B R E T O N G A L L E R Y
Eugène Léon Labitte 1858 – 1937
A Breton Goosegirl
Oil on canvas, 18 x 21 ½ inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2001
Eugène Léon Labitte was born on the 7th of October 1858 in Clermont, Oise. He moved only a short distance south to Paris, to study under the history and portrait painter Fernand-Anne-Pieste Cormon. This training instilled in him the traditional craft techniques of the great French painters and laid the foundations on which Labitte would build his career. He devoted himself primarily to the painting of landscapes. Many of these were painted in Brittany and mostly depict the countryside and rural activity. Paintings relating to the current work include Guiding the Gaggle, which sold recently in New York, and La Gardienne de Vaches.
A Young Breton Fisherman
Oil on canvas, 15 ¾ x 12 ¾ inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2002
During the 1880’s and 1890’s Labitte worked in Concarneau where he concentrated on depicting field workers in landscape and the fishermen of the villages. He established a studio at the villa Kerdorlett near Beuzec-Conq with the painter Henri Guinier. He exhibited with l’Union Artistique de Concarneau where he became active as an organizer and treasurer.
The sickle carried by the young boy in our painting suggests that he is a field worker. However, as he appears to be working along a rocky seashore it is more likely that he is harvesting seaweed, which he caries in his basket. Seaweed was gathered throughout Brittany at this time where it was used on the fields as a fertiliser and at the table for nourishment. We are familiar with the same activity in Ireland through the work of many of our own artists. The style of this painting suggests that it dates to the 1890’s. The clothing worn by the boy is typical of the Concarneau region. The tunic, with its distinctive double row of buttons, is worn under a sleeveless jacket. The wide-brimmed hat, protection against rain and sun, is another familiar feature of the local costume. Labitte portrays the boy as he found him. His shirt is torn and his patched tunic is missing some buttons. His melancholy expression suggests that his life was anything but idyllic even though a sense of underlying contentment is discernable.
It is almost certain that his path would have crossed with the Irish artists working in Brittany in the 1880’s and 1890’s. It is interesting to note that Labitte was just nine months older than Walter
Osborne. During his lifetime his work was exhibited at the Paris Salon. One of his harvest scenes, simply entitled Les Foins, may be viewed in the Museum of Chartres.
Théophile Louis Deyrolle 1844-1923
A Game of Marbles
Oil on canvas, 19 x 24 inches. Signed by the artist and dated 1879
Inscribed: a Mademoiselle Jeanne Dumas; celuiel a defaut d’un autre; Concarneau
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2007
Deyrolle was born in Paris in 1844 in the 11th arrondissement. His father and grandfather were entomologists, and this background probably led to an exploration commission from the Geographical Society at the age of 19. Three years later, he became an architectural student and then took up art study with Cabanel. It was here that he met Alfred Guillou, a native of Concarneau, and it was this association which led to Deyrolle becoming one of the leading painters of the Concarneau school. In 1871, the two young painters left Paris together and set out for Concarneau with all they possessed on their backs. The following year, Deyrolle married Guillou’s younger sister, Suzanne, and gradually became immersed in the local fishing community. He abandoned architecture, worked in the oyster beds in the mornings and painted in the afternoons.
Much of his work depicts life around the harbour. Après la Péche was his first Salon success in 1876. However, there was great variety in his work, which always demonstrates a wonderful delicacy of colour; he painted shepherds, harvesters, pardons and market scenes, many of which often portrayed children in their fine Breton costume. Amongst the best known of these are are Noce Bretonne from 1892, Retour de la Foire de Trégunc, 1893, Gavotte Bretonne,1896, L'aumône en Bretagne, 1902 and Naufrage à l'Entrée de Concarneau from 1906. In 1881, he painted Retour de la Foire, Chemin de Saint-Jean à Concarneau, now in the collection of the museum in Brest, it may be possible to identify some of the children in the present painting from this work.
The museum in Quimper holds one of his most remarkable paintings, Les Joueurs de Boules. Painted circa 1877, this work is related to the present painting in the portrayal of outdoor pastimes. It is easy to imagine our young marble players as the boules players of the future. One of the players kneels to take his shot; he has thrown off his hat, perhaps to improve his view. He is watched intently by a young boy who is held in check by his sister. Two young girls behind them pay little attention to the proceedings. A mother carrying a young child approaches from the cottage, perhaps to round up the rest of the children for their evening meal. Behind her, another group makes their way up the hill, perhaps after a days work in the harbour. The clothes hung to dry on the hedgerow remind us of the primitive lifestyle of the family.
