Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Pardon in Brittany

Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (French, Paris 1852–1929 Quincey)
Oil on canvas
45 1/8 x 33 3/8 in. (114.6 x 84.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of George F. Baker, 1931
Accession Number:
Not on view

Like many of his contemporaries, Dagnan-Bouveret was fascinated by the religious customs of Brittany in northern France. In this scene, penitents wearing traditional regional dress proceed solemnly around a church. Some go barefoot or kneel to demonstrate remorse. Annotated drawings on the reverse of the canvas indicate that the painter’s wife posed for the young woman in the foreground. When the picture was shown at the 1887 Salon and the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, critics applauded its exactitude—unsurprising, as Dagnan-Bouveret used photographs to aid his work.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): P.A.J. DAGNAN-B / 1886
[Arthur Tooth and Sons, London; in 1889]; George F. Baker, New York (by 1894–until d. 1931)
Paris. Salon. May 1–?, 1887, no. 641 (as "Le pardon; —Bretagne").

Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition centennale de l'art français (1789–1889)," May–November 1889, no. 370 (as "Le Pardon," lent by MM. Tooth).

Art Institute of Chicago. "P.A. Dagnan-Bouveret. A Loan Exhibition," March 1–24, 1901, no. 6 (as "The Pardon," lent by George F. Baker, New York).

Columbus, Ga. Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts. "A Centenary of a Great Museum: Old Master Paintings," November 1, 1969–October 31, 1970, unnum. checklist.

Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. "Bilder sind nicht verboten," August 28–October 24, 1982, no. 31.

Norfolk, Va. Chrysler Museum of Art. "Paris 1889: American Artists at the Universal Exposition," September 29–December 17, 1989, unnumbered cat.

Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "Paris 1889: American Artists at the Universal Exposition," February 1–April 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. "Paris 1889: American Artists at the Universal Exposition," May 6–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.

New-York Historical Society. "Paris 1889: American Artists at the Universal Exposition," September 5–November 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.

Antwerp. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. "Tranches de vie: le naturalisme en Europe, 1875–1915," November 24, 1996–February 16, 1997, no. 20.

New York. Dahesh Museum of Art. "Against the Modern: Dagnan-Bouveret and the Transformation of the Academic Tradition," September 10–December 7, 2002, unnumbered cat. (fig. 75).

Palm Beach. Society of the Four Arts. "Against the Modern: Dagnan-Bouveret and the Transformation of the Academic Tradition," January 3–February 9, 2003, unnumbered cat. (fig. 75).

Cleveland Museum of Art. "Paul Gauguin: Paris, 1889," October 4, 2009–January 18, 2010, no. 26.

Amsterdam. Van Gogh Museum. "Paul Gauguin: The Breakthrough into Modernity," February 19–June 6, 2010, no. 26.

Maurice Hamel. "Le Salon de 1887 (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 35 (June 1887), p. 486, comments that the figures of the women in this picture "respirent la candeur, l'humilité passionnée des âmes simples qui se livrent entières à leur foi".

Pierre de Soudeilles. Le Monde (May 7, 1887) [excerpt reprinted in Ref. Orwicz 1987, p. 296 n. 6], praises its realism and depiction of the figures' piety.

Paul Heusy. Le Radical (May 18, 1887) [excerpt reprinted Ref. Orwicz 1987, p. 296 n. 12].

Paul Mantz. "Le Salon." Le Temps (May 29, 1887), p. 1, comments that there is no trace of the Parisian studio in this honest portrayal of "une scène de moeurs brétonnes".

A. Pallier. La Liberté (May 28, 1887) [excerpt reprinted in Ref. Orwicz 1987, p. 296 n. 7].

Roger Marx. Le Voltaire (May 1, 1887) [excerpt reprinted in Ref. Orwicz 1987, p. 297 n. 20].

Paul Leroi. "Salon de 1887." L'Art 43 (1887), p. 4, comments upon the individuality of each figure.

Henry Havard. "Le Salon de 1887." Le Siècle (May 21, 1887), p. 1, calls the depiction of each member of the procession a portrait reflecting the figure's faith.

Georges Lafenestre. Le Livre d'or du Salon de peinture et de sculpture. Paris, 1887, pp. 38–39, ill. (engraving by de Billy).

G[ustave]. Ollendorff. Salon de 1887. Paris, 1887, p. 73, ill. between pp. 74 and 75.

Arsène Alexandre. "P.-A.-J. Dagnan-Bouveret." Les Lettres et les arts 4 (December 1889), pp. 394, 399.

Paul Mantz. "La Peinture française (4e et dernier article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 2 (November 1889), pp. 527, 530.

Paul Lefort. Les Chefs-d'œuvre de l'art au XIXe siècle. Vol. 3, La Peinture française actuelle. Paris, [1891], p. 65.

