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The Shepherd's Song

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

Date:
1891
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
41 1/8 x 43 1/4 in. (104.5 x 109.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1906
Accession Number:
06.177
  • Gallery Label

    From 1884 to 1886, Puvis executed mural decorations for the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyons that are allegorical representions of the origins of art. This painting is one of several variants of a portion of the Lyons mural entitled "Antique Vision" (1885). The poses of the foreground figures derive from classical statuary and relief sculpture.

    Shortly after completing the painting in 1891, Puvis urged a friend to see it at his dealer's in Paris before it was sent to America—a signal of the growing interest abroad in his work. That same year, Puvis agreed to paint nine murals for the Boston Public Library, his only mural commission outside of France.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): P.Puvis de Chavannes / 1891

  • Provenance

    [Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York, 1891–92; sold on February 9, 1892 for $4,500, to Kingman]; Alden Wyman Kingman, New York (1892–96; sold on March 5, 1896 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York, 1896–1906; stock no. 1586; sold on April 3, 1906 to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. Durand-Ruel. "Paintings, Pastels and Decorations by M. Puvis de Chavannes," December 15–31, 1894, no. 15 (as "The Shepherd's Song," lent by Mr. A. W. Kingman).

    Pittsburgh. Carnegie Art Galleries. "First Annual Exhibition," November 5, 1896–January 1, 1897, no. 233 (as "Shepherd's Song").

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Temporary Exhibition," April 1906, no. 26 (as "Le Chant du Berger").

    Musée de Lyon. "Puvis de Chavannes et la peinture lyonnaise du XIXe siècle," 1937, no. 42 (as "Le Chant du Berger").

    Newark Museum. "19th-Century French and American Paintings from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 9–May 15, 1946, no. 24.

    Art Gallery of Toronto. "The Classical Contribution to Western Civilization," December 15, 1948–January 31, 1949, not in catalogue.

    Palm Beach. Society of the Four Arts. "Portraits, Figures and Landscapes," January 12–February 4, 1951, no. 31.

    Winnipeg Art Gallery. "French Pre-Impressionist Painters of the Nineteenth Century," April 10–May 9, 1954, no. 70.

    Phoenix Art Museum. "Aspects of the Desert: The Dedication of the Phoenix Art Museum," November 14, 1959–January 31, 1960, no. 25.

    London. Hayward Gallery. "French Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers," June 7–July 23, 1972, no. 226.

    Liverpool. Walker Art Gallery. "French Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers," August 9–September 17, 1972, no. 226.

    Toronto. Art Gallery of Ontario. "Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition," October 24–November 30, 1975, no. 32.

    Paris. Grand Palais. "Puvis de Chavannes, 1824–1898," November 26, 1976–February 14, 1977, no. 195.

    Ottawa. Galerie nationale du Canada. "Puvis de Chavannes, 1824–1898," March 18–May 1, 1977, no. 195.

    Yokohama Museum of Art. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century," March 25–June 4, 1989, no. 85.

    Copenhagen. Statens Museum for Kunst. "Symbolism in Danish and European Painting 1870–1910," September 29, 2000–January 14, 2001, no. 4.

    Venice. Palazzo Grassi. "From Puvis de Chavannes to Matisse and Picasso: Toward Modern Art," February 10–June 16, 2002, no. 21.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 44.

    Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19.Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.

  • References

    Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Letter to Eugène Benon. July 31, 1891 [excerpt published in "Collection de Monsieur X... lettres autographes de peintres des XIXe et XXe siècles," Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 25, 1975, no. 138], asks his friend to look at this painting which is hanging in Durand-Ruel's gallery and is about to be shipped to America.

    Arsène Alexandre. Puvis de Chavannes. London, [1905], ill. p. 37, as "The Song of the Shepherd".

    Evening Post (April 25, 1906) [published in Ref. Sutton 1972, vol. 1, p. 26], calls it "rarely beautiful".

    Roger Fry. Letter to Helen Fry. March 16, 1906 [published in Ref. Sutton 1972, vol. 1, letter no. 181, p. 258], refers to the MMA acquisition of this picture.

    "Gallery Number XXIV." Scrip 1 (June 1906), p. 291, ill. opp. p. 292, calls it a "beautiful and unmanageable" picture "which nevertheless serves a purpose in marking the gulf between Puvis de Chavannes and what might be called the modern past".

