Watercolor and gouache on paper
12 x 16 inches (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 28 3/4 x 32 inches
Signed: Victor Gilbert
Victor Gilbert was influenced by the styles and themes of both Realism and Impressionism. Gilbert’s life and Salon career spanned a period of stylistic transitions; his early career was defined by Realist themes, but he was later directly influenced by the Impressionists. This work, The Flower Market, features the pastel palate synonymous with the later style. It is also thematically similar to the works of the Impressionists, who often painted scenes of bourgeois leisure activities.
Victor-Gabriel Gilbert was born in Paris on February 13, 1847. Though his ability as an artist was recognized at an early age, he was forced to work as an artisan due to financial circumstances. Despite his lack of formal training, he established himself as a French genre painter, and was quickly recognized by the Parisian public. Especially noted for his market scenes, Gilbert often chose to paint images of vegetables, flowers, poultry, and fish with particular attention to fine details. He also painted many portraits of elegant young women and girls, scenes of Paris, and the landscapes.
Gilbert debuted at the Salon of 1873 with Les Apprêts du Diner and Avant le Ball. During the mid 1870s, Gilbert was financially supported by Père Martin, who owned an art gallery on rue Lafitte. Martin was an important supporter of the Impressionist movement and collected works by Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin. He was also instrumental in the promotion of young and promising artists. In fact, it was Martin’s patronage that allowed Gilbert to abandon his career as a decorator and to devote himself fully to painting.
The mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century saw the introduction of art based on daily life. This movement, known as “Realism,” promoted a realistic display of modern life in its many permutations. These artists were often deeply embroiled in the social issues of the time and sought to free themselves from the imposing historicism that had stifled art production for decades. Gilbert was much admired for his realistic depictions of Parisian life. He often painted Les Halles, an area in Paris that was a center for street vendors and markets
Gilbert did not neglect bourgeois scenes however. As his career progressed, he came to adopt the themes of Impressionism. It was these works, such as Marché aux Fleurs that linked him more intimately with artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and his interest in beautiful bourgeois women taking part in leisurely activities. With this shift in theme, Gilbert also moved toward a lighter toned palette, as is evident in the present work.
Gilbert continued to submit regularly at the Salon until 1933. In 1926 he received the Prix Bonnat. Earlier in his career, in 1897, he was named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and was also a Salon juror at one point. Gilbert’s work adorns the Hotel de Ville in Paris as part of the original decoration, and the Chateau Museum in Dieppe.