Auguste-Xavier Leprince (French, Paris 1799–1826 Nice)
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas
12 7/8 x 15 1/2 in. (32.6 x 39.5 cm)
The Whitney Collection, Promised Gift of Wheelock Whitney III, and Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, by exchange, 2003
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 805
In the 1820s, the countryside of France began to rival Italy for the attention of its painters, who drew from a tradition with strong roots in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch and Flemish art. This scene may be an early depiction of the Forest of Fontainebleau. While the landscape retains all the freshness of a plein-air study, the figures are stock characters from Leprince’s repertory.
Leprince showed early promise but died young. During his brief career his skills as a figure painter were sought by fellow landscapists ranging from Alexandre-Hyacinthe Dunouy to André Giroux (see Peter Galassi, Corot in Italy, New Haven, 1991, pp. 62, 236 n. 85 ). But he was primarily a painter of landscapes, working in the northern tradition whose most characteristic practioner in France in the 1820s was Jean-Louis Demarne, which is manifest in scenes of encounters in marketplaces and along country roads such as this painting of a shepherd and a rider, possibly a tradesman. The oak-shaded setting is almost certainly in the Île-de-France, possibly in the Forest of Fontainebleau, which was becoming a destination for plein-air painters in the 20s.
The figural group also appears in a highly finished sepia drawing by Leprince, signed and dated 1823, that originally formed part of the collection of Louis-Joseph-Auguste Coutan (now in a private collection; see Coutan-Hauguet sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, December 16–17, 1889, no. 261, as "Le Voyageur"; see also Gérald Schurr and Pierre Cabanne, Dictionnaire des Petits Maîtres de la peinture [1820–1920], 2nd ed., Paris, 2008, p. 470, ill.).
[Asher Ethan Miller 2013]
[Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, London; sold to Goelet]; John Goelet (sold to Fischer-Kiener); [Jacques Fischer-Chantal Kiener, Paris, until 1993; sold on June 23 to Whitney]; Wheelock Whitney III, New York (from 1993)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850," January 22–April 21, 2013, unnumbered cat. (fig. 63).
Asher Ethan Miller. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 70 (Winter 2013), p. 46, fig. 63 (color).