Breton Girl on a Sunlit Path
Oil on canvas. 14 x 9½ inches.
Signed by the artist
Fine Art, Dec. 2008
Fetching water from the well was a
chore in late 19th century Brittany, which had to be repeated with regular
monotony. The well was often remote from the house and usually downhill,
which made the return journey even more strenuous. As we have seen from
Hennessy’s Breton Girl, this aspect of rural life was a favourite theme of
the Breton school. The jar carried by the girl in Deyrolle’s painting was
made for the purpose. The wide handle across the top allowed two hands to be
used in lifting the jar from the well. There is also a pouring handle with a
spout on the opposite side. The manner in which the girl leans backwards
against the weight of the jar, suggests that it is full and heavy. She
pauses for a rest and absorbs the flecks of bright sunlight filtering
through the trees.
Scenes such as this were Deyrolle’s
stock in trade. In a similar work, La Porteuse d’Eau, a young woman
carries an identical jar on her head. This suggests that Deyrolle carefully
planned his paintings and worked them from preparatory studies such as
these, in the
traditional manner. Another example, which relates to the theme, is Les
Lavandières. This is a laundry scene set in a village, which shows a group
of women washing clothes in a stream. They are in conversation with another
woman who has just filled her jar from the well, which she supports on her
knee. Her headdress, which is similar to that worn by the girl in the
painting, suggests that she is from the coastal commune of Fouesnant. The
well is contained within a small stone construction, above which is a small
shrine, reminiscent to the one discussed in the painting by William John
Edgar Melville Ward
1839 – 1915
A Brittany Interior
Oil on canvas. 21½ x 18 inches. Signed by the artist and
Verso: title inscribed on artist’s label
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, 'An American in Brittany', Dec. 2008
rugged coastline, golden beaches, green fields and ancient harbours offered
exceptional material for the artists who went to paint there from the early
1800s. However, what set their paintings apart from the norm was their
portrayal of the Bretons, dressed in their distinctive costume, as they went
about their daily routine; celebrating feast days and harvest festivals in
the unique manner of their Celtic heritage. With the increasing availability
of inexpensive journals, the Breton experience, as seen through the eye of
the artist, gradually became known to the outside world. Nathaniel Hone
arrived from Ireland in 1860 followed by Whistler in the following year.
With the arrival of Bastien-Lepage and his followers in 1883, it was
inevitable that the floodgates would open.
influx began in 1866 when a group of Americans assembled around the
enigmatic Robert Wylie, one of the founders of the Pont-Aven school. He had
from Pennsylvania three years earlier. However, like many other visitors, he
made his home in Pont-Aven, and became an important anchor for many of the
school who tended to stay only for the summer months.
Sargent was amongst the
second wave of Americans, arriving in Brittany about 1874. He chose to work
in the less picturesque town of Cancale, and made numerous sketches of women
and children gathering shellfish in preparation for his major work The
Oyster Gatherers, which he sent to the Paris Salon in 1878. The sketches
are reminiscent of Eugène Feyen’s
painting, which featured in our 2003 catalogue. The American Impressionist,
Childe Hassam, painted an important series of Pont-Aven works in 1897.
Ward arrived in 1875, about the same time as the Irish-American Thomas
Hovenden who was one of Wylie’s circle. Augustus Burke
and Aloysius O’Kelly were also there at this time.
