The low horizon and broadly painted sky in this picture testify to Dupré’s interest in recent English art, especially the landscapes of John Constable and the late Richard Parkes Bonington. This work fits the description of an "expansive and true composition" recently painted "on the spot" in the Limousin region of central France, which a critic admired at the Parisian gallery Susse Frères in the summer of 1836. Its first owner was Paul Périer (1812–1897), an early supporter of Dupré as well as his colleagues Théodore Rousseau and Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps.
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Credit Line:Gift of Mrs. Leon L. Watters, in memory of Leon Laizer Watters, 1967
The Artist: Jules Dupré was born in Nantes on April 5, 1811. He trained as a painter in his father’s porcelain factories, first at Crey, Ile de France, and then at Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, Limousin. Drawn to nature’s dramatic aspects, which would always be the primary focus of his art, he studied landscape in Paris under Jean-Michel Diébolt (b. 1779). Dupré met Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña in 1823, and from 1831, when he first exhibited at the annual state-sponsored exhibition known as the Paris Salon, he befriended Théodore Rousseau (with whom he was particularly close until 1849) and Constant Troyon. However, while Dupré was, like the others, a core figure of the Barbizon school, he was not among the painters who clustered in and around the Forest of Fontainebleau and the village of Barbizon itself, thirty miles southeast of Paris. Instead, Dupré settled at L’Isle-Adam, approximately the same distance north of the capital. Dupré effectively transferred the idiom of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting to the working countryside of modern France, which he further filtered through more recent efforts by John Constable, J. M. W. Turner, and Richard Parkes Bonington, whose works he saw in England in 1834. That same year he received a second-class medal at the Salon, and he was made a chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1849 (and was promoted to officier in 1870).
In Dupré’s early paintings, discrete strokes of paint correspond to individually observed details that signify the artist’s immersion in nature. This effect was typically enhanced through the inclusion of mature trees as vertical elements that unite earth and sky, which may be further knit together by reflections of trees and clouds on the surfaces of bodies of water. The painter frequently highlighted significant areas of scenery with glowing sunlight. These features of Dupré’s paintings are not unique to his work, but the heightened sensitivity he imparted to his canvases make them emblematic of the devotion to nature for which his contemporaries were renowned. After about 1850, however, Dupré adopted a more painterly technique and a sparer palette, and he devoted increasing attention to seascapes. Dupré died at L’Isle-Adam on October 6, 1889. A major exponent of landscape painting whose career paralleled the genre’s climax, he was admired by vanguard artists in his lifetime. Yet he has not been subjected to the same degree of scholarly attention accorded his contemporaries Rousseau and Jean-François Millet.
The Painting: Emerging from behind a bluff in the foreground at the left, a herd of cows, other animals, and their keepers ford a river in a diagonal procession toward the opposite bank. At the rear, a donkey and a hound face off playfully, the dog’s tail-end virtually pointing to the artist’s signature and date, 1836, which curve yieldingly in the lower left corner. The scene is strongly lit from the left. Dupré’s apprehension of Dutch and English models is manifest in the low horizon and magnificently large cloudbank, whose heaviness and evident slowness contrast with thinner, more fleet clouds lifting away before them. The painting fits the description contributed by an anonymous critic to the progressive periodical L’Artiste in the summer of 1836: “M. Jules Dupré, an indefatigable artist, has returned to Paris in the past few days, bringing with him from deep in the Limousin region a picture painted on the spot. It’s a scene of animals executed by the hand of a master, an expansive and true composition. Such is the feeling of all those who have seen this work in the rooms of Susse.” (See References.)
