In the late 19th century, the official portrait of a painter in his studio was sometimes exchanged for a more intimate view of the artist surrounded by his family. This painting by Albert Besnard fits perfectly into this category, portraying his family in the sitting room of their property in Talloires, in Haute-Savoie.
The artist remains in the background, next to his mother in law, Mme Vital-Dubray who was the wife of the sculptor Gabriel Vital-Dubray (1813-1892). He places his wife and children in the foreground of the composition. Looking natural and unposed, painted with vibrant brushwork and shimmering colours, we see the artist's wife, Charlotte Dubray, who later became a renowned painter and sculptor, with their children. She is holding Jean, the youngest child not yet one year old, and at her side are the other children Germaine, Philippe and Robert who would nearly all follow artistic careers.
Besnard's paintings, although largely obscured, adorn this room where the family is gathered, on the left hand wall behind Robert's hat, and at the back, on either side of the French windows. But the artist also wished to present an element of pure painting, and hence the landscape framed by the French window in the background. While introducing us into his world, he also demonstrates his qualities both as a portrait painter - on which he built his reputation – and as a landscape painter.