Ward was born in Urbana, Ohio, where he had his formal education. This was
followed by study at the National Academy of Design in New York. Just like
his Irish contemporaries, he moved to Paris where he trained under Alexandre
Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He was the brother of the well known
sculptor, John Quincy Adams Ward.
came from a family who believed in doing things in a big way. Their father, John Anderson
Ward, had their Federal style house constructed on land inherited from his
father, Urbana's founder Colonel William Ward. The Colonel's will stipulated
that a local mason use 26,500 bricks to build the house for payment of
$80.00. John and his wife Eleanor reared seven children in the house. The
farmstead, consisting of 172 acres, was the site of a huge feast held in
honour of General William Henry Harrison's visit to Champaign County during
his 1840 presidential campaign. Twelve 300 foot-long tables were spread
across the lawn where thousands of people from the surrounding countryside
dined on barbecued beef and lamb and drank barrels of cider.
essentially a genre painter, and became well known for his depiction of
people engaged in handcrafts. Our painting is one of the earliest in the
series. Other well known examples are
(1876); The Sabot Maker (1878); The Collar Shop (1892) and
The Coppersmith (1898), which is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
A Brittany Interior
relates closely to Helen Mabel Trevor’s
Morning Dream, which we catalogued in
2005. In this provocative work, Ward depicts a young woman in fine
traditional costume, which has suffered from the wear and tear of everyday
use. She pauses from her work, and stares intensely into the distance,
perhaps dreaming of a better life. The work is also reminiscent of Aloysius
O’Kelly’s Breton Interior; another Pont-Aven
painting of the same date, which we presented in 2006. The detail in Ward’s
version is beautifully executed; he uses deft highlights to draw our
attention to the cooking utensils, which hang beside the fireplace; and the
crockery and candlesticks which sit on the mantelpiece. The background,
which is in deep shadow, dramatises the costume of the girl. She is lit by a
soft light, which divides the foreground and adds depth and interest to the
Penfold 1849 – 1927
Oil on canvas laid on
board 21 x 18 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2008
resident amongst the Americans in Brittany was Frank Penfold. He became
enamoured with the way of life in Pont-Aven, and established an art school
there as well as a home. He hailed from Lockport, New York, where he trained
under his father who was a successful portrait painter. He was in France by
1879 and probably went directly to Pont-Aven. However, in 1884 he enrolled
in the Academie Julian in Paris but it appears that he returned to Brittany
at the end of the year. He
home regularly and occasionally taught at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy.
His Breton works
religious processions; harvesting in the fields; and busy market scenes.
Many feature small children, one example being a young girl picking flowers
in woodland; another depicts a large family group outside a church after a
christening. A further example shows a small girl being ferried across a
river by her mother. Our painting has been described as a mother and child
but it could equally well be a sister and brother. The blue headdress, set
against the crisp white of the girl’s spectacular collar and the green of
the meadow, creates an immediate impact in this sympathetically handled
work. The costume identifies the girl as a native of Fouesnant, and can be
compared to Paul Grégoire’s painting of a
laundress, which we catalogued in 2005. Famous for its cider festival,
Fouesnant is on the south coast of Finistère, west of Concarneau, where
Penfold painted in the latter part of his career.
Sigrid Louise Bolling 1852 – 1917
Gathering Kelp, Concarneau
Oil on canvas, 12 x 15 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2004
This Norwegian painter was born in Aker, near Christiana in 1852. Her first master were Frants Peter Henningsen in Copenhagen and Bernard Middelboe, who may have encouraged her to go to Paris where she studied under a succession of painters; Dagnan-Bouveret, Collin, Bonnat, Jourdeuil and Gervex. She exhibited at the Paris Salon and at the National Exhibition in Christiana.
She was a versatile artist and painted portraits, flowers, animals, seascapes and landscapes. Of the small number of paintings that have found their way onto the market, most of these are harvesting scenes, probably inspired by the beautiful countryside in which she spent her childhood. A fine example of her work, from Norway, Pêcherie de Saumons en Norvège was shown at the Paris Salon in 1897.
Painted about 1885 while she was working in Concarneau, the artist fills the canvas with interest. The sardine boats, driven by a strong breeze on their return to harbour, are shown by little more than a casual tip of the brush. A few sheep graze the cliff edge above the rock seashore. The work is
skilfully lit, the shining sands contrasting with the browns and ochres of the rocks. A path leads to a cottage, typical of many found on the Breton coast. It is set on exposed high ground but protected from the high water of winter storms. The few scraggy bushes and the cottage itself could have been lifted from the West of Ireland. It may be approaching midday and some of the work party has gathered in a corner of the beach to prepare lunch, which was traditionally carried to the fields by the harvesters, usually a family group of two or three generations. The scene looks idyllic but it should be borne in mind that these were people struggling to secure an existence sourced entirely from the land and the sea. The kelp gathered made compost on which the success of an entire crop would depend. The patient stance of the two carthorses is reminiscent of
Augustus Burke’s depiction of seaweed gatherers on the Wexford coast while
Walter Osborne or Nathaniel Hill could have painted the figure of the standing girl. The painting is a great example of the universality of the artist colonies of the 19th century.
