H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
On view at The Met Breuer on Floor 3
As a graphic artist and painter, Daumier chronicled the impact of industrialization on modern urban life in mid-nineteenth-century Paris. Here, he amplifies the subject of a lithograph made some ten years earlier: the hardship and quiet fortitude of third-class railway travelers. Bathed in light, the nursing mother, elderly woman, and sleeping boy emanate a serenity not often associated with public transport. Unfinished and squared for transfer, this picture closely corresponds to a watercolor of 1864 (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore) and a roughly contemporary oil (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa), but the sequence of the compositions remains unresolved.
Daumier was a keen observer of the effects of industrialization on the working classes of Paris. He began depicting scenes of public transport—trains, stations, omnibuses—as early as 1839. His focus was not on the conveyances themselves but on the reactions of people adapting to conditions that were often uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Daumier’s passengers may register surprise or digust. They are by turns stoic, resigned, and dispirited; gregarious, bored, or exhausted. Daumier’s reputation was based on trenchant caricatures rendered in black crayon that were widely reproduced as lithographs, including the series Les Chemins de Fer (The Railroad), which first appeared in the periodical Le Charivari between 1843 and 1858. One of the prints, which bears the caption "Voyageurs appréciant de moins en moins les wagons de troisième classe, pendant l'hiver" (Travellers showing less and less appreciation for travelling in third class during the winter period), published on December 25, 1856 (62.650.310), has frequently been cited as an antecedent to The Third-Class Carriage, and there are other examples as well.
In contrast to lithography, painting was generally a more personal, exploratory undertaking for Daumier, who exhibited very few oils at the official Salon. Even so, The Third-Class Carriage, thought to have been executed about 1862–64 and left unfinished, marks the apogee of Daumier’s protracted engagement with the modern theme of railway travel. It shares this place in his output with a similar, finished, painting that was produced more or less concurrently (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Maison 1968, no. I-166; see Additional Images, fig. 1). As is typical of Daumier’s paintings, the origin of these two works is undocumented. The monumental figures, rooted in the artist’s lifelong appreciation of Rubens and Fragonard, typify his sculptural sense of form, which is especially powerful in the New York picture owing to the exposed underlayers of paint and the black lines overdrawn with the brush that embolden selected contours and details. Together, these characteristics reflect Daumier’s early practice of modeling maquettes in clay for figures in graphic works.
Raymond Escholier (1923) and others (for example, Adhémar 1954) have perceived the influence of Millet in the foreground figures, inferring that Daumier intended them to be identified as peasants. Their earthiness supports this reading, as does the integrity of the grouping, both formally and owing to what is very probably the figures’ familial bond. Open to question, however, are the purpose of their journey, whether they are setting out or concluding it, and their final destination: city or country? And such questions are amplified by the ambitious size of the canvas—approximately two feet by three—relative to Daumier’s graphic works, as well as by the absence of a caption that would promote a specific narrative, thereby limiting the scene’s suggestiveness. In fact, the picture is sufficiently large that the viewer eventually meets the steady gaze of the matriarch at the center, almost as if one were a passenger seated opposite.
The composition of The Met’s Third-Class Carriage relates closely to a watercolor of the same title (see Additional Images, fig. 2), one from a set of three that includes The First-Class Carriage and The Second-Class Carriage (all Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Maison 1967, nos. D-296, D-297, D-298). These were commissioned from Daumier in 1864 by the art agent George A. Lucas for the American collector William Walters, who had made a fortune in railroads, among other ventures, and moved his family from Baltimore to Paris for the duration of the Civil War. Daumier produced numerous informal drawings and watercolors on the theme of railroad travel, but it is quite certain that the Walters Third-Class Carriage is the one that the Brussels dealer Arthur Stevens mentioned in a letter to the artist dated September 26, 1864 (see References). Stevens wrote that Charles Baudelaire had described a painting of a third-class journey that he had seen in Daumier’s studio; Stevens presumed it depicted the same subject as a watercolor [Walters’s] that he had seen; and he requested that Daumier send the painting to him in Belgium, either for his own or another collector's purchase. It is not known whether Stevens here refers to the New York version of the painting or the one in Ottawa. Apart from this tantalizing early reference, the Ottawa picture first surfaced when it was lent by one Paris dealer, Hector Brame, to another, Paul Durand-Ruel, for an exhibition at the latter’s gallery in 1878 (see Notes); The Met’s version first appeared when it was lent by the collector or dealer J. Duz to the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in 1888 (see Exhibitions).
