Eugène Carrière (French, 1849-1906)
Eugène Carrière, a contemporary of the Impressionists, accomplished the illusion of light on a subject by starkly contrasting tones, and a palette devoid of almost all color. His work was associated with the Symbolist art movement prevalent in the 1880s and 1890s, characterized by a soft atmospheric quality meant to capture the “soul” of the model.
Carrière’s Head of a Woman shows the bright face of a woman against a dark, blurred background. The one nod to color is the crimson flower tucked delicately behind her ear. When Carrière’s great-granddaughter, Véronique Milin Dumesnil, visited Hill-Stead in 2003, she revealed that the woman in the painting was the artist’s wife, Sophie. Mr. Pope already owned this work before he began collecting the paintings of Monet and the Impressionists.
Oil on canvas, ca. 1880s
21½ x 18 in. (54.4 x 45.5 cm)
Signature lower right: Eugène Carrière
Maternity exemplifies the characteristics of Symbolist art, a movement prevalent in the 1880s and 1890s; namely a monochromatic palette, with a brightness created from the sharp contrast of the dark background against the white skin of mother and child.
Carrière’s maternity scenes were popular with nineteenth-century collectors. According to the artist’s great-granddaughter, who visited Hill-Stead Museum in 2003, the models for Maternity were Carrière’s wife, Sophie, and one of their seven children. Mr. Pope had already purchased this painting and another Carrière work, Head of a Woman, before he went on The Grand Tour with his family in 1888-89, during which time he bought a third, Child at Table.
Child at Table
Oil on canvas, ca. late 1880s
15 x 22 in. (37 x 55 cm)
Signature lower right: Eugène Carrière
Child at Table is a portrait of the artist’s son, Jean René, born 1888. According to Carrière’s great-granddaughter, Véronique Milin Dumesnil, who visited Hill-Stead in 2003, he often used his wife and one or more of his seven children in his “maternity” theme portraits. The “dim style of painting” that Theodate referred to in a diary entry on this painting was the atmospheric style of the Symbolist group of painters with whom Carrière was associated in the 1880s and 1890s. They, like their contemporaries the Impressionists, were searching for a way to express the illusion of light on a subject. However, their method was not one of color but one of contrast between dark and light tones as can be seen here, in Child at Table, with the baby’s face brightly glowing against the dark background.
While on the Grand Tour with her parents, Theodate wrote the following in her diary, May 9, 1889: “I cannot enthuse over all of Carrière’s paintings as Papa does. I think we have two of the best examples [Head of a Woman and Maternity] of him I’ve ever seen because he really took pains with them. They are his early works. Now he knows that his dim style of painting is becoming popular and he overdoes it. It is now affectation and in the beginning it came from a true appreciation of the artistic. It’s unfortunate that artists become spoiled so easily.” However, Alfred was undeterred by his daughter’s objections and purchased Child at Table a few days later in Paris.
Jozef Israëls (The Netherlands, 1824-1911)
Jozef Israëls was a leader of The Hague School, an informal group of artists living and working in The Hague from about 1860 to the 1890s. Their work incorporated the style and manner of 17th-century Dutch Old Masters, yet paralleled the 19th-century Barbizon School-style of rural life painting in France.
Like his Dutch predecessors Rembrandt and Vermeer, Israëls painted genre interior scenes, primarily of women engaged in domestic chores bathed in the light from one window. In Israëls’ work, as seen in Woman in a Chair, the window not only provided interior light, but also showed the Dutch landscape beyond. Some critics compared Israëls to Jean-François Millet, the Barbizon painter, in his sensitive portrayal of the working poor.
There is no documentation at Hill-Stead indicating when the Popes acquired this watercolor. However, they did travel to The Hague, Antwerp and Amsterdam during their Grand Tour in 1888-89 and it is probable that Mr. Pope became aware of The Hague School of painters at that time, and their popularity as contemporary artists.
William Nicholson (English, 1872-1949)
William Nicholson began his career designing posters and eventually published several successful portfolios of woodblock prints. One of those portfolios was a series entitled Twelve Portraits, which included a likeness of James McNeill Whistler. By 1901, Nicholson had given up printmaking as a full time career and began a new career as a painter.
One of Nicholson’s first themes as a full-time painter was that of the Morris Dancers, who would be invited by the Duke of Marlborough to perform at Blenheim Palace near Nicholson’s home in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England. The influence of Whistler’s brushwork and atmospheric tones can be seen in the painting Morris Dancers at the Gate of Blenheim Palace as well as in other early paintings by Nicholson.
There is no specific documentation at Hill-Stead as to when Mr. Pope acquired this work or the three portfolios of woodblock prints by Nicholson in the museum’s collection, Almanac of Twelve Sports (1897), An Alphabet (1897), and London Types (1898).
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (French, 1824-1898)
After a very short academic training, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes went on to become recognized as the best mural painter of his generation. Although he was a contemporary and friend to many of the Impressionists, Symbolists, and Post-Impressionists, his work was never classified as one of those styles. He was self-taught, and would go on to influence the work of Matisse, Picasso, Braque and others. An indication of his influence on this younger generation of artists was the inclusion of 15 of his works in the historic 1913 Armory Show in New York, which introduced these “modern” European artists to the United States.
In 1895, a year after Mr. Pope purchased Peace from the French art dealer Durand-Ruel, a banquet hosted by August Rodin was held in Paris, attended by Monet, Renoir, Boudin, Pissarro, Carrière, Gauguin, Zola, Proust and over 500 other notable figures in the arts, to honor the 70-year-old Puvis de Chavannes.
In 1861, Puvis received a 2nd class medal for history painting at the official Paris Salon for his two murals, Concordia (Peace) and Bellum (War). Six years later, in order to present his work to a wider public, Puvis painted “reductions” or easel paintings from these two murals and from the other two in the set, Rest and Work. The oil painting at Hill-Stead shows a section from the complete reduction of Peace.
Mr. Pope purchased Peace from the French art dealer Durand-Ruel for $2400 in 1894 – the same year that he paid $2400 for Fishing Boats by Monet, $12,000 for Guitar Player by Manet, and $25 for the print Gathering Fruit by Mary Cassatt.