Percy Lancaster 1878 - 1951
A Breton Greengrocerie
Watercolour on board, 17 ¾ x 13 ¾ inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 1999;
Peintres Anglais en Bretagne, Musée de Pont-Aven, June 2004
Percy Lancaster was born in Manchester where he completed his formal education before taking up studies at the Manchester School of Art and Southport School of Art. He had an address in London for a short time but eventually settled in Southport. He became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1914 and the Royal Institute in 1921. He worked in both oil and watercolour and also developed a reputation as an etcher, recording everyday life in the English countryside. Harvest scenes, coastal and harbour views, market stalls, flower sellers and village life were his normal subjects. His work portrays rural scenes from Lincolnshire to the Lake District, Wales, the Isle of Man and Ireland, where he painted works such as An Irish Country Lane. Along the coast we find titles such as
a view of Southwold from Walberswick or a glimpse inside The Boat Builders Yard. In London, he painted views of the City, castles, abbeys and famous buildings, Further afield we find titles such as A Dutch Haven, A Continental Market Square and A Breton Farm although his work from Brittany is rare.
In A Breton Greengrocerie it is no surprise to find that the subject matter is similar to his portrayal of everyday life in the English countryside. without being too concerned with fine detail, he captures the mood and atmosphere of the bustling corner stall, the colourful display of produce and the attractive local costume. Small groups in conversation in the background add further interest and are a reminder of other titles such as Gossips and Conversation on the Terrace. The artist’s label attached to the backboard is inscribed Percy Lancaster RBA, ARE, which indicates a date circa 1915 for our painting.
Richard Beavis 1824 – 1896
The Sand Cart, Brittany, Gathering Storm
Oil on canvas, 32 x 44 inches. Signed by the artist and dated 1872
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2007
Much against the wishes of his parents, Beavis enrolled in the Government School of Design at Somerset House in 1846, after which followed a career with the Trollope company before he devoted himself to full time work as a painter. His output in watercolour and oil was prolific. His subject matter was extraordinarily varied: highland views, landscapes, animals, portraits, historical scenes, military encounters and dramatic seascapes were regularly exhibited. Alongside these we have scenery painted during his extensive travels which took him to France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Palestine and Egypt, thereby adding exotic oriental scenes to his body of work.
He was a great admirer of the Barbizon School and it is hardly surprising that one of his best works was painted in the forest of Fontainebleau. This is the canvas he sent to the Royal Academy in 1877, which shows a couple at work on a charcoal burn in a clearing in the forest. It is obvious from this work that he took great delight in combining the study of animals and people. This gave him the opportunity to fill his work with wonderful detail of the animal harness and the colourful dress of the handlers. Work horses hauling timber from the forest was another favourite theme.
Between 1867 and 1868 he lived in Boulogne and painted some fine work along the coast, similar in style to the present painting. He became well known for these atmospheric studies with storm clouds moving in from the sea. Hailing from Exmouth, he must have spent many years studying these cloud formations before he ever set brush to canvas. These works were usually painted in a similar vein to the Fontainebleau theme and centre around oxen or draught horses with carts being loaded with seaweed. In our case, the sturdy cart has been filled with sand, the weight of which causes the cart to sink into the track. The man in the red shirt digs the last shovelfulls from the dunes as his companion prepares to ream for the return journey. The donkey, whose job it is to lead the oxen, is just about to stand up from his rest. He wears a colourful noseband and his back is protected from his harness by a blue fleece, similar to the one shown in the Fontainebleau painting. The black and white collie waits in anticipation of the run home. On the beach below this group, we get a glimpse of a second work party while out to sea, the fleet runs for harbour before the gathering storm.
