Based on sketches Bouguereau made while summering in Brittany in the late 1860s, this picture was completed in the artist’s studio in 1871. His young models, posed in traditional Breton costumes, epitomize the ideal of virtuous and attractive peasants living a simple life in close contact with nature. This type of scene was quickly snapped up by American collectors, earning Bouguereau fame and fortune. As one critic explained, "Whoever gets a picture by [him] gets the full worth of his money, in finished painting, first-rate drawing, and a subject and treatment that no well-bred person can … fault."
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Title:Breton Brother and Sister
Artist:William Bouguereau (French, La Rochelle 1825–1905 La Rochelle)
[Goupil, Paris, 1871; stock no. 5724; purchased on September 12, as "Frère et soeur (Bretons)," for Fr 8,000; sold on October 23, for Fr 18,000, to Knoedler]; [M. Knoedler, New York, 1871; sold on November 21, for $6,000, to Wolfe]; John David Wolfe, New York (1871–d. 1872); his daughter, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, New York (1872–d. 1887)
Portland, Oreg. Portland Art Museum. "Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, 1892–1842," December 2, 1942–January 3, 1943, no. 7 (as "The Two Sisters").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Taste of the Seventies," April 2–September 10, 1946, no. 67 (as "The Two Sisters").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Van Gogh as Critic and Self-Critic," October 30, 1973–January 6, 1974, no. 12.
New York Cultural Center. "William-Adolphe Bouguereau," December 13, 1974–February 2, 1975, no. 8 (as "Frère et sœur bretons").
San Francisco. California Palace of the Legion of Honor. "William-Adolphe Bouguereau," February 15–March 29, 1975, no. 8.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Samuel P. Avery: Pioneer American Art Dealer," September 11–October 31, 1979, unnumbered cat.
Paris. Musée du Luxembourg. "L'aventure de Pont-Aven et Gauguin," April 2–June 22, 2003, no. 5 (as "Frère et soeur bretons").
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper. "L'aventure de Pont-Aven et Gauguin," July 12–September 30, 2003, no. 5.
Naples. Castel Sant'Elmo. "Gauguin e la Bretagna," October 19, 2003–January 11, 2004, no. 5.
Edward Strahan [Earl Shinn], ed. The Art Treasures of America. Philadelphia, , vol. 1, p. 134, as "The Mother's Treasure".
Ch[arles]. Vendryes. Catalogue illustré des oeuvres de W. Bouguereau. Paris, 1885, p. 46, calls it "Frère et Soeur bretons".
"The Fine Arts: Recent Gifts to the Metropolitan Museum." Critic (April 16, 1887), p. 194.
Clarence Cook. Art and Artists of Our Time. New York, 1888, vol. 1, p. 87, ill., calls it "The Two Sisters".
Edward Strahan [Earl Shinn]. Selected Pictures from Public and Private Collections in the United States. Ed. William Walton. Philadelphia, 1888, p. 66.
John Denison Champlin Jr. and Charles C. Perkins, ed. Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings. New York, 1892, vol. 1, p. 189, as "Mother's Treasure" in the collection of Miss C. L. Wolfe.
"The Metropolitan Museum of Art—The French Painters." New York Times (May 22, 1895), p. 4.
Marius Vachon. W. Bouguereau. Paris, 1900, pp. 91–92, 150, calls it "Frère et sœur bretons" and mentions it as one of the works inspired by the artist's studies in Brittany in 1868.
Masters in Art: Bouguereau 7 (January 1906), p. 39, pl. VIII, calls it "Brother and Sister," likens it to "Shepherdess" (private collection), and comments that Bouguereau depicted his peasant neighbors at La Rochelle without "the grime of the fields [and] the soil of the roadside".
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 12.
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, p. 174, ill., note that it was once thought to be "Two Sisters," another painting of 1871, but that the younger child appears to be a boy; observe that the girl's costume is typical of Brittany, where Bouguereau made studies in 1868.
Charles S. Moffett. Van Gogh as Critic and Self-Critic. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1973, unpaginated, no. 12, comments that the refined academic handling of this picture is inconsistent with the reality of the subject matter as portrayed in works by van Gogh.
"Talk of the Town: Bouguereau." New Yorker (November 25, 1974), p. 43.
Robert Isaacson. William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Exh. cat., New York Cultural Center. New York, 1974, p. 24, no. 8, ill., notes that it is one among dozens of compositions by the artist that explore close familial relationships.
Linda Whiteley. "Accounting for Tastes." Oxford Art Journal no. 2 (April 1979), pp. 27–28, ill., suggests that the subject was influenced by Hugues Merle, a painter who specialized "in genre scenes, often of mildly religious cast".
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 437, ill.
Fronia E. Wissman. Bouguereau. San Francisco, 1996, p. 50, fig. 6.
Rebecca A. Rabinow. "Catharine Lorillard Wolfe: The First Woman Benefactor of the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 147 (March 1998), pp. 50, 54 n. 10, fig. 12 (installation photo), states that John David Wolfe bought this picture from Goupil & Co., New York on November 21, 1871, for $6,000.
André Cariou inL'Aventure de Pont-Aven et Gauguin. Ed. André Cariou. Exh. cat., Musée du Luxembourg, Paris. Milan, 2003, pp. 18–19, 38–39, no. 5, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Italian ed., pp. 8–9, 28–29, no. 5, ill. (color, overall and detail)], notes that although this picture was painted in Paris, the figures's costumes and bare feet indicate the regions of Fouesnant and Pont-Aven in Brittany.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 80, 216, no. 74, ill. (color and black and white).
Damien Bartoli with Frederick Ross. William Bouguereau. Vol. 1, His Life and Works. New York, 2010, colorpl. 97.
Damien Bartoli with Frederick Ross. William Bouguereau. Vol. 2, Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work. New York, 2010, pp. 136, 365, no. 1871/10, ill. (color), erroneously state that it is signed and dated at the bottom right; note that the artist listed it as "Frère et sœur bretons" in his accounts; mention a replica by Léon Perrault (private collection, United States).
Eric Zafran inBouguereau & America. Ed. Tanya Paul and Stanton Thomas. Exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, 2019, pp. 36, 43, 44 n. 11, ill. p. 34, fig. 1 (color, overall and detail).
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