Atelier · May 19, 2007

Friday in the atelier: “La Faneuse” by Julien Dupré

I love mysterious artists who create excellent paintings. I present you with one such artist today, Julien Dupré (1851 – 1910). What little I know about Dupré is wholly thanks to the online biography written by Howard Rehs, of Rehs Galleries, and even that is incomplete. I recommend that you read the biography on Dupré, along with the “Catalogue Raisonné” also written by Mr. Rehs for all of the details on Dupré. I will only attempt a short summation of Mr. Rehs’ work here.

Although other artists have created paintings of the French peasants hard at work in the fields, Dupré’s depictions show these peasants as heroic. The subject is often robust and vital – filled with purpose. The land that they work is also much more active than other painters have traditionally shown, with scythed hay blowing in the wind and skies that are cloudy, or full of a coming storm.

Dupré was famous world-wide, and there was a good market for his works in America. He exhibited at the Paris Salon every year from 1876 until 1910, winning the Legion of Honor and several medals, including the gold medal at the 1889 Paris Fair.

As always, I’m showing cropped details of the artist’s works. The first is called, “La Faneuse” (The Haymaker), and it is my favorite of any of Dupré’s work that I’ve seen so far. I love how the hay is flying out of the pitchfork as the peasant woman starts her swing. I love how she’s balanced and braced to make the throw. It is all so natural and effortless that you forget about the work that Dupré put into the painting to make it seem so natural!

The second work is called “Femme Portant à Manger” I don’t have a translation for that, but from my limited Babelfish French, I’d guess it means “Woman carrying Lunch”. I guess this because it looks like she has a lunch pail and the ubiquitous loaf of bread. The background on this painting attracts me as much as the woman – things are happening in this painting. The workers in the field have stacked the hay into piles, but they have to hurry to beat the possibility of rain from fretful skies. The cattle are out to pasture, and there appears to be a mill of some sort on the horizon. All of this is going on while the peasant woman trudges through the field. Are those wooden shoes she’s wearing? Perhaps the field is already wet.

I’ve found out that one of Dupré’s works is on display at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The work is called “Milking Time” and I’ve put it on my list of paintings that I must view the next time I’m there.

Dupré is a mystery – no one seems to know much about him – but Mr. Rehs is attempting to learn more. He has asked for help and information about Dupré from anyone that might know something about this artist. But even if you can’t help, visit the Rehs Galleries and see more of Dupré’s works.