Mathurin Janssaud 1857 – 1940
Hameau de Pècheurs, Finistere
Pastel on paper, 20 ½ x 29 ½ inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2002
Mathurin Janssaud was born at Manosque in 1857. Little is known of his early life. Before the First World War he abandoned his native Provence and set out to build a career as an artist. Like many artists before him, he found his way to Paris where he lived and worked. In time however he became attracted by the changing skies of Brittany and the fame of Concarneau. It was here that he found his primary source of inspiration in the everyday life of the region. Janssaud sought to capture both the colour of Brittany and the life and soul of its people. The region provided abundant material for an artist in pursuit of picturesque genre scenes and rural types. The ocean, sunsets, stormy skies, fishing boats and bustling women at the market place, all constituted potential subjects for his artistry.
He chose to work mainly in pastel, which he used to reflect the translucency of the atmosphere and the variations of the Breton sky. Having established himself in Brittany, Janssaud found the portrayal of local life irresistible. He focused on scenes around the market places and busy harbour views. In his book on the artists of Concarneau, Henri Belbeoch comments; “Janssaud’s portrayal of women in their hitched-up skirts, seeking coolness under the stormy sky, demonstrates a certain realism that distinguishes his work from other pastoral scenes favoured by his bourgeois audience. Janssaud gave his public that which he liked to paint.”
Hameau de Pécheurs aptly demonstrates Janssaud’s capacity to capture light and atmosphere through the use of pastels. The vivid coloration of the clouds and the reflection of the light on the water convey a sense of the ephemeral against the backdrop of everyday experience. In this scene girls in traditional Breton dress are gathered in groups of twos and threes by the water’s edge. The presence of these women and the lighting suggest that the scene takes place at evening. Nearer to the cottages, five fishermen return in their boats. The sails indicate that these are ocean-going craft, having made their way upstream from the harbour. The hamlet itself consists of a group of thatched stone cottages, to which the men and women in the foreground will shortly return for the night.
Joseph Milner-Kite 1862 – 1946
Joesph Kite was born in Taunton in 1862, the son of a pharmacist. He moved to London in 1881 and then to Antwerp where he met
Roderic O’Conor at the Academie Royale. They became lifelong friends and painted together throughout their careers. In Brittany, they shared lodgings at the Hotel and shared evening meals at the Chat Blanc in Paris where O’Conor settled on his return from Brittany. Kite began his exhibiting career in London in 1884. His work was shown at the Paris Salon; the Royal Academy; the Royal Society of British Artists; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and other leading venues. He showed work from France; Spain and Morocco and studies of children at play on the beach from his years in Newlyn.
La Place, Concarneau
Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2007
He was also a friend of
John Lavery, with whom he made his first journey to Concarneau, where he spent most of his winter months up to 1938. While O’Conor became more of a modernist under the spell of Gauguin and Emile Bernard back in Pont-Aven, Lavery and Kite fell to the influence of Bastien-Lepage and painted harbour and market scenes of rustic realism in a post-impressionist manner. The example shown here is a preparatory version of one of his best works, La Place du Village, Bretagne, painted circa 1904 and illustrated in Henri Belbeouch’s ‘Les Peintres de Concarneau’.
It shows the two central figures as they discuss the day’s news, one of whom is busily knitting. The second woman appears to be a vendor as she has a basket of apples at her feet. Strangely, this is omitted from the second version but it is identical to that shown in Au Pays de Pommes, a scene set in the same square. This was illustrated in ‘The Studio’ of November 1904 in a feature on Concarneau. Just to the right of these, another vendor leans over his cart, and beyond him we get a glimpse of the harbour.
Another deviation is the woman who carries a child in a blue smock. In Belbeouch’s version, they are replaced by two women who walk side by side. The other small groups in the background are identical. The second version, more highly finished, shows a wider view of the square with a young child in a bright red dress and another covered stall to the left. A photomontage compiled by the journalist, V. Giffart, shows Milner-Kite at his easel with La Place in progress, but it is difficult to work out which version it is.
Oil on panel, 9 ½ x 13 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2003
This is a simple, yet evocative study where the
narrative is left to the imagination of the viewer. A couple make their way along a rough roadway, which appears to rise into the sky. Are they setting out on a long journey or simply making their way home after many hours of toil in the fields. As they approach the hilltop, the road in front of the couple appears to fall downhill, perhaps to a village where the couple will meet family and friends. The towering pine adds interest and balance. It dwarfs the couple and sets the scale of the painting.