Prince Bojidar Karageorgevitch. "Dagnan-Bouveret." Magazine of Art 16 (1893), ill. p. 125 (engraving by Jonnard), as "The Pardon".

William A. Coffin. "Dagnan-Bouveret." Century Illustrated Magazine 48 (May 1894), pp. 4–5, 10 n. 1, p. 15, ill., calls it "The Pardon" and dates it 1887; locates it in the collection of George F. Baker.

William A. Coffin. "Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret." Modern French Masters: A Series of Biographical and Critical Reviews by American Artists. Ed. John C. van Dyke. New York, 1896, pp. 240, 247.

Enrico Thovez. "Artisti contemporanei: P. A. J. Dagnan-Bouveret." Emporium 6 (August 1897), pp. 92–93, ill., dates it 1887.

Léon Thévenin. Dagnan-Bouveret, peintre. Paris, 1901, p. 5.

Henry Marcel. La Peinture française au XIXe siècle. Paris, 1905, p. 306, dates it 1887.

Georges Lafenestre. "L'Exposition d'études, dessins et pastels de M. Dagnan-Bouveret à la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts." Gazette des beaux-arts, 4th ser., 1 (June 1909), p. 465.

J. Dampt and André-Charles Coppier. Catalogue des Œuvres de M. Dagnan-Bouveret (Peintures). Paris, 1930, p. 24, ill., list it among works of 1887.

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. 220–21, ill., comment that the costumes are characteristic of the region of Finistère and suggest that this picture represents the Pardon of St. Jean-du-Doigt which took place every year on June 24.

Gabriel P. Weisberg. "Vestiges of the Past: The Brittany 'Pardons' of Late Nineteenth-Century French Painters." Arts Magazine 55 (November 1980), pp. 136–38 n. 15, fig. 7, notes that this picture focuses on a smaller group within the procession including beggars seeking alms, which may signify that it is the pardon of St. Jean-du-Doigt, attended by those seeking cures for blindness; comments on Dagnan-Bouveret's detailed attention to facial features and costume, adding that he may have worked from photographs; compares similar figures in the artist's "Pardon, Brittany [Bretons Praying]" (1888; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts).

Gabriel P. Weisberg. "P.A.J. Dagnan-Bouveret, Jules Bastien-Lepage, and the Naturalist Instinct." Arts Magazine 56 (April 1982), pp. 75–76, fig. 23, notes that this picture was praised for its photographic exactitude when exhibited in 1889; remarks that the use of the artist's wife and family friend as models "gave the Brittany Pardon a personal meaning" [see Ref. Weisberg (March) 1982]; comments that "this painting could be seen as part of the movement toward mysticism and religiosity that was to grip many painters, from several camps, during the 1890s".

Gabriel P. Weisberg in Bilder sind nicht verboten: Kunstwerke seit der Mitte des 19.Jahrhunderts mit ausgewählten Kultgeräten aus dem Zeitalter der Aufklärung. Exh. cat., Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf, 1982, p. 232, no. 31, ill. p. 154.

Gabriel P. Weisberg. "P.A.J. Dagnan-Bouveret and the Illusion of Photographic Naturalism." Arts Magazine 56 (March 1982), pp. 100, 102–3, 105 n. 21, fig. 8, cites two letters written by Dagnan-Bouveret in September and October 1886 which mention returning from a trip to Brittany and working on this picture at his studio in Ormoy in the Franche-Comté; reproduces photographs of the artist executing this painting from models dressed in Brittany costumes as well as photographs of the exact poses that he used for references; identifies the third figure in the procession as the artist's wife, Anne-Marie, and the kneeling woman as Madame Courtois, whose name is written on the back of a photograph, the mother of his friend Gustave Courtois; comments that this photograph allowed Dagnan-Bouveret "to capture a sense of movement through an instantaneous gesture," adding that the artist's methods "manipulated seasoned Salon-goers and critics into believing that they were witnesses to a scene from Brittany".

Gabriel P. Weisberg. "Making it Natural: Dagnan-Bouveret's Constructed Compositions for the Paris Salon of the 1880s." Scottish Art Review 15 (November 1982), pp. 10, 12, fig. 10.

Michael Orwicz. "Criticism and Representations of Brittany in the Early Third Republic." Art Journal 46 (Winter 1987), pp. 291–96 nn. 6–8, 12, p. 297 n. 20, fig. 1, discusses conservative versus liberal critics' interpretations of this picture when it was shown at the 1887 Salon; asserts that the conservatives [see Ref. Soudeilles 1887] emphasized the Bretons' piety and Catholic faith to align them with Church dominated right-wing political ideology, whereas the liberals [see Ref. Heusy 1887] interpreted a difference between the older and younger figures in this picture in order to present religious practice as a regional custom and superstition.

