Une famille ou intérieur fonte
signed 'L. Lhermitte' (lower right)
pastel on paper on canvas
2014 x 2158 in. (51.4 x 54.8 cm.)
Executed in April 1887.
The artist.
with Boussod, Valadon et Cie., Paris, acquired directly from the above.
with Isidore Montaignac, Paris.
with The Fine Art Society, London.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner, 15 March 2007.
'Les Pastellistes,' Le Matin, Paris, 2 April 1887, p. 2, as Famille.
P. De Katow, 'L'Exposition des pastellistes,' Gil Blas, Paris, 6 April 1887, p. 2, as Une famille.
Aubry-Vézan, 'Les Pastellistes,' La Petite République française, Paris, 6 April 1887, p. 2, as Une famille.
A. Georget, 'Les Pastellistes,' L'Écho de Paris, Paris, 9 April 1887, p. 2, as Une famille.
M. Proth, 'Mouvement Artistique: Exposition des Pastellistes,' Le Mot d'ordre, Paris, 13 April 1887, p. 2, as Une famille (intérieur).
P. Mantz, 'Les Pastellistes,' Le Temps, Paris, 14 April 1887, n.p., as Famille.
Vitoux, Revanche, 18 April 1887.
G. de B., 'Les Pastellistes Français,' Le Libéral, Paris, 23 April 1887, n.p., as une famille.
P. Gilbert, 'Exposition des Pastellistes,' Journal des artistes, Paris, 24 April 1887, p.122, as une famille.
E. Hoschedé, 'L'Art & La Curiosité,' L'Événement, Paris, 8 May 1887, p. 1, as Un intérieur.
M. Le Pelley Fonteny, Léon Augustin Lhermitte (1844-1925): catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1991, p. 213, no. 298, illustrated.
Paris, ‌Galerie Georges Petit, Exposition des Pastellistes, 2-30 April 1887, no. 96, as Une Famille (Intérieur).
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Lot Essay

Léon Lhermitte was born in 1844 and was still executing works in the French rural tradition at his death in 1925, making him the last of an illustrious group of artists. Throughout his career, Lhermitte remained devoted to the rural peasant as subject matter, a figure which to him embodied the most fundamental and consistent element in society. Although Lhermitte was of course aware of both revolutionary artistic movements as well as the rapid industrial changes during his lifetime, he never wavered in his of depiction of rural life in his art. It is clear the most profound influence upon his work was Jean-François Millet who like Lhermitte was also equally adept in pastel and oil.
Lhermitte’s works are beautifully detailed and light-filled, emphasizing the dignity and innocence of peasant life and the glory of the French rural landscape in the face of encroaching industry and technology. He was much admired by his peers, both those who remained entrenched in the Barbizon tradition as well as the innovators of the Impressionist movement. Vincent van Gogh wrote, ‘[Lhermitte] is the absolute master of the figure, he does what he likes with it – proceeding neither from the color nor the local tone but rather from the light – as Rembrandt did – there is an astonishing mastery in everything he does, above all excelling at modelling, he perfectly satisfies all that honesty demands.'
The present work focuses on the life of the French peasantry in their own home, rather than their labor in the fields. A breastfeeding mother sits by a small iron cookstove with her two other children gathered near her. She looks up to welcome her husband as he enters through the door of their dirt-floor home, their soon to be shared meal warming on the stove in front of her. In spite of the clearly humble nature of the home, Lhermitte has paid careful attention to the many objects which fill the interior, from the glass bottles on the table, to the baskets hanging from the rafters, to the framed prints hanging on the walls. This level of detail is particularly difficult to achieve in a soft medium like pastel, and this along with the careful delineation of the way the light from the door illuminates the space makes it a wonderful example of both Lhermitte’s skill as an artist and the care he clearly had for his chosen subject matter.

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