In 1871, Bouguereau joined Rodolphe Julian and Jules Lefebvre at the atelier libre in Paris. At the atelier Bouguereau, then married to Marries Marie Nelly Monchablon, would soon take personal interest in one of his students, Elizabeth Jane Gardner. Later that year, shortly after their acquaintance, Gardner would move into 73 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs and become neighbors with the Bouguereau family. The following six years before Nelly's death marked an interesting period for Bouguereau as both his private affairs, his family affairs, and his professional life intermingled. Certainly, during these years Bouguereau experienced abundant emotional as well as professional challenges which progressively project an unforeseen maturity, romanticism and ultimately a strong idealism in his art.
The challenges in his professional career were the result of his exclusive contract with the powerful French dealer Goupil, signed in 1866. From this date onward, Bouguereau was exposed to a larger and more generous patronage in the United States. Goupil's close ties with the important art advisor Samuel P. Avery brought Bouguereau in close contact with major collectors such as William T. Walters, William H. Vanderbilt, Alexander T. Stewart and George Whitney. Almost seventy percent of Bouguereau's production after this date was designed for, purchased by and shipped to American collectors. It comes as no surprise that the present painting Enfant tressant une couronne was sold to M. Newman Ltd. in New York via Goupil in Paris and Wallis & Co. in London.
This beautiful young girl sewing a daisy wreath, dressed in timeless country dress is treated with an incredibly high finish, a life-like vividness and masterful academic exactitude. The most outstanding achievement of Bouguereau's work of the mid and late 1870's is his masterful combination of pure academic skill - often compared to Raphael - with subtle expressions of the personality of the sitter. During this time his sitters are not only made of flesh and clothes but they illuminate unspoiled youth, hope and purity. Enfant tressant une couronne stands as a tremendous achievement of mastery in academic painting, as well as one of Bouguereau's most beautiful subjects. The wreath of daisies may be identified as a symbol of Spring, or alternatively it can be interpreted as an economic statement on France's future in the midst of the industrial revolution - that agriculture, not industry, is where her future lies. Bouguereau was not alone in his idealistic view of the peasant and of the countryside. Although they did not socialize and work in the same circles, other contemporary artists such as Jules Breton, Daniel Ridgway Knight and even Jean-François Raffaëlli are known for their idealized and sometimes nostalgic view of such subjects.
To be included in the upcoming Bouguereau catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Damien Bartoli with the assistance of Frederick Ross, the Bouguereau Committee and the American Society of Classical Realism.