Throughout his career, Harpignies maintained close ties with artists and friends in his native town of Valenciennes. He also had a studio in Paris and in 1883 signed a contract with the Parisian firm of Arnold and Tripp that freed him from the management and sale of his work. The present painting, inspired by a passage from the poetry of Victor Hugo, was commissioned by the artist’s dealers, who presented the canvas to the Museum in 1886. Harpignies treated the romantic theme with characteristic directness, in a style influenced by Barbizon painters.
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Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): hjharpignies. [hj in monogram] 1885.
[Arnold and Tripp, Paris, 1885–86; commissioned from the artist as gift to The Met]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Collection of Paintings and Sculpture," November 1886–April 1887.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Van Gogh as Critic and Self-Critic," October 30, 1973–January 6, 1974, no. 31.
Memphis. Dixon Gallery and Gardens. "Henri-Joseph Harpignies: Paintings and Watercolors," December 3, 1978–January 14, 1979, no. 8.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barbizon: French Landscapes of the Nineteenth Century," February 4–May 10, 1992, no catalogue.
George A. Lucas. Journal entry. November 9, 1885 [published in Lilian M. C. Randall, "The Diary of George A. Lucas: An American Art Agent in Paris, 1857–1909," Princeton, 1979, p. 618], notes that he has seen the "Metropolitan Museum Harpignies" at Arnold's.
Town Topics (November 11, 1886), p. ?, comments that this picture "has in it the best that modern French landscape can give you".
Catalogue of the Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1898, p. 168, no. 562, quotes the verse by Victor Hugo which inspired this painting; notes that it was commissioned by Arnold and Tripp, Paris.
William Sharp. "The Art Treasures of America (Concluded.)." Living Age, 7th ser., 1 (December 3, 1898), p. 606.
Arthur Hoeber. The Treasures of The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. New York, 1899, p. 88.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 47.
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. 102, ill., observe the influence of Corot "offset by Harpignies's native positivism".
Reba Russell. Henri-Joseph Harpignies: Paintings and Watercolors. Exh. cat., Dixon Gallery and Gardens. Memphis, 1978, pp. 24–25, no. 8, ill.
Hans-Peter Bühler. "Henri-Joseph Harpignies—Michelangelo der Bäume." Weltkunst 54 (May 1, 1984), p. 1247.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 430, ill.
Stéphanie Constantin. "The Barbizon Painters: A Guide to Their Suppliers." Studies in Conservation 46, no. 1 (2001), p. 50.
Eric M. Zafran. Masters of French Painting, 1290–1920, at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Hartford, 2012, p. 262, notes that it was "cleverly" given to The Met the year after it was painted and that the artist would continue to pursue such lyrical subjects with his return to an earlier "silvery, Corot-like tonality".
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