A comparison of the two paintings sheds light on Daumier’s working process, although the definitive chronology remains unresolved. The Met picture is squared for transfer, possibly from the Walters watercolor. Apart from their states of finish, the paintings diverge in a number of respects. Some notable differences are described here, first in the the background, from left to right, starting with the man in the top hat. In the New York picture the front of his profile is silhouetted by the window; in the Ottawa version the back of his head is silhouetted against the window, while his frontal profile is set against the dark wall of the carriage and delineated by a contrasting shade of lighter-colored paint. In the New York version the woman at the center wearing a head scarf appears to be younger than her counterpart in the Ottawa version. And at the far right, the man in the blue kerchief appears somewhat older than his counterpart in the Ottawa picture. In the foreground of the New York painting, the sleeping boy’s head juts above the back of the seat, which the artist lowered from its previous position; in the Ottawa version the top of the head does not rise above the seat-back, although pentimenti reveal that it was previously closer to the position of his counterpart in New York.
Three working drawings, apparently tracings from one or the other painting, are known, although their precise function as part of Daumier’s process is not entirely clear. Two are on paper, including one whose whereabouts is unknown (Maison 1967, no. D-299) and another in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (D-300). A third, on glass, is in a German private collection (unknown to Maison). (For comprehensive discussions of the two paintings and related drawings, see esp. Laughton 1996 and Pantazzi 1999.)
There is another, somewhat later, treatment of The Third-Class Carriage in oil, in which the figures are, from left to right: an elderly woman with closed eyes and hands clasped in her lap, a bearded man in a suit, and a young woman who looks down to a child seen from behind (private collection, Boston; Maison 1968, no. I-109).
[Asher Ethan Miller 2016]
J. Duz, Paris (by 1888–92; sold on June 8, 1892 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1892–93, stock no. 2316; sold on April 19, 1893 to Durand-Ruel, New York]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1893–96, stock no. 1048, sold on February 24, 1896 to Borden]; Matthew C. D. Borden, New York (1896–d. 1912; his estate sale, American Art Association, New York, February 13–14, 1913, no. 76, for $40,000, to Durand-Ruel for Havemeyer); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1913–d. 1929; cat. 1931, pp. 102–3, ill.)
Paris. École des Beaux-Arts. "Exposition des peintures, aquarelles, dessins et lithographies des maîtres français de la caricature et de la peinture de mœurs au XIXe siècle," 1888, no. 361 (as "Un Wagon de 3e classe," lent by M. Duz).
New York. Durand-Ruel. November 1894, no catalogue [see New York Times 1894].
New York. Union League Club. "Paintings from the M. C. D. Borden Collection," November 1909, no catalogue [see New York Times 1909].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 42 [2nd ed., 1958, no. 96].
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 19.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Daumier (1808–1879): Visions of Paris," October 26, 2013–October 26, 2014, no. 89 (as "The Third-Class Railway Carriage," dated 1862–64).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18–September 4, 2016, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 104).
Arthur Stevens. Letter to Honoré Daumier. September 26, 1864 [published in "Daumier," Arts et Livres de Provence, Marseilles, 1948, p. 95], relates that Baudelaire saw a painting of a third-class journey in Daumier's studio and presumes it is the same subject as a watercolor that he has seen; requests that Daumier send the painting to him in Belgium, either for his own or another collector's purchase (possibly this work).