The back of the painting, which is unlined, and which remains on its original stretcher, bears the stencil: PAPETERIE / SUSSE FRERES / VENTE ET / LOCATION DE TABLEAUX / ET DESSINS / PLACE de la BOURSE 31 / SCULPTURE; 194. Susse Frères was a commercial art gallery of a type that began to flourish in north-central Paris in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. At that time, Dupré and his brethren adopted subjects and styles that left behind the idealized arcadias and slick-finished surfaces of landscapes by old-guard devotees of the Neoclassical style. Juries of official exhibitions could be hostile to painters who embraced the new strain of emphatically unpretentious naturalism, but there was interest among collectors, and dealers such as Susse stepped in to develop this market.
History: Despite its modest size and subject Cows Crossing a Ford has a distinguished history. Its first owner was French statesman and pioneering photographer Casimir-Charles-Fortunat-Paul Périer, known as Paul Périer (1812–1897), an early supporter of Dupré, Rousseau, and their colleague Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps. When Perier held an auction of his collection in 1846, the picture was singled out in the press. Louis Clément de Ris noted that another work by Dupré brought the highest price in the sale but that this was the best of three by the artist on offer (see Clément de Ris 1846). The painting was purchased by the firm Durand-Ruel, who were heavily invested in Barbizon painting prior to the onset of Impressionism. It was likely purchased from them by railroad owner Adolphe Moreau père (1800–1859), one of the greatest connoisseurs of modern art in Paris at mid-century. It passed to his son, art scholar Adolphe Moreau fils (1827–1882), who lent it to the prestigious exhibition of Tableaux tirés de collections d’amateurs . . . , organized by dealer Francis Petit in his gallery at 26 Boulevard des Italiens in Paris, in 1860. His widow, ceramicist Camille Nélaton (1840–1897), lent it to Cent chefs-d’œuvre des collections parisiennes, held at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, in 1883. Their son, Etienne Moreau-Nélaton (1859–1927), the major part of whose exceptional collection of nineteenth-century French paintings and drawings is now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, lent it to the Exposition centennale de l’art français (1800–1889), held at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900. At an unknown date Moreau-Nélaton sold the painting, and it eventually made its way to the United States.
Cows Crossing a Ford was reproduced in prints by Collignon, Daumont, de La Fage, and Marvy. There exists an undated, signed replica (Aubrun 1974, no. 84A, as private collection). Dupré exhibited a similar subject, Animaux Passant un Gué, in the Paris Salon of 1839 (no. 652; Aubrun 1974, no. 125).
Asher Miller 2022
 Further to Aubrun 1974, biographical information on Dupré comes from entries in dictionaries and surveys of Barbizon painting, perhaps the best of which remains Robert Herbert, Barbizon Revisited, exh. cat., California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, and elsewhere, 1962.  See Wolff 1883 and Aubrun 1974.  See Jules Janin, "Salon de 1839," L’Artiste 2 (1839), pp. 269–70, and Pierre Miquel, Le Paysage français au XIXe siècle, 1824–1874, Maurs-la-Jolie, 1975, p. 370.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Jules Dupré. / 1836.
[Susse Frères, Paris, 1836; purchased or on consignment from the artist; presumably sold in late summer to Périer]; Paul Périer, Paris (1836–46; his sale, Hôtel des ventes, Paris, December 19, 1846, no. 15, as "Le passage du gué," for Fr 1201, to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, from 1846]; Adolphe Moreau, Paris (by 1849/51–d. 1859; cat., 1849–53, no. 62); his son, Adolphe Moreau, Paris (1859–d. 1882); his widow, Mme Adolphe Moreau, Paris (1882–at least 1895); her son, Étienne Moreau-Nélaton, Paris (in 1900); [E. Le Roy & Cie., Paris]; [Arthur Tooth & Fils, Paris and London]; [Henry Reinhardt, New York]; Frank G. Logan, Chicago (until d. 1937); his widow, Josephine Hart Logan, Chicago (1937–d. 1943; her heirs, 1943–45; their sale, Kende Galleries at Gimbel Brothers, New York, February 1–3, 1945, no. 165, for $3,200 to Watters); Mr. and Mrs. Leon Laizer Watters, New York (1945–his d. 1967); Mrs. Leon L. Watters, New York (1967; gift to The Met)
Paris. 26, Boulevard des Italiens [Francis Petit]. "Tableaux tirés de collections d'amateurs . . .," 1860, no. 195 (as "Un Troupeau de bétail traversant un gué," lent by M. Ad. Moreau).