Lionel Floch 1895 – 1972
Harvesting Kelp, Brittany
Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2007
Floch was a student at the Tour d’Auvergne in his home town of Quimper before he went to Concarneau where he trained as a painter with Théophile Deyrolle. In 1923, he moved to Pont-Croix and became one of the central figures of a school of painting located in the Hôtel des Voyageurs. From the second half of the 19th century, Pont-Croix attracted artists and writers who found a quieter working environment there and cheaper lodgings than Pont-Aven. Henri Matisse was perhaps the best known of the visiting artists. He painted there in 1895 with Henri Huklenbrok and others whose habit it was to desert Paris during the summer months. Désiré Lucas and Emile Simon were also amongst the better known names while Paul de Lassence and Gaston Bouillon were among the central figures.
The town was accessible by rail and offered many of the attractions of Pont-Aven with its quaint buildings and attractive costume. It was an ideal base for Floch to explore the Cap Sizun where he recorded the villagers at work in a manner which owes much to Deyrolle although painted in a broader style. His subject matter was also similar and often shows a crowded market place or a group of sardine fishermen on the baie d'Audierne. Douarnenez was also within easy reach and there he painted many works similar to our harvesters. The gathering of seaweed looks like an idyllic existence but it was hard and treacherous work. The time allowed was limited and usually an entire family unit would join together to cut and stack the seaweed so that it could be loaded before the next tide. The central figure in her yellow apron uses a small barrow to haul the crop above the waterline. She protects herself from the sun by wearing a broad brimmed hat. The group probably consists of three generations of the same family. Their costume is modern although the figure in the background, perhaps the eldest of the group, wears the traditional tall headdress of the Bigoudan.
The headland, dotted with white cottages, is typical of the Breton coast and reminiscent of the West of Ireland, where the harvesting of kelp was carried on in the same way. Later in his career, Floch’s work developed into an abstracted form, the first stages of which are detectable here. There is a view of the harbour at Concarneau on the back of the canvas.
Arthur Alfred Burrington RI 1856 – 1924Forrest Hewit 1870 – 1956
Oil on canvas, 11 ½ x 16 inches.
Signed by the artist and dated 1883. Inscribed Quimperlé
Exhibited: Peintres Anglais en Bretagne, Musée de Pont-Aven, June 2004
Arthur Burrington was born in Bridgwater, Somerset, in 1856. Once again, we find that a classical training has produced a painter of fine talent. He began in the South Kensington Schools and then went on to the Slade. From there he went to Rome in 1878 and studied under the fine genre painter, Nazzareno Cipriani and finished in Paris in 1882 where he studied under Lefebvre, Cormon, Boulanger and Bonnat. He had a very successful career as an exhibiting artist of genre, landscape and flower paintings in oil and watercolour. From 1880 onwards his work was hung at many premier venues including the Paris Salon. He had a thirty-year career at the Royal Academy, London. He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours in 1896.
He painted oriental scenes such as Arabs Playing Draughts and Oriental Market, in a style reminiscent of Aloysius
O’Kelly. However, in the present work, he comes closer to Walter
Osborne and his Breton paintings. The similarities in their work may suggest the two artists were acquainted, especially when we consider works such as Breton Girl by a River . Both works may have been painted along the same stretch of river, with the cut stone steps of the landing jetty leading down from a garden. The makeshift shed which overhangs the river is only slightly more refined than the shelter in Osborne’s work. In this same year of 1883, Osborne was producing masterpieces such as the National Gallery of Ireland's Apple Gathering, Quimperlé.
With a subdued palette, Burrington skilfully pays attention to
detail without overworking the canvas. Flowers and foliage are suggested
with small dabs of paint. Dark interiors contrast starkly with the sun
drenched walls on which he paints the strong shadows of foliage and the
delicate touch of the shadow of the boy’s fishing pole. Seated on the
wall with bare feet, the young girl’s concentration is just as acute as
the young boys. Intensely, they watch his float in the still water as it
reflects the multicoloured stone.
There is a possibility that this may be the painting Burrington exhibited at the Royal Society of British Painters in 1883/84 entitled Late Afternoon: Quimperlé . The town is situated on the confluence of the Isole and Ellé rivers which flow on through the Laïta and out to sea at Le Pouldu.