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [November 5, 1882] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. nos. b263 a-b V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 241; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 280], states that he has never seen the painting (possibly this picture or the version in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa).
Arsène Alexandre. Honoré Daumier: L'Homme et l'œuvre. Paris, 1888, p. 375, ill. p. 257, calls it a sketch for the picture owned by comte Doria (now National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Maison 1968, no. I-166); locates it in the Duz collection.
"Individualists at Durand-Ruel's." New York Times (November 3, 1894), p. 4.
Julius Meier-Graefe. Entwicklungsgeschichte der Modernen Kunst. Stuttgart, 1904, vol. 1, p. 97, calls the Ottawa picture (Maison 1968, no. I-166) a brilliant replica of this painting.
Julius Meier-Graefe. Corot und Courbet: Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Modernen Malerei. Leipzig, 1905, p. 192.
Erich Klossowski. Honoré Daumier. Munich, 1908, pp. 18, , no. 253, pl. 58, calls it a sketch for the Ottawa version (Maison 1968, no. I-166).
"Gallery Notes: Pictures from M. C. D. Borden's Collection Exhibited at Union League." New York Times (November 12, 1909), p. 9, calls it "one of the prizes" of Borden's collection.
August F. Jaccaci. Old and Modern Masters in the Collection of M. C. D. Borden. Vol. 2, Paintings of the Modern French, Dutch, German and American Masters. New York, 1911, pp. 8, 46–47, no. 38, ill. (color), calls it the earlier of the two painted versions.
Guy Pène du Bois. Honoré Daumier: Appreciations of His Life and Works. New York, 1922, p. 51, erroneously states that this painting sold for $45,000 at the Borden sale.
Erich Klossowski. Honoré Daumier. 2nd rev. ed. Munich, 1923, p. 109, no. 253, fig. 99.
Raymond Escholier. Daumier: Peintre et Lithographe. Paris, 1923, p. 158 [2nd ed., 1930, pl. 55], notes the influence of Millet in the figures.
Michael Sadleir. Daumier: The Man and the Artist. London, 1924, pl. 22.
Eduard Fuchs. Der Maler Daumier. Munich, 1927, pp. 19, 21, 39, 47, under no. 43 [2nd rev. ed., 1930], calls it an almost identical version of the Ottawa painting (Maison 1968, no. I-166).
"Havemeyer Gift Approved by Son." New York Times (January 17, 1929), p. 21.
Harry B. Wehle. "The Exhibition of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (March 1930), p. 56, ill. p. 58, calls it a "superlatively powerful colored drawing".
The H.O. Havemeyer Collection: A Catalogue of the Temporary Exhibition. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1930, p. 8, no. 42, calls it an earlier version of the Ottawa picture (Maison 1968, no. I-166).
Elisabeth Luther Cary. "An Integral Monument." New York Times (March 9, 1930), p. 128.
Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "The Havemeyer Pictures." The Arts 16 (March 1930), p. 450, ill. p. 447.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 102–3, ill.
Charles Sterling. Daumier: Peintures, aquarelles, dessins. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, 1934, pp. 45, 46, no. 6, fig. 6, calls it a sketch with variations for the Ottawa picture (Maison 1968, no. I-166).
Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 343, pl. 269.
Jean Adhémar. "Sur la date des tableaux de Daumier." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français (1935), pp. 154–55, dates it about 1856; mentions Daumier's treatment of this theme in lithographs of 1855 and paintings of 1862 and 1864.
Charles Sterling inChefs d'œuvre de l'art français. Exh. cat., Palais National des Arts. Paris, 1937, p. 144, no. 288, dates it about 1856 and calls it a sketch with variations for the Ottawa picture (Maison 1968, no. I-166).
Agnès Mongan. "Six aquarelles inédites de Daumier." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 17 (April 1937), pp. 251–52, discusses the watercolor version of this composition (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; M D-298), noting that the round bundle next to the sleeping boy was changed to a box in the MMA painting, which she considers a sketch for the Ottawa picture (Maison 1968, no. I-166).
