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The Path of Nature: Scenic Routes


Inter artes et naturam (Between Art and Nature)

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (French, Lyons 1824–1898 Paris)

Oil on canvas
15 7/8 x 44 3/4 in. (40.3 x 113.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham, 1958
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    The growth of Puvis's reputation as a decorative painter was aided by his practice of exhibiting smaller versions of the mural-size works that he painted for public buildings throughout France. "Inter artes et naturam" is a reduced replica of the central panel of a triptych painted for the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, in 1888–91. The artist chose the program, basing it on the museum's collections of antiquities and locally produced ceramics and pottery. The scene shows men excavating classical architectural fragments, and women decorating pottery on the hillside of Bonsecours, a suburb of Rouen. In the distance are the Seine and a panoramic view of the city.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower right): P.Puvis de Chavannes

  • Provenance

    [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1895; stock no. 3389; bought from the artist on August 14, for Fr 12,000; sold in October to Durand-Ruel, New York]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1895–99; stock no. 1440; sold on February 6, 1899 to Payne]; Colonel Oliver H. Payne, New York (1899–d. 1917); his nephew, Harry Payne Bingham, New York (1917–d. 1955); his widow, Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham, New York (1955–58)

  • Exhibition History

    Pittsburgh. Carnegie Institute. "Third Annual Exhibition," November 3, 1898–January 1, 1899, no. 210 (as "Inter Artes et Naturam").

    London. Hayward Gallery. "French Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers," June 7–July 23, 1972, no. 224.

    Liverpool. Walker Art Gallery. "French Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers," August 9–September 17, 1972, no. 224.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Van Gogh as Critic and Self-Critic," October 30, 1973–January 6, 1974, no. 44.

    Toronto. Art Gallery of Ontario. "Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition," October 24–November 30, 1975, no. 30.

    Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh. "Franse meesters uit het Metropolitan Museum of Art: Realisten en Impressionisten," March 15–May 31, 1987, no. 28.

    Amsterdam. Van Gogh Museum. "Pierre Puvis de Chavannes," February 25–May 29, 1994, no. 130.

    Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe," June 8–October 15, 1995, no. 332.

    Venice. Palazzo Grassi. "From Puvis de Chavannes to Matisse and Picasso: Toward Modern Art," February 10–June 16, 2002, no. 20.

    Amsterdam. Van Gogh Museum. "Vincent's Choice: Van Gogh's Musée Imaginaire," February 14–June 15, 2003, unnumbered cat. (pl. 94).

  • References

    "Recent Loans." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (February 1921), p. 41, mentions that this picture has been lent to the MMA by Harry Payne Bingham.

    Camille Mauclair. Puvis de Chavannes. Paris, 1928, p. 162, lists it as in the MMA's collection and calls it a sketch.

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX Century." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2, New York, 1966, p. 230, ill., state that it may be a preparatory study for the Rouen picture; identify the setting as the hillside of Bonsecours, a suburb of Rouen.

    Mary Anne Stevens and Alan Bowness in French Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. London, 1972, p. 111, no. 224, ill., date it about 1890–95 and call it a reduced version of the Rouen painting.

    Charles S. Moffett. Van Gogh as Critic and Self-Critic. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1973, unpaginated, no. 44, as "Inter Artes et Naturam (Between Art and Nature)".

    Richard J. Wattenmaker. Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto, 1975, pp. 23–24, 78–79, no. 30, ill. (color), calls it probably a reduction after the finished mural and dates it 1890; cites the influence of this picture on Picasso, Redon, and Van Gogh; comments that the central motif of a mother and child picking fruit probably inspired Pissarro, Morisot, Cassatt, and Denis.

    Louise d'Argencourt in Puvis de Chavannes, 1824–1898. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Paris. Ottawa, 1977, pp. 209–10, under no. 190 [French ed., Paris, 1976, pp. 211–12, under no. 190], calls it a replica of the Rouen picture and dates it 1889.

    Sjraar van Heutgen et al. in Franse meesters uit het Metropolitan Museum of Art: Realisten en Impressionisten. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1987, pp. 17, 82–83, no. 28, fig. 7 and ill. (color).

    Charles F. Stuckey in Charles F. Stuckey and William P. Scott. Berthe Morisot, Impressionist. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1987, p. 138, fig. 82, states that Puvis's Rouen mural decorations were inspired by Botticelli's "Primavera" (Uffizi Gallery, Florence).

    Aimée Brown Price. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, 1994, pp. 213–17, no. 130, ill. (color), calls it a reduced version painted after the completion of the Rouen mural and dates it about 1890–95; comments that the complexity of the composition is more evident in our picture than in the Rouen painting and observes that "the Rouen commission is almost unique among the murals for the introduction of contemporaneity through the figures' clothing".

    Guy Cogeval in Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe. Exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, 1995, pp. 467, 520, no. 332, colorpl. 516, dates it 1890; remarks that Puvis "seems to have wanted to reexamine the question of the links between art and nature, rather than subscribing to Wilde's teasing adage 'Nature imitates Art'"; quotes Van Gogh's praise of the painting.

    Constance Naubert-Riser in Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe. Exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, 1995, p. 459.

    Margaret Werth. The Joy of Life: The Idyllic in French Art, circa 1900. Berkeley, 2002, pp. 21, 36, 128, 246 n. 53, fig. 7, dates it about 1890–95.

    Vincent van Gogh. Vincent van Gogh—The Letters. London, 2009, vol. 5, p. 252, fig. 8 (color), under letter no. 879, p. 277, fig. 2 (color), under letter no. 893, p. 321, fig. 9 (color), under letter no. RM21, reproduce this work, although Van Gogh actually refers to the version now in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Rouen.

    Aimée Brown Price. "A Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work." Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. 2, New Haven, 2010, pp. 327–28, no. 344, ill., dates it about 1890–95.

    Louis van Tilborgh and Evert van Uitert in Becoming van Gogh. Exh. cat., Denver Art Museum. Denver, 2012, p. 23, fig. 4 (color).

  • Notes

    There is a preparatory oil sketch for the Rouen mural (Price no. 343) in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Price no. 342).

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History