    Kenyon Cox. The Classic Point of View: Six Lectures on Painting. New York, 1911, p. 149, pl. 30, as "The Song of the Shepherd"; criticizes the execution of the figures in this picture.

    Carl Georg Heise. "Amerikanische Museen." Kunst und Künstler 23 (September 1925), ill. p. 339.

    Camille Mauclair. Puvis de Chavannes. Paris, 1928, p. 162, calls it a sketch for "Antique Vision" (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons).

    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. 231, ill., mention a nude study for the seated woman (MMA 35.93.2).

    Albert Boime. The Academy and French Painting in the Nineteenth Century. London, 1971, p. 75, fig. 40, comments on the influence of Thomas Couture in this picture.

    Mary Anne Stevens and Alan Bowness in French Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. London, 1972, pp. 111–12, no. 226, ill.

    Letters of Roger Fry. New York, 1972, vol. 1, pp. 26, 255 n. 1 to letter no. 177 (March 2, 1906), p. 258 n. 4 to letter no. 181 (March 16, 1906).

    Richard J. Wattenmaker. Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto, 1975, pp. xxiii, 27–28, 77, 82–83, no. 32, ill., compares it to the "Antique Vision" in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, calling both paintings modern reinterpretations of Giovanni Bellini's "Allegory" (about 1488; Uffizi Gallery, Florence).

    Louise d'Argencourt in Puvis de Chavannes, 1824–1898. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Paris. Ottawa, 1977, pp. 193, 215, no. 195, ill. p. 217 [French ed., Paris, 1976, pp. 196, 217, no. 195, ill. p. 219], mentions a related painted reduction in a private collection.

    Frances Spalding. Roger Fry: Art and Life. Berkeley, 1980, p. 91.

    John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. London, 1984, p. 235.

    Gary Tinterow et al. "Modern Europe." The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 8, New York, 1987, p. 79, ill. (color).

    Denys Sutton in Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo?], 1989, p. 23.

    Gary Tinterow in Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo?], 1989, pp. 139–40, no. 85, ill. (color).

    Gary Tinterow. "Letters: The New Rooms at the Metropolitan Museum, New York." Burlington Magazine 136 (April 1994), p. 241.

    Dominique Brachlianoff in Puvis de Chavannes au Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons. [Paris], 1998, p. 132, ill., reproduces the drawing of the three figures from the Lyons "Antique Vision" used as a study for this composition.

    Pierre Vaisse in Puvis de Chavannes au Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons. [Paris], 1998, p. 47, fig. 26.

    T. J. Clark. Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism. New Haven, 1999, p. 90, fig. 47 (color), observes this picture's influence on Pissarro's "Two Young Peasant Women" (1892; MMA 1973.311.5).

    Peter Nørgaard Larsen in Symbolism in Danish and European Painting 1870–1910. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. [Copenhagen], 2000, pp. 24–25, 282, no. 4, ill. (color).

    Margaret Werth. The Joy of Life: The Idyllic in French Art, circa 1900. Berkeley, 2002, p. 1, fig. 1.

    Kathryn Calley Galitz in Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 76, 294, no. 70, ill. (color and black and white).

    Kathryn Calley Galitz in The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 67, 249, no. 44, ill. (color and black and white).

    Gary Tinterow in The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, p. 7.

    Aimée Brown Price. "The Artist and His Art." Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. 1, New Haven, 2010, pp. 111, 152, 165, colorpl. 190.

    Aimée Brown Price. "A Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work." Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. 2, New Haven, 2010, pp. 218, 278, 284, 286, 331–33, 349, no. 350, ill. (color), discusses the psychological and physical isolation of the figures; catalogues two oil paintings which may be preparatory sketches for this picture, one of the figures (about 1885–91; Collection Daniel Malingue; Price no. 307) and the other of the landscape setting (about 1890–91; Mercier and Duchemin Gallery, Paris; Price no. 349).



  • Notes

    A reduced version of the Lyons "Antique Vision" (Price 2010, no. 305) is in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (Price 2010, no 306). Another reduced variant and a landscape study may be preparatory sketches for our painting (Collection Daniel Malingue; Mercier and Duchemin Gallery, Paris; Price 2010, nos. 307, 349).

    A drawing for the MMA composition is in the Lyons museum and a drawing for the seated woman is in the MMA (35.93.2).

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