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Cent chefs-d'œuvre des collections parisiennes," June 12–?, 1883, no. 44 (as "Le Passage du gué," lent by Mme Adolphe Moreau).
Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition Centennale de l'art français (1800–1889)," May–November 1900, no. 268 (as "Le Passage du gué," lent by M. Moreau-Nélaton).
"Variétés." L'artiste 12 ([summer] 1836), p. 24, writes, "M. Jules Dupré, infatigable artiste, est revenu ces jours-ci à Paris, apportant du fond du Limousin un tableau peint sur les lieux. C'est une scène d'animaux exécutée de main de maître, composition large et vraie. Tel est le sentiment de toutes les personnes qui vont voir cet ouvrage dans les magasins de Susse" (M. Jules Dupré, an indefatigable artist, has returned to Paris in the past few days, bringing with him from deep in the Limousin region a picture painted on the spot. It’s a scene of animals executed by the hand of a master, an expansive and true composition. Such is the feeling of all those who have seen this work in the rooms of Susse.) [probably this work].
"Beaux-arts." L'artiste 8 (December 13, 1846), p. 95.
T[héophile]. Thoré. "Revue des arts." Le constitutionnel no. 564 (December 27, 1846), p. 2.
comte [Louis] Clément de Ris. "Beaux-arts: Vente du cabinet de M. Paul Périer." L'artiste 8 (December 27, 1846), p. 125, states that that the Dupré that brought the highest price in the sale was not as good as this one or a third painting by the same artist.
Collection de tableaux modernes tirés du cabinet de M. Adolphe Moreau. Paris, 1849–53, vol. 2, pl. 62 (lithograph by de La Fage), calls it "Le Gué".
Albert Wolff. Cent chefs-d'œuvre des collections parisiennes. Exh. cat., Galerie Georges Petit. Paris, , p. 98, no. 38, ill. p. 7 (engraving by E. Daumont).
John W. Mollett. The Painters of Barbizon: Millet, Rousseau, Diaz, Corot, Daubigny, Dupré. London, 1895, p. 117, as "Cows Crossing a Ford," in the collection of Mme Adolphe Moreau.
Roger Marx. Exposition centennale de l'art français, 1800–1900. Exh. cat., Exposition Internationale Universelle. Paris, , unpaginated, ill.
André Michel. "Les Arts à l'Exposition Universelle de 1900—L'Exposition centennale: La Peinture française (4e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 24 (October 1900), p. 302, ill. p. 284.
Marie-Madeleine Aubrun. Jules Dupré, 1811–1889. Exh. cat., Galerie du Fleuve. Paris, 1973, p. 7.
Marie-Madeleine Aubrun. Jules Dupré, 1811–1889: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, dessiné et gravé. Paris, 1974, pp. 17, 59–60, no. 84, ill. p. 76, as "Vaches traversant un gué"; notes that it was painted for Casimir Périer, erroneously identified as the grandfather of the future president of France [Périer was the uncle of the future president; see the catalogue of the 1945 Logan sale which states that it was painted for Périer; see Ex-Colls]; lists etchings by Louis Marvy and Collignon and a lithograph by Lafage after this painting; catalogues an undated replica of this painting (no. 84A; private collection).
Catherine B. Scallen. Autour les Impressionistes [sic]: An Exhibition of Barbizon and Pre-Impressionist Paintings. Exh. cat., Noortman & Brod. New York, 1982, unpaginated, under no. 10.
Marie-Madeleine Aubrun. Jules Dupré, 1811–1889: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre, supplément. Nantes, 1982, p. 186.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 416, ill.
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