Pastel on paper, signed
Frame size 18 x 22in / 45.8 x 56cm
Boussod, Valadon and Cie, Paris, no. 18611
G. Petit, Galerie Gary Roche, Vichy
Private collection from 1935
Monique Le Pelley Fonteny, Léon Augustin Lhermitte
(1844 – 1925). Catalogue raisonné, Paris 1991
no 391. p. 320, illustrated
In 1864 he made his debut at the Salon with a charcoal drawing, Bords de Marne près d’Alfort. Lhermitte soon gained a reputation for being as capable with oils as with pastel and charcoal. He contributed plates for Edouard Lièvre’s book Works of Art in the Collections of England that was printed in London in 1871–72. At the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889 and 1900 he was presented with the Grand Prix and a year later he received a Diploma of Honour at Dresden. He was the co-founder of the Societé Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1890 and was later elected president. In 1910 Lhermitte was named Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.
Lhermitte is best known for his rural and urban scenes of French life. A deep sensitivity to the spontaneous handling of paint suggests he painted en plein air. His most remarkable paintings are fundamental to French Naturalism.
Van Gogh’s admiration of both Lhermitte is recounted often in his letters: ‘For me that man (Lhermitte) is Millet the Second, in the full sense of the term; I adore his work as much as that of Millet himself. I think his genius of the same order as that of Millet the First’ (Letter to Anthon van Rappard, August 1885). Several of van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo in 1885, also mention a series of prints depicting the months of the year (Les Mois Rustiques) that Lhermitte illustrated for the French magazine, Le Monde Illustré. A different peasant theme accompanied each monthly issue and in anticipation, van Gogh repeatedly asked Theo to send him the most recent copies. Van Gogh also commented to Theo that ‘the peasants by Lhermitte….are splendid just because of the life there is in them’. (Letter to Theo, 4 or 5 May, 1885).
His work can be seen today in many major museums in France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Austria and Russia, as well as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and museums in Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.