Claude Roger-Marx inDaumier 1808–1879. Exh. cat., Pennsylvania Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1937, pp. 8–9, 21, no. 5, ill.
Paul Valéry. Daumier. Paris, 1938, unpaginated, ill. (color), dates it about 1865.
Raymond Escholier. "Daumier." L'Art et les artistes 37 (November 1938), p. 64, ill. p. 47.
Thomas Craven, ed. A Treasury of Art Masterpieces, from the Renaissance to the Present Day. New York, 1939, p. 486, colorpl. 118.
Henri Marceau and David Rosen. "Daumier: Draftsman-painter." Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 3 (1940), pp. 9–41, ill., call it unfinished; consider it likely that it was squared and enlarged from the watercolor (Walters Art Gallery; Maison 1967, no. D-298) and observe that it is closer to the watercolor than to the Ottawa painting (Maison 1968, no. I-166).
Aline B. Louchheim. "Five Thousand Years of Art." Art News Annual (1945–46), p. 89, ill.
Josephine L. Allen. "Notes." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 5 (October 1946), opp. p. 49, ill. and front cover (color detail), compares the underpainting of this picture with the watercolor (Maison 1967, no. D-298).
S[amson]. L[ane]. Faison, Jr. Honoré Daumier: Third Class Railway Carriage in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. London, 1946, pp. 3–5, 9–10, 12–15, figs. 1, 5–7, 10, 12–16, 18–19 (overall, and infrared and panchromatic details) and ill. on front cover (color detail), discusses this composition in relation to Daumier's watercolors of first, second, and third-class carriages (Walters Art Gallery; Maison 1967, nos. D-296, D-297, D-298).
Lionello Venturi. Modern Painters. Vol. 1, New York, 1947, p. 188.
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 232, no. 142, ill. (color).
Jean Adhémar. Honoré Daumier. Paris, , pp. 52–53, 128, no. 147, ill. between pp. 50 and 51, colorpl. 147, dates it about 1862 and calls it a replica of the Ottawa version (Maison 1968, no. I-166); discusses Daumier's numerous treatments of this subject and the influence of Millet; misleadingly cites Paul Sébillot ("H. Daumier," "Le Bien Public," April 23, 1878, p. 1) in connection with Duz's ownership of the MMA picture (see Notes).
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), ill. p. 52.
James Thrall Soby. De David à Toulouse-Lautrec: Chefs-d'œuvre des collections américaines. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, 1955, unpaginated, no. 16, pl. 27, considers it the first version of the composition.
K. E. Maison. "Further Daumier Studies— I: The Tracings." Burlington Magazine 98 (May 1956), p. 166, considers it the first, unfinished version; mentions a tracing of the Ottawa version exhibited in 1901 (Maison 1967, no. D-299) and a reversed tracing made for use in the studio (Maison D-300); surmises that "almost certainly a squared drawing or tracing of this composition must have existed too" since the squaring of the MMA canvas must correspond to that of a drawing.
Vincent van Gogh. The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh with Reproductions of All the Drawings in the Correspondence. Greenwich, Conn., 1958, under letter no. 241 (possibly this work).
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, p. 7.
K. E. Maison inDaumier: Paintings and Drawings. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. [London], 1961, p. 40, under no. 69, suggests that the tracing (Maison 1967, no. D-299) of the Ottawa painting was used to transfer the composition to the MMA canvas.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 37–39, ill., consider the watercolor (Maison 1967, no. D-298) to be the earliest version, followed by the MMA and Ottawa paintings (Maison 1968, nos. I-165, I-166), stating that all three "probably came toward the end of the long series" of Daumier's representations of "humanity glimpsed in public conveyances or waiting rooms"; consider the foregound group of figures to "symbolize the three ages of man"; repeating Adhémar 1954, erroneously state that it was owned by Duz by 1878.
