Fillette à l'oiseau
signed and dated 'E. Hublin/1872' (center right)
oil on canvas
4612 x 2934 in. (118.1 x 75.6 cm.)
Private collection, acquired circa 1908-1920.
By descent through their family, until 2015.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 3 November 2015, lot 1.
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Lot Essay

A painter best-known for peasant genre scenes rendered in a Neoclassical style, Émile-Auguste Hublin was born and raised in Angers, the historic capital of the northwestern French province of Anjou. In the late 1840s or early 1850s, he moved to Paris, where he trained with François-Édouard Picot, a student of Jacques-Louis David who also taught Alexandre Cabanel, Jean-Jacques Henner, and Isidore Pils. The influence of neoclassicism is clearly evident in Hublin’s oeuvre, harkening back to the sculptural forms of Jacques-Louis David more thoroughly than most of his contemporaries.
Although Fillette à loiseau depicts a conventional genre scene of a young woman with her pet bird, the artist’s composition is grounded in the late portraiture of David. The opaque and darkened background creates a flat plane which concentrates the viewer’s eye on the idealized rendition of the young girl and this subdued color palette further focuses attention on the interaction between the young girl and her pet, which has settled on her arm. This style of painting became the artist’s hallmark; the figures of his young women are fully three-dimensional in form, and the costumes are more akin to the worn and more ragged clothing of Courbet’s Stonebreakers than the prettified peasant garb of Jules Breton and William Bouguereau. Hublin’s work is thus an unusual blend of neoclassicism, mid-century realism and academic tradition.

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