Jules Bastian Lepage was born in 1848 in Damvillers, France. He was a well-known painter, sculptor and printmaker working mostly in the style of Naturalism.
Naturalism, in the world of fine art, refers to a style which aims to evoke the pure and beautiful aesthetics of life. To depict nature and this includes people, with the minimal amount of interpretation or distortion. It emerged as a style in the early 19th century in Great Britain and became popular across the continent within a short space of time. It sought to steer away from previous classical traditions of painting which altered both figures and landscapes to create a more idealized and stylized picture.
Like almost all movements in art, it reflects the mood of society during that time. The impact of the industrial revolutions in Europe were an important factor creating this new true-to-life style. Not too dissimilar from our technological revolution people became aware of their sudden disconnection with nature as cities and mass production consumed their lives. Thus, ‘naturalism’ a term coined by famous French writer Emile Zola was a way for artists and writers to help society feel as though they were reconnecting with the natural world.
Bastian Lepage was first taught to paint by his father. In 1867 he went to Paris to study at Ecole des Beaux-arts and was one of the top students in his class. In 1870, he was called to fight in the Franco-Prussian war, and returned home after getting wounded. About a decade or so after, Lepage reached critical acclaim for a painting of his grandfather, which won him a medal at the renowned Paris Salon. It was his painting Les Foins (Haymaking) which secured him a place as one of the leading artists of the new Natural school. His work can now be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, and the National Gallery of Victoria, amongst several others.
Lot 556 is a beautiful watercolor painting by Lepage, which really does allow us to understand the artists attempt to capture the beauty of the natural landscape before which he stood. It looks as though it might be a depiction of an early autumnal evening. The slender trees hold on to their last leaves as a breeze tackles them from the south west. The clouds are darkening as the sun sets but the image remains a peaceful one and we really do feel the tranquillity Lepage must have felt as he painted this scene in front of him. It is signed and inscribed to his friend Donald and remains in a highly complementary antique gilded frame with label verso ‘Encadrements, Artistiques A Guay, Paris’. This painting was part of a collection belonging to the well-known and widely loved Speech and Drama teacher Betty Ann Norton.