Gaston La Touche
1854 - 1913 | French
Signed "Gaston La Touche" (lower right)
Oil on panel
A fashionable group of merrymakers boards a rowboat at sundown in this oil on panel by renowned French painter Gaston La Touche. Softly lit and lushly detailed, the work represents the artist’s talent for capturing the gaiety of the Belle Époque. With its luminous coloring and feathery brushwork, this oil evokes the style and joie de vivre of the era rendered in La Touche’s distinctive, mature style.
Fresh and airy, the work is a beautiful example of the artist’s skill at capturing the subtle qualities of light and color. Set against the plein air backdrop of a wooded pond awash in the soft glow of the golden hour, the scene reflects the influence of the Impressionists. The subject also recalls works by Manet, Monet and Renoir, who delighted in depictions of modern leisure among the expanding middle class. The scene is an informal one, and its unconventional cropping suggests that the viewer is invited to take a seat in the boat and join the group on their outing. Such relaxed, inviting scenes were remarkably popular among contemporary, modern audiences. However, La Touche's style is singular, possessing an element of fantasy and romance that set him apart from the Impressionists.
Gaston La Touche was born in St. Cloud, outside of Paris, in 1854, and he showed a keen interest in art from a young age. At ten years old, he began taking private art instruction, which lasted until 1870, when his family was forced to flee to Normandy amid the Franco-Prussian War. This was the only formal art training La Touche would ever receive. Despite his lack of Academy training, he made his debut at the Paris Salon of 1875 with a sculptural medallion and etchings, and he exhibited his first painting at the Salon of 1881. Although he began his career painting dark-toned realist compositions, by 1890, his style had shifted to what would become his signature — a lighter, brighter, idealistic society world.
The artist was associated with practically all of the most influential artists and thinkers of late 19th century France, including Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Émile Zola, who frequently met at the legendary Cafe de la Nouvelle Athenes to share their thoughts on modern society. In 1900, he was named a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur and an Officer in 1909. Additionally, he was well-decorated at the grand exhibitions of the day, earning medals at the Salons of 1884 and 1888, a bronze medal at the 1889 Exposition Universelle and a gold medal at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, demonstrating his position as one of the most accomplished artists of the Belle Époque. Today, his works reside in prestigious institutions such as the British Museum (London) and the Walters Museum (Baltimore).
Late 19th century
Panel: 26 1/8” high x 31 1/2” wide
Frame: 34" high x 39 1/8" wide