• France, 1890
  • Oil on canvas
  • Inv. 58
  • Signed and dated: Boldini/1890

John Lewis Brown with Wife and Daughter

Giovanni Boldini

Depicted here is the Irish artist John Lewis Brown (1829-1890) with his wife and daughter. The offset figures caught spontaneously and photographically in movement are redolent of a modern-life scene, which was especially appreciated in the best spirit of the Belle Époque.

The ironic almost caricatural tone of this work, so much like Giovanni Boldini and also recognisable in the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, also reinforces the expressivity of the people and the exuberance of the main figure. The capturing of the moment, in which the suggestion of improvisation is essential, gives the painting an intentionally informal and mundane character.

This work, a modern document representing urban life at the turn of the century, is also surprising for its chromatic restraint, the only reference to the space being the frieze that extends from the left. A contrasting but solitary point of colour, the ribbon of the Legion of Honour on John Lewis Brown’s lapel, stresses the vivacity and joy that his face conveys. This painting was successfully exhibited at the 1890 Salon, the year in which the artist depicted died.

Provenance

Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Graat et Madoulé at the sale of the Michel Manzi Collection, Paris, on 13th March 1919, no. 8.

H. 120 cm; W. 145 cm

Camesasca 1970

Ettore Camesasca, L’opera completa di Boldini. Milan: Rizzoli Editore, 1970, pp. 106-07, no. 204.

Ferrara 2003

Degas e gli italiani a Parigi, exhibition catalogue. Ferrara: Palazzo dei Diamanti, 2003, pp. 248-49, no. 26.

Sampaio 2009

Luísa Sampaio, Painting in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon/Milan: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Skira, 2009, p. 236-37, cat. 107.

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