Head of a Breton Woman
Oil on canvas, 16 x 13 inches. Signed by the artist and dated 1924
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2002
Forrest Hewit was a very unusual character amongst his fellow artists. Whereas many of his contemporaries turned away from commerce or the professions to become painters, he was very successful in following both paths. Towards the end of the 19th century Manchester was one of the foremost centres of the cotton trade in which Hewit established a career in which he rose to the top and became a prominent member of important institutions and various committees. Alongside this illustrious career ran an equally successful life as an artist. Considering the above, it is no surprise to find that in this field he also became a prominent figure as an Honorary Vice-President of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. His paintings are extremely rare as the majority of his output was purchased for permanent collections worldwide.
He exhibited widely at the Royal Academy from the outset of his career; the Paris Salon; the New English Art Club; the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1940 and extensively at leading venues throughout England. When he retired from commercial life he had the opportunity to increase his output, which allowed him to stage a series of one-man exhibitions at the New Burlington Gallery in 1936; the Grosvenor Gallery in 1937; the Manchester Academy in 1938; the Goupil Gallery in 1939; Salford, his birthplace, in 1943 and Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1948.
He first studied under Thomas Cantrell Dugdale who was probably responsible for his interest in French painting. He also studied under Walter Richard Sickert who had a profound influence on his painting. The vigorous application of oils used to portray the facial features in our painting is a tribute to Sickert and his radical approach to painting. The vigorous brushwork is also reminiscent of
Aloysius O’Kelly’s output from his late Breton years; a good example being Pecheur Breton. There is a special attractiveness about the study of character types such as this. In a way in which the camera often fails, a good oil study invariably captures the personality of the sitter.
Paul Grégoire fl. 1900 – 1920
Needle Workers, Pont-l’Abbé
Oil on canvas, 18 x 21½ inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2005
Paul Grégoire was one of the many highly skilled French artists working in France at the turn of the last century who has yet to be fully documented. According to Benezit, he was born in Pithiviers, a small town to the north east of Orléans, in the Loire Valley. Benezit also states that he was working in Paris. However, most of the paintings that have come on the market over that last few decades appear to be Breton works. They are mostly from Pont-l’Abbé, Pont-Aven and Fouesnant, all three locations within easy reach of each other. The predominance of works from Pont-l’Abbé would suggest that he was based there, at least for a number of years. He became a member of the Sociétaire des Artistes Francais in 1902 and obtained an honourable mention in the following year.
From the headdress and costume worn by the embroiderers in this painting, we can identify the location as Pont-l’Abbé. There is also a connection to another Pont-l’Abbé painting, Scène de Marché, du Côté des Crémiers, one of Grégoire’s major works, the locality of which has been identified by Catherine Puget of the Musée de Pont-Aven. This painting illustrates a butter stall in a busy market, set in front of the same high wall that appears in the background of our painting.
Pont-l’Abbé was known for the outstanding quality of the embroidered decoration of their costume and the skills of their needle-workers. In the early 1900s, lace making was their main industry. A group of contemporary postcards provides a fascinating insight into their industry. One photograph in particular is of interest to us as it shows a large gathering of needle workers sitting in small groups under some trees. The caption reads: “Irish lacemaking in Plouhinec; a group in the forest”. We can see from these photographs that it was common for these workers to gather in groups in the open air, just as they appear in our painting. The photographs also show that the workers would often gather outside a building, presumably their normal workplace. It may be that the building obscured by the trees in our painting is just such a place. Although the painting has suffered the ravages of time, much of the original detail has survived, including the finger thimbles and the delicately painted threads of the embroiderer and the lace maker.
Young Girl in Fouesnant Costume
Oil on canvas, 18 x 15 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2005
This young girl is portrayed wearing the working costume of the coastal town of Fouesnant, in Brittany. The setting of the painting in woodland, with sun filtering through the trees, is reminiscent of the work of the Pont-Aven group with whom
Grégoire painted on occasions. This painting has a crisp and sparkling appearance created by the contrasts between the black and white of the costume and the red of the headdress set off by the blond hair. The freshness of the girl’s complexion is lifted by the bright greenery in the background. The untidy wisp of hair that has fallen out from the girl’s bonnet gives the painting a natural appearance. Fouesnant is one of the most popular resorts in Brittany, famous for its cider, seafood, beaches and surrounding forest. At festival time, the traditional costume is still worn to this day.