Pauline Grisel. "P. A. J. Dagnan-Bouveret à travers sa correspondance." Master's thesis, Université de Lyon, 1987, vol. 2, pp. 51–54, states that Dagnan-Bouveret's wife also posed for the seated female beggar seen from the rear.

Claire Frèches-Thory in The Art of Paul Gauguin. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1988, p. 52, ill.

Maureen C. O'Brien in Paris 1889: American Artists at the Universal Exposition. Exh. cat., Norfolk, Virginia. Philadelphia, 1989, pp. 244, 264 nn. 4–5, ill. p. 246 (color), states that this painting was among those which won Dagnan-Bouveret a medal of honor at the 1889 Exposition Universelle.

Gabriel P. Weisberg. Beyond Impressionism: The Naturalist Impulse. New York, 1992, pp. 73, 172, colorpl. 75, calls it "Le Pardon en Bretagne (Brittany Pardon)"; notes its influence on István Csók's "'Do This in Memory of Me!'" (1890; Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest).

Nathalie Monteyne in Tranches de vie: Le naturalisme en Europe, 1875–1915. Exh. cat., Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts d'Anvers. Ghent, 1996, pp. 98–100, no. 20, ill. (color), comments on the influence of Bastien-Lepage on this painting and "Breton Women at a Pardon" (1887; Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Museum, Lisbon); states that this picture depicts the procession around the church following the day-long religious service.

Herwig Todts in Tranches de vie: Le naturalisme en Europe, 1875–1915. Exh. cat., Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts d'Anvers. Ghent, 1996, p. 21, remarks that pictures such as this one do not address the contemporary decline of cultural traditions, local costumes, and popular devotions.

Pauline Grisel. Letter to Gretchen Wold. September 18, 1999, suggests that a Parisian model posed for the figure of the elderly man in this picture [see Ref. Weisberg 2002].

Gretchen Wold. "Some Notes on 'The Pardon in Brittany' by Dagnan-Bouveret." Metropolitan Museum Journal 35 (2000), pp. 237–46, colorpl. 5 and fig. 1, dates it July–November 1886; discusses the drawings and inscriptions on the verso of this picture which identify the woman third in line as the artist's wife and the kneeling woman in the foreground as Jeanne Claude Jobard, mother of Gustave Courtois (see Weisberg [March] 1982); surmises that these drawings were traced onto the canvas from a photograph or drawing; notes that Dagnan-Bouveret was in Brittany in July 1886, but returned home by September of that year and presumably added the figure of his wife after his return; suggests that the other figures "also reflect the features of his friends and family at home in the Franche-Comté"; compares it to another painting of his wife, "Woman from Brittany" (1886; Art Institute of Chicago); reproduces a probable study for the elderly man inscribed June or July 1886 and "Pontcroix," a village in Brittany (Musée Jacquemart-André de l'Abbaye Royale de Chaalis).

Gabriel P. Weisberg. Against the Modern: Dagnan-Bouveret and the Transformation of the Academic Tradition. Exh. cat., Dahesh Museum of Art. New York, 2002, pp. 77–83, 87, 89, 142, 160 n. 14, p. 161 n. 27, figs. 16, 75 (color), 77, 79, notes that the procession could be either leaving or entering the church [see Ref. Monteyne 1996]; discusses the photographs showing this picture in progress as well as various drawings and gouache studies; suggests that Baptiste Accard, a Parisian model, posed for the elderly man's gaze.

Petra ten-Doesschate Chu. Nineteenth-Century European Art. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2006, pp. 447, 476, fig. 18-7 (color), calls it "Brittany Pardon".

Belinda Thomson in Paul Gauguin: Paris, 1889. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Ostfildern, 2009, pp. 36, 238, no. 26, ill. p. 39 (color), notes that Gauguin saw this work at the 1889 Exposition universelle, and that it prefigures his interest in Breton religious subjects.

On the verso of this picture are drawings by the artist of two women with his identifying inscriptions: MARIA WALTER, ma femme / Ormoy Hte Saône / Juillet - Novembre 1886 / PAJ· Dagnan (below one drawing). Jeanne Claude Jobard / mère de mon ami / Gustave Cortois (below other drawing). Above each inscription is a drawing of the figure that is mentioned. Jeanne Claude Jubard kneels in the front of the picture, and the artist's wife is standing in line behind her.

The artist used photographs of these models as references when executing this painting (see Weisberg [March] 1982). Weisberg (2002) and Wold (2000) also document several drawn and painted studies. This composition was engraved by de Billy and Jonnard (see Lafenestre 1887 and Karageorgevitch 1893).

Dagnan-Bouveret treated similar subjects in Breton Women at a Pardon (1887; Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Museum, Lisbon) and Bretons Praying (1888; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts).
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