Breton, Jules Adolphe Aime’ Louis, French,(attribution - school of),1827-1906. Gleaners at Sunset, Oil on canvas, 46" by 52" in frame 54" by 62"
Described as "one of the primary academic painters of the nineteenth century", Jules Breton painted romanticized subjects in a realist style, especially bucolic scenes of peasants working in fields. Breton's subject matter was familiar to him from childhood. He was born in a rural area in north western France and was raised in Courriéres by family members who had much respect for the farm land and first-hand familiarity with those who tended it. His father was Marie-Louis Breton, who oversaw land for a wealthy landowner.
Breton first studied at at the College of St. Bertin near his native area, and then was overseen by Felix de Vigne, an artist who was much impressed by the young man and persuaded the Bretons to let their son focus on art. In 1843, Breton enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium where he continued to study with de Vigne. Another influential teacher was Hendrik Van der Haert. Breton also studied at Antwerp with Barton Gustaf Wappers and spent much time in museums copying the Old Masters. In 1847, he went to Paris where he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the atelier of Michel-Martin Drolling, a genre painter.His early entries in the Salons of 1848, Misery and Despair, and 1850, Hunger, showed his interest in the plight of poor people. Getting a positive response from people in Brussels and Ghent, led him to moving there, where he also met his wife, Elodie, who became one of his most frequent models. He stayed four years, and then returned to Paris.
In 1853, his painting Return of the Reapers, became the first of his signature peasant scenes to be exhibited, and from that time, he stayed primarily with this theme, which is what he is known for among collectors and art historians. The next year, 1854, he returned to his home town of Courriées and settled there, using local rural scenes for his paintings and ultimately making famous that part of the French countryside. One of the first works he did there was The Gleaners, which launched his career because it brought him much positive public attention. The painting showcased people who returned to the field after the harvest to take the 'leavings' with the hope of having enough left over to feed themselves and their family. From that time forward until his death in 1906, he was very popular and received much reinforcement including official state commissions during the Third Republic, ongoing exhibitions during the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s, and winning medals at the Salon and prizes in other venues. Many of his works were made into engravings, which publicized his name widely in other countries including the United States and England. In America, the writer Willa Cather saw his painting The Song of the Lark at The Art Institute of Chicago, and inspired, wrote a novel with the same title about a girl with humble roots in Nebraska who became a famous opera star. The book became a best seller.
Museum Collections Include:
Chateau Museum, Dieppe; Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY; Hendrik Willem Mesdag National Museum, Hague; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha; Paine Art Center, Oshkosh; Musee d’Orsay, Paris; John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia; Washington University Gallery of Art, St. Louis; Toledo Museum of Art, OH; Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown; Musee du Louvre, Paris; Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Walters Museum, Baltimore; Antwerp Museum of Art, Belgium; Arras Museum, Calais; Bagneres Museum of Art, France; Bologne Museum of Art, France; Calais Museum of Art, France; Lille Museum of Art, France; Anvers Museum of Art, France