Marie-Aimée Lucas-Robiquet 1858 – 1959
Oil on canvas, 21½ x 18 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Paris Salon, number 1286, 1921;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 2005
Hunt Museum, Limerick, Loan, 2006-2008;
Marie-Aimée was born in Avranches, one of the oldest towns in Normandy, just a short distance across the border with Brittany. Although Breton works by her are rare, it is no surprise to find her painting Breton subject matter with such a natural and sympathetic approach. Children feature in many of her paintings. Young Girl with Wildflowers appeared recently on the market and shows a girl sitting at the edge of a meadow. Petite Hollandaise au bords du Canal is another good example. She is also well known as an orientalist whose rich palette and ability to handle fine detail suited the elaborate interiors of Algeria and Tunisia. The richness of her colouring is also evident in her portrait work. She was highly regarded for her ability to paint skin tones with better realism than most of her contemporaries.
These exceptional skills are evident in the current work. Her rendering of the reflected light from the bowl of fruit demonstrates the ease with which she could handle these effects. Her ability to tackle subtle detail is evident in the clever manner in which she paints the cracked window panes. The girl’s costume is delicately handled. The soft pinks of her skirt are set off against the greys of the laced bodice and the whites of the blouse and bonnet. Perhaps the strongest part of the painting is the manner in which she portrays the concentration on the little girl’s face as she picks up her stitches with delicate, nimble fingers.
The composition is very cleverly staged. The young girl sits in the window to avail of the light, enabling her to see the fine detail of her work. The artist adds interest by combining a view of the streets below the window. A man strides purposefully across the square towards two women, who are deep in conversation.
We are very grateful to Mary Healy, who has identified the painting as the Salon exhibit of 1921. She points out that no other recorded work fits the description.
Preparing the Meal, Brittany
Oil on canvas, 14 x 11 inches. Signed by the artist
The theme of a young girl in an interior is continued in
this work. Surrounded by pots and crockery, she warms her feet in an open
fireplace as she prepares vegetables for the evening meal. The steam from a
large cooking pot is swept towards the chimney where it mixes with smoke
from the fire. A canopy is folded above the fireplace, which may have been
used to trap smoke. According to Mary Healy, a second version,
Preparation du Repas, was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1924, number
1261. Marie-Aimée had an honorary status within the Salon at that time and
although the painting is not dated, it is in keeping with her subject matter
of the early 1920s. There are two main differences between the compositions.
The tall pot in the background of the Salon version does not appear in the
present painting and the cloth, which hangs on a line above the fire, is
also missing. Apart from this, there are slight variations in the costume;
the position of the feet; the tripod; the shape of the cooking pot and the
handle on the grey bowl. There is also an additional bowl behind the cooking
pot, which does not appear in the Salon painting.
Mary Healy points out that the girl’s skirt, dark sleeves, blouse and shoes
are similar to those worn by the girl in Jeune Brodeuse and she
suggests that this may be the costume of Rosporden, Finistère, in the west
of Brittany. However, Catherine Puget, formerly of the Musée de Pont-Aven,
has suggested that the costume is from the Morbihan region in the south.
Gathering Meadow Flowers
Oil on canvas. 22 x
15 inches. Signed
by the artist
Lyon, France, number 217?;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 2008
In this painting, Marie-Aimée chose to portray the girl gathering
flowers from the back, which suggests that this is a painting where the
activity and setting are just as important as the girl who picks the
flowers. The subdued colouring of the hedgerow in the background encourages
the viewer to concentrate on the centre of the painting. The artist employs
the same techniques in a closely related work, Young Girl with
Wildflowers (Sotheby’s, New York, 2003), which shows a small child
sitting at the edge of a meadow picking flowers. Both works were probably
painted in the same location; the similarities, including an identical hedgerow, are unmistakeable. In
the latter work, the meadow runs into a cornfield set on high ground, beyond
which are moorland and a distant mountain range.
The wild meadow is awash with a kaleidoscope of colour. The predominant
flower is the white
although it is not possible to name the precise variety, and the tall yellow
headed flower is probably of the same family. The other dominant varieties
appear to be wild poppies, ragged robins, and a good display of knap weed,
identifiable by its delicate mauve colouring.
On the Quayside, Volendam
Oil on canvas, 18 x 21½ inches. Signed by the artist
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 2005
In many ways, this work relates to Jeune Brodeuse. Both works display fine attention to detail and feature children in traditional costume as the central theme. Two girls, presumably sisters, sit side by side on a cobbled quay. The older girl knits as the younger one helps to unwind the ball of wool. With refined ease and delicacy, Marie-Aimée depicts the nimbleness of the
girl's fingers as she works the needles from stitch to stitch.
The location is the small Dutch village of Volendam, located on the Zuider Zee, to the north of Amsterdam. This can be identified by the costume worn by the girls. Compare the painting to
Christopher Dean's Dutch Girl Knitting by the Sea. As is so often the case with work from this period, Marie-Aimée’s intention was to depict a scene from the daily life of the village. The quaysides are surrounded by distinctive wooden houses, one of which appears to be under repair by two men at work on the facade of the house, just behind the two girls. Behind the workmen, a woman kneels on the quayside and stretches down to the water to rinse her laundry. For drying, she uses a sturdy wooden frame, probably constructed for the repair of fishing nets. Reminiscent of a Venetian canal scene, a boatman drifts across the water; his boat is laden with sacks of vegetables for the local market.
By the turn of the century, Volendam was well established as an art colony. The attractions were the tranquillity of its waterways, inexpensive accommodation, picturesque scenery and the colourful costume of the villagers. These opportunities attracted a number of fine painters. Amongst the most notable were Auguste Renoir, Walter Langley, Paul Signac, Max Liebermann and Théo van Rysselberghe. The American painter, John Rettig, chose Volendam as his second home.
A Young Breton Fisherman
Oil on canvas, 22 x 15 inches. Signed by the artist
This appears to be a study of a young brother and sister as they spend the evening hours in this simple activity; a scene that can be witnessed on many a quayside to this day. The young girl stares through the water with great intensity in expectation of a bite. They are set in front a of a sturdy fishing boat in the process of drying sails after a day at sea. The boat bears a striking resemblance to that in
Alide Goldschmidt's painting, Quayside, Brittany. The landscape at the far side of the harbour is reminiscent of Concarneau and can be compared to that seen in the paintings of
Fernand Le Goût-Gérard.
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