Musée d'Orsay: Pierre Puvis de Chavannes The Young Mother

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
The Young Mother

The Young Mother also known as Charity
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898)
The Young Mother also known as Charity
circa 1887
Oil on canvas
H. 56; W. 47 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

La jeune mère dit aussi La Charité [The Young Mother also known as Charity]

This painting was featured in the catalogue of the first monographic exhibition of the painter's work that opened in 1887 at the Galerie Durand-Ruel with the title La jeune mère (The Young Mother). It was next to be found in the Charles Pacquement collection, and later in the Gould collection. It changed title along the way to be called La Charité (Charity). It is an autumnal scene in which nature appears in brown and golden tones, with a young mother, her children and a dog in the foreground to the right; two trees are at the centre of the composition and a river gently flowing separates them from an open field – planted with a few young saplings and two Italian-style houses – that stretches up to the horizon. A subtle balance is struck between warm and cold tones positioned in four superposed horizontal stripes from the foreground to the infinite, on both sides of the central motif, rendered in nuances of dark browns with orangey yellow strokes. Through a process of reutilisation and partial transposition of motifs common in Puvis de Chavannes's work, this intimate scene was inspired by a detail of the foreground and centre of the 1873 Salon large painting: L'Eté (Summertime, Paris, Musée d'Orsay), with the addition of the image of the dog and basket, recreating a microcosm in homage to the maternal image within a serene natural setting.

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