Oil on panel
12 3/4 x 14 inches (32 x 35.5 cm)
Framed: 19 1/4 x 20 1/4 inches
Joseph R. DeCamp, 19th century
Thence by descent This painting was originally owned by the American artist Joseph R. DeCamp (1858-1923), who was a founding member of the American Impressionist movement. Since De Camp traveled in Europe, it is more than likely that he traded this work with La Touche in exchange for one of his own paintings.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist by Selina-Baring MacLennan and Roy Brindley.
Gaston La Touche, painter, watercolorist, and pastelist, was born in Saint-Cloud, Paris in 1854. A self-taught artist, from childhood he was determined to be a painter and his well-to-do parents supported this ambition. His earliest paintings from the 1880s were grim scenes from the daily lives of miners and laborers, perhaps a nod to the social realism of contemporaries, like writer Emile Zola. They were vigorous, harsh, and somber works that met with little success, and were subsequently destroyed by the artist.
In the late 1880s, his friend Felix Bracquemond prompted him to discard his earlier style and to use the colors favored by the Impressionists. Along with a new palette, La Touche adjusted his brushwork to small, petal-like strokes. In 1890, he showed Phlox and Peonies, both colorful scenes of women, children, and flowers, at the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts, bringing him immediate success. These works represented the beginning of a radical shift in his subject matter, palette, and technique. During the next six years, he gradually and steadily moved away from realism toward a greater sense of idealism, which became a hallmark of his oeuvre and set him apart from the Impressionists. He created luminous and charming works of parks, gardens, nymphs, and fetes-champetres, revealing an underlying loyalty to French artists of the eighteenth century, such as Fragonard and Watteau.
La Touche participated in shows mounted by the Societe des Artistes Francais in the 1880s and 1890s, receiving a Third Class Medal in 1884 and a Second Class Medal in 1888. In 1889, he was awarded a Bronze Medal at the l’Exposition Universelle and later received a Gold Medal at the 1900 l’Exposition Universelle. In 1900, he was decorated with the Legion d’honneur and was made an officer of the Legion in 1909. In 1908, an impressive retrospective featured over 300 of his works at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris. In 1909, La Touche’s paintings were exhibited in another large show at Boussod and Valadon in The Hague.
At this time, La Touche was awarded several official commissions for large-scale decorative schemes at various French ministries. These large canvases and murals are characterized by glowing colors and broad brushstrokes. His most well known works remain his light-filled garden and fetes-galants paintings, all completed with his trademark delicate brushwork and beautifully vivid palette.
Our painting depicts a lively party scene set in the Paris Opera House. As with La Touche’s Impressionist contemporaries, like Degas, the setting focuses on a behind-the-scenes view of Parisian performers. A mix of partygoers, ballerinas and masqueraders spill out from a balustraded balcony onto a stage-like area. Amongst the exuberant swirl of figures, the revelers exchange subtle glances, pulling the viewer deeper into this intriguing scene. Just as the figurative composition is punctuated with nuanced details, La Touche does the same with the color palette. While, overall, the colors have a warm sepia glow, on closer examination, there is an array of saturated reds, greens and purples in the figures’ costumes, as well as in the bright pastels of the ballerinas’ tutus. These colorful accents guide the viewer’s eye through the melee, while La Touche’s flowing brushstrokes heighten the spirited atmosphere of this inviting and charming scene.
La Touche’s work is represented in the following European museums: Paris (Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Petit Palais, Musée de Saint-Cloud),Tourcoing, Rouen, Reims, Evreux, Flers, Alencon, La Roche sur Yon, Strasbourg, Marseilles, Versailles, Cambo, the Singer Museum (Laren), Brussels, Krefeld, Magdeburg, Prague, Genoa, Barcelona, St Petersburg and Odessa.
In the Unites States, La Touche’s work is in the collections of the the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee, The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland, The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, The New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, Akron Art Museum, Akron, Ohio, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut and the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Connecticut.