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 Jules Bastien-Lepage  (1848 - 1884)

/ bas-tee-e(n) leh-PAZH/
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Lived/Active: France      Known for: naturalist painting-figure, portrait, genre and printmaking

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Bastien Jules Lepage is primarily known as Jules Bastien-Lepage

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Ad Code: 3
Jules Bastien-Lepage
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Jules Bastien-Lepage was born in the village of Damvillers, Meuse and spent his childhood there. Bastien's father grew grapes in a vineyard to support the family.  His grandfather also lived in the village; his garden had fruit trees of apple, pear, and peach up against the high walls. Bastien took an early liking to drawing, and his parents fostered his creativity by buying prints of paintings for him to copy.

Jules Bastien-Lepage (pronounced zhewl bahss tyan le pahzh) first studied atVerdun, and prompted by a love of art went in 1867 to Paris where he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts working under Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889).  After exhibiting in the Salons of 1870 and 1872 works which attracted no attention, in 1874 he made his mark with his Song of Spring, a study of rural life, representing a peasant girl sitting on a knoll looking down on a village. His Portrait of my Grandfather, exhibited in the same year, was not less remarkable for its artless simplicity and received a third-class medal.

When the Franco-Prussian war broke out, Bastien fought when men were needed for the troops. Bastien was a man by this time, medium height and stout.  After the war, he returned home to paint the villagers.  In 1873 he painted his grandfather in the garden, and this painting later became a favorite for many art lovers for its true-to-life qualities.  In 1873 he was also commissioned to paint the Prince of Wales.

This success was confirmed in 1875 by the First Communion, a picture of a little girl minutely worked up as to color, and a Portrait of M. Hayern. In 1875 he took the second Prix de Rome with his Angels Appearing to the Shepherds, exhibited again in 1878.  His next endeavour to win the Grand Prix de Rome in 1876 with Priam at the Feet of Achilles was again unsuccessful (it is in the Lille Gallery), and the painter determined to return to country life. To the Salon of 1877 he sent a full-length Portrait of Lady L. and My Parents; and in 1878 a Portrait of M. Theuriet and The Hayfield. The last picture, now in the Luxembourg Museum, is regarded as a typical work from its stamp of realistic truth.

Thenceforth Bastien-Lepage was recognized in France as the leader of a school, and his Portrait of MlleSarah Bernhardt (1879), painted in a light key, won him the cross of the Legion of Honour.  In 1880 he exhibited a small portrait of M. Andrieux and Joan Of Arc listening to the Voices; and in the same year, at the Royal Academy, the little portrait of the Prince of Wales. In 1881 he painted The Beggar and the Portrait Of Albert Wolf; in 1882 Le Père Jacques; in 1885 Love in a Village, in which we find some trace of Gustave Courbet   influence. His last dated work is The Forge (1884).

Between 1880 and 1883 he traveled in Italy and enjoyed his voyage very much. The artist, long ailing, had tried in vain to re-establish his health in Algiers. He died in Paris on December 10, 1884, when planning a new series of rural subjects.  After his death, a special exhibition of more than 200 of his pictures was formed at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  In 1889 some of his best work was shown at the Paris Exposition.

Among his more important works, may also be mentioned the portrait of Mme J. Drouet (1883); Gambetta on his death-bed, and some landscapes; The Vintage (1880), and The Thames at London (1882).  The Little Chimney-Sweep was never finished. An exhibition of his collected works was opened in March and April 1885. A museum is devoted to him at Montmedy.

Wikipedia: Jules Bastien-Lepage, whose references include:

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • See A Theuriet,  Bastien-Lepage (1885; English edition, 1892); L de Fourcaud, Bastien-Lepage (1885).

Biography from Schiller & Bodo European Paintings:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

At the time of his death at the young age of 36 in 1884, Bastien-Lepage was avidly collected in Europe and America, and exerted tremendous influence on an international group of followers from France, Germany, England, America and beyond, who took up his Naturalist* approach to painting and made it one of the dominant movements at the Paris Salons* of the 1880s and 1890s.

A few distinct qualities typified the Naturalist approach that Bastien-Lepage developed and spearheaded: a direct and non-sentimental approach to genre subjects drawn from Naturalist authors such as Zola, combined with the interest in natural light and modern painting techniques adopted from the Impressionists.  In a departure from traditional methods of painting, Bastien-Lepage employed plein-air painting*, photography, and the use of outdoor, glass studios to achieve a heightened sense of reality, of psychology, and of light and atmosphere* in his paintings.

From the mid-1870s, Bastien-Lepage focused his subjects on life in his native Damvillers in the Meuse region of north-eastern France.  In works such as Les Foins (1880, Musée d’Orsay), Saison d’octobre, récolte des pommes de terre (1879, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), Pas mèche (1882, National Gallery of Scotland), and L’Amour au village (1883, Pushkin Museum, Moscow), the distinct landscape of the Meuse plays a significant role in the regionalist character of Bastien-Lepage’s work. The rolling hills, broad patches of open fields, and red-roofed structures appear in numerous works, giving his peasant subjects a distinct and identifiable setting.

In addition to making the specificity of locale a running theme in his work, Bastien-Lepage’s working methods, which explored the visual qualities of light and atmosphere, further heightened the reality and modernity of his paintings.  In the present work, the gardens in the foreground depicted in broad slashes of varying greens and earth tones.  Changes in the play of light and shadow on the various crops, or on dry earth or open grass are depicted, while the precise visual interpretation of the landscape plays a secondary role.  Atmosphere also gains a significance, as it blurs the range of color and strong light in the distant hills and village.  This focus on the visual qualities and effects of light reveals a modern approach to painting that should not be underestimated.

*For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

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