Oil on canvas, 26 x 19½ inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2005
In this painting the headdress and collar are far more elaborate than that worn by the girl in the preceding study. The differences are due to her age and status in the community. However, as the painting clearly depicts, the girl is portrayed in everyday working dress. A finer costume was reserved for Sundays and religious festivals. This included the distinctive high bonnet of the Fouesnantaise.
The canvas gives us a good idea of the process of laundry work, which was still common up to the 1950s. The girl holds a small wooden paddle in her hand, which was used for beating the wet clothes. She kneels in a specially made wooden box, the front part of which was rounded out for comfort. The boxes helped to keep the laundresses dry and to save their cloths from wear and tear. The laundress pauses in her back-breaking work and stares into the distance. We are reminded of Helen Mabel Trevor’s depiction of a morning dream in which another Breton girl takes a break from her chores. The muted colouring is well controlled. Grégoire displays his skill with a full range of greens, one of the most difficult colours for an artist to use without loosing his way.
Scène de Marché
Oil on canvas, 25½ x 21 inches. Signed by the artist
Milmo-Penny Fine Art,
This is a preparatory work for one of Grégoire’s masterpieces, Scène de Marché, du Côté des Crémiers, one of the paintings referred to in Needle Workers, Pont-l’Abbé. It is a companion piece to another masterpiece, Scène de Marché, du Côté des Volaillers for which preparatory studies are also known.
In the main painting, the figure depicted in our canvas is placed in the foreground, immediately in front of a stall holder who proudly displays her butter and cheeses, stacked on a trestle table. A group of shoppers wait patiently for service. They hold baskets of many different types and shapes in which to carry home their supplies.
Our study is faithfully and precisely reproduced in the final version, right down to the fine detail of the basket and the pose of the kneeling figure as she organises her purchases. Even the shadowing of the costume is studiously reproduced. The only variation comes in the positioning of the figure. In the preparatory work, she is placed a little closer to the buildings than in the Crémiers version, where she is set further away to allow for the inclusion of some other figures in front of the stall.
Alide Goldschmidt 1885 - 1967
Alide was born in Hamburg in 1885. She developed a serious interest in painting, and in her late teens went to live in Rome with Ludwig and Frida Mond at the Palazzo Zuccari. Their house was a meeting place for both aspiring and established artists. Alide started exhibiting in her early twenties and in due course moved to Paris to be closer to the Impressionist tradition that she admired. From 1907 to 1910 she showed paintings at the Paris Salon with considerable success. The jury and fellow exhibitors included Roualt, Bonnard, Matisse and Kandinsky.
A Breton Pardon
Oil on panel, 5 ½ x 7 inches. Signed by the artist verso
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2006
In 1910 she married Israel Gollancz, a lecturer at Cambridge. She continued painting and exhibited in London, Paris and Rome. In 1926 she participated with two other women artists in an exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery. The show was well received. Alide was devastated by the death of her husband in 1930 and stopped painting for many years. She was eventually persuaded to work again by her daughter, but she did not exhibit after 1926.
A Churchyard Market, Brittany
Oil on panel, 5 ½ x 7 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2006
Her sketches are also full of life and movement. In A Breton Pardon, she portrays the large congregation as they leave the Church in procession; many represented by nothing more than a single dot of paint. She portrays a similar sense of bustle in A Churchyard Market, a painting reminiscent of the work of
The scene of a Breton market is a typical example of Alide’s spontaneous approach to painting. It could be described as drawing with a brush. Her free-flowing, unhesitating application of paint is very expressive. The attractive feature of her work is the matchstick-like figures that animate her paintings. These are painted in what could be described as a naïve style, but with an acute awareness of the principles of academic painting. The brightly lit
canopies of the stalls are set in stark contrast to the stone greys and
slate blues of the church.
NOTE: Breton paintings can also be found on the following archive pages and occasionally on the sales pages:
Irish Art Gallery
Stanhope A. Forbes
William J. Leech
Roderic O'Conor: Brittany
Roderic O'Conor - Biography
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