Jules Breton (French, 1827–1906),
The Vintage at Chateau Lagrange
oil on canvas, 37½ x 67 in., 92.7 x 170.2 cm
Gift of the Friends of Art, 1932.3
Born in Courrières, a small village in the agriculturally rich Artois region of northern France, Breton never lost his ties to the peasantry and land of his childhood, drawing lasting inspiration from rural customs and traditions throughout his long career. His formal training in art began in Belgium and was completed in Paris. Breton’s smooth academic style of painting, coupled with his vision of contented workers, appealed greatly to the establishment of the Empire and the Second Republic, and he received a succession of awards and honors.
The Vintage at Château Lagrange is not entirely typical for Breton, as it depicts a festival in the Médoc district. Breton had expressed a desire to travel to southern France in search of "sublime landscapes with inhabitants embodying extraordinary beauty." The opportunity came when Count Duchâtel invited Breton to paint a companion piece to his Weeders, already in the Count’s collection (and now also in Joslyn’s). Because of adverse weather, Breton made two trips to the region and completed the work in his studio in Paris. Although he commissioned photographs of the peasants and watched them closely at work, the figures in the finished painting have a distinctly classical quality to them and express stately nobility rather than labored activity.