Robert Rey. Honoré Daumier. New York, , pp. 132–33, ill. (color), dates it about 1862.
Oliver W. Larkin. Daumier: Man of His Time. 1967, pp. 149–50, fig. 71.
K. E. Maison. Honoré Daumier: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours, and Drawings. Vol. 2, The Watercolours and Drawings. New York, 1967, pp. 100–101.
K. E. Maison. Honoré Daumier: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours, and Drawings. Vol. 1, The Paintings. Greenwich, Conn., 1968, pp. 141–43, no. I-165, pl. 61, dates it 1863–65; calls it "an unfinished picture in exceptionally fine state of preservation"; proposes a chronology for the various versions: the watercolor (Maison 1967, no. D-298); a lost tracing of the watercolor; the MMA painting enlarged from the lost tracing; a tracing of the MMA painting (D-299); the reverse tracing of D-299 (D-300); the Ottawa painting (I-166) made by transferring the reverse side of D-300.
H. W. Janson and Joseph Kerman. A History of Art and Music. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., , pp. 171–72, fig. 222, find in this picture an "insight into character and a breadth of human sympathy worthy of Rembrandt," and a feeling for the dignity of the poor recalling Louis Le Nain.
Gabriele Mandel inL'opera pittorica completa di Daumier. Milan, 1971, p. 107, no. 215, ill. and colorpl. 52–53.
Carl R. Baldwin. The Impressionist Epoch. Exh. brochure, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [New York], 1974, p. 21.
Frederick S. Wight. The Potent Image: Art in the Western World from Cave Paintings to the 1970s. New York, 1976, pp. 261–62, ill., dates it about 1862.
Sarah Symmons. Daumier. London, 1979, pp. 16, 73, 79, 89, 97, colorpl. 6, dates it 1863–65; states that it was enlarged from a tracing taken from the watercolor (M D-298); notes that infrared and panchromatic photographs reveal how often Daumier changed his mind during the course of its execution.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. "The Creation of the Havemeyer Collection, 1875–1900." PhD diss., City University of New York, 1982, pp. 105–6, 118 n. 19, pp. 163–64, 169 n. 37, relates that the Havemeyers were offered this painting by Durand-Ruel in 1892 but did not buy it, only to do so in 1913 at the Borden sale.
Six Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. David Bakalar. Sotheby's, New York. 1984, unpaginated, under no. 1.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 56, 80–81, 209, 258, 262 n. 9, colorpl. 149.
Sjraar van Heutgen et al. inFranse meesters uit het Metropolitan Museum of Art: Realisten en Impressionisten. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1987, pp. 17, 42–43, no. 8, ill. (color).
Colta Ives inDaumier Drawings. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1992, p. 136, under no. 48, fig. 95, dates it 1863–65.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 7, 303, 308 n. 13.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 214, 262–63, 284–85, colorpl. 261, dates it 1863–65.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 322, no. A177, ill., dates it 1863–65.
Bruce Laughton. Honoré Daumier. New Haven, 1996, pp. 113–14, 116, 184 n. 12, fig. 139 (color), dates it 1864–65 in the caption and about 1865–66 in the text; proposes the following chronology of the different versions: the watercolor (M D-298); a lost tracing; the Ottawa painting (M I-166), made from the lost tracing, based on an x-ray which shows the Ottawa composition originally closely resembled the watercolor; the MMA painting made from the same lost tracing before the Ottawa painting was finished; two tracings of the MMA painting, including one in reverse (M D-299, D-300); a drawing on glass made from the inverse tracing (private collection, Germany; not in Maison); reworking of the Ottawa painting.
Eberhard Roters. Malerei des 19. Jahrhunderts: Themen und Motive. Cologne, 1998, vol. 1, pp. 413–14, ill., dates it 1863 or 1865.
Pierre Cabanne. Honoré Daumier: Témoin de la comédie humaine. [Paris], 1999, pp. 52–53, 139, ill. (color), dates it about 1864.
