the landscape behind her. This deification of the peasant girl and the idealization of her activity is typical of Bouguereau's work and falls in neatly with the tenets of Pompier painting.
We are grateful to Damien Bartoli for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Damien Bartoli with the assistance of Fred Ross, the Bouguereau Committee and the Art Renewal Center.