Michael Pantazzi inDaumier, 1808–1879. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, 1999, pp. 24, 26, 425–28, no. 271, ill. (color), dates it about 1862–64; calls the three Third-Class Carriage compositions (M D-298, I-165, I-166) "the most complex psychologically" of Daumier's treatments of this subject matter; characterizes the sequence of the different versions as still unresolved; notes that Arthur Stevens [Ref. 1864] could only have seen the watercolor between June and September 1864, and that Baudelaire must have seen the MMA painting prior to spring 1864 when he departed for Belgium, concluding that the painting preceded the watercolor; asserts that the Ottawa painting was reworked on two separate occasions and that the glass tracing was made from a later stage of the Ottawa painting; proposes that the first tracing (M D-299) was made from the glass tracing and then used for the already begun MMA painting.
Robert Fohr. Daumier: Sculpteur et peintre. Paris, 1999, p. 124, ill. p. 122 (color).
Ségolène Le Men inDaumier, 1808–1879. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, 1999, p. 324.
19th Century European Art, Including Property from HSBC's Corporate Art Collection. Sotheby's, New York. October 26, 2004, p. 78, under no. 50, discusses it in the context of Corot's "Portrait of Honoré Daumier Painting 'The Third Class Carriage'".
Gary Tinterow inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, fig. 9 (installation photo).
Kathryn Calley Galitz inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 39, 204, no. 19, ill. (color and black and white).
Kathryn Calley Galitz inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 47, 237–38, no. 44, ill. (color and black and white).
Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale. Sotheby's, New York. May 8, 2008, p. 36, under no. 118, fig. 1, dates it 1863–65; discusses the similar facial features between the woman holding a basket in this painting and the sitter in the drawing "Mère et enfant" (formerly estate of Catherine Gamble Curran).
Vincent van Gogh. Vincent van Gogh—The Letters. Ed. Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, and Nienke Bakker. London, 2009, vol. 2, p. 192, fig. 3 (color), under letter no. 280, reproduce the present painting, although Van Gogh may have been referring to either this work or another version, such as the one in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Asher Ethan Miller inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, p. 283, colorpl. 104, states that the sequence of the execution of this painting and Daumier's related works remains an enigma.
The Daumier exhibition organized by the Parisian dealer Durand-Ruel in 1878 included two paintings described in the catalogue as "Un wagon de 3e classe." The first, now in Ottawa, was lent by Brame (no. 62), while the second, the Boston variant, was lent by Pelpel (no. 70). The whereabouts of The Met's picture in 1878 cannot be verified, although it is possible that it was then in the collection of J. Duz, as he lent two other paintings to the exhibition, "La lecture" (no. 2; Maison 1968, no. I-101) and "Un peintre dans son atelier" (no. 3; Maison 1968, no. I-71).
The exhibition was reviewed by Paul Sébillot ("H. Daumier," "Le Bien Public," April 23, 1878, p. 1). He referred to "toute une série d'intérieurs de wagons," mentioning "plusieurs tableaux à l'huile" in addition to drawings and watercolors. Sébillot went on to describe the Ottawa painting in words that could apply equally to the present work: "L'un de ces derniers représente une robuste femme du peuple, tenant sur ses genoux un enfant emmailloté, tandis qu'à côté d'elle est assise une vieille au teint parcheminé, dans une attitude passive et paraissante songer à rien; dans l'ombre du fond se trouvent divers personnages aux attitudes variées et bien observées."
The Met's painting was not in the Durand-Ruel exhibition, nor was it mentioned by Sébillot. Yet Adhémar (1954) cited Sébillot's review in connection with Duz's ownership of this version, leading some later scholars, for example Sterling and Salinger (1966), to conclude that Duz owned it by 1878. The earliest reference to the painting in Duz's collection is the catalogue of Paris 1888, in which he is listed as the lender (see Exhibitions).