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Title Going to School
Collection Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Artist �Bastien-Lepage, Jules (French painter, printmaker, and sculptor, 1848-1884)
Date 1882 (dated)
Signed yes
Description This half-length picture of a girl shows her moving across the painting to the left, looking straight out. The sun has broken through but the glowering sky suggests that a heavy fall of rain has just passed over. In the background an old man still shelters in a doorway. Her makeshift headdress, made from a sack which possibly once held wool, would have indicated her lowly status to the nineteenth century viewer.
Current Accession Number ABDAG002288
Former Accession Number 27.4
Inscription front lr 'J.Bastien-Lepage d'Amvillers 1882'
Subject everyday life; figure; townscape
Measurements 80.9 x 59.8 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased 1927
Provenance J. Staats-Forbes; Sir James Murray; purchased through Wallis & Son by Aberdeen Art Gallery.
Principal Exhibitions Possibly Third United Arts Gallery Exhibition, London, 1882, cat. no. 31, as La Petite Coquette; Old Masters Exhibition, Royal Academy, London, 1894; Old Masters, Royal Academy, London, 1896 as Marie Baskirtscheff; Exhibition of the Collection of the late J. Staats Forbes, London Grafton Gallery, 1905, as Portrait of Marie Baskirtscheff, cat. no. 57; Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, 1949, cat. no. 271; Glasgow Boys, 1970; The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing 1830-1900, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1980; Bastien Lepage Centenery Exhibition, Conservation Departementale Des Musées de La Meuse, Bar Le Duc (touring), 1984; Development of 19th Century Art, Tokyo Shimbun (touring), 1994, cat. no. 83, p. 114; Pastoral Art In East Lothian, City Arts Centre, Edinburgh, 1995-96; Impressionism in Britain Barbican Art Gallery, London, Dublin, 1995; British Impressionism in Japan, Daimaru Museum, Tokyo (touring), 1997, cat. no. 2; A Scottish Collection - Treasures from Aberdeen Art Gallery, Nagasaki (touring), 2000-2001, cat. no. 37; Bunkamura Museum of Art & Fukuoka City Museum of Art, La dignité des humbles: Jean-François People Millet et naturalisme en Europe, 2003, cat. no. 45.
Publications The Academy, 6 May 1882, p. 328, as La Petite Coquette; Theuriet, A., Jules Bastien-Lepage, L'Homme et artistes in Revue des Deux Mondes, 1885, p. 822; Cartwright, J., Jules Bastien-Lepage, London, 1894; The Graphic, 1896, p. 39; Halton, E.G., The Studio, vol. 36, ill. p. 221; Catalogue of Christie's sale - Sir James Murray's collection, 1927, p. 6 (as a portrait of Marie Baskirtscheff); Scottish Art Review, Vol. II, pl., p. 15; McConkey, K., Sir George Clausen, RA, City of Bradford met. District Council & Tyne & Wear County Council, 1980, p.48 (repro); Verdun Cultural Association, Film Slide Sequence for Bastien Lepage Centenary, 1983; Development of 19th-Century French Art: Exhibition Catalogue, 1994, p.114; Loveday, D., Impressionism In Britain, Barbican Art Gallery, 1995; Paterson, D., City Arts Centre Exhibition Catalogue, Edinburgh, 1995; Wood, P. (ed.), The Challenge of The Avant-Garde, Yale University Press, 1999, p.30; University of Northumbria, British Impressionism in Japan, University Gallery, 1996; Ponton, B. and Pagnotta, P., Jules Bastien Lepage, Peintre du pays Lorrain, Citedis Editions, Paris, 1999; Fenton, A., Scottish Life and Society, Tuckwell Press Ltd, East Lothian, 2000; Aberdeen Art Gallery & Japan Association of Art Museums, A Scottish Collection-Treasures from Aberdeen Art Gallery, Tokyo, 2000, inside back flap jacket, pp. 112-113, cat. no. 37; Aberdeen Art Gallery, French Connections, Aberdeen, 2001, pp. 34-35, cat. no. 17; Totdts, H., The Dignity of Humble People: Jean-Francois Millet and Naturalism in Europe, Nippon Television Network Corporation, Tokyo, 2003, pp.132-133, cat. no. 45

Bastien-Lepage belongs to the tradition of French nineteenth-century Realist painters, led by Gustave Courbet, whose aim was to represent their own time in an accurate, truthful way. Jules Bastien-Lepage was the son of a peasant family. He was born in Damvillers, Lorraine and after studying in Paris, returned there to paint portraits and scenes of village life. Although his death at the age of 36 limited his active output to eight years, he achieved success early. He influenced the generation of young British painters and his work was particularly admired by Scottish collectors.

Although there seems to be no obvious social comment in this painting, it was painted in the wake of extensive reforms in education. Provisions for the schooling of young girls had been particulary mediocre before these improvements in the education system. Painted in 1882 and exactly contemporary with the legislation, Going to School must be viewed in the context of these republican reforms.

The young girl, simply posed against a backdrop of the village street, wears a tasseled hood to protect her from the weather. However, when Going to School was exhibited for the first time in London, it was entitled La Petite Coquette and was shown along with La Pauvre Fauvette(poor little hedge-sparrow) (Glasgow Art Gallery & Museums) whose ragged, wild appearance forms a sharp contrast with the neat and demure expression of the schoolgirl. Viewed together, the two paintings may be read as 'before' and 'after' images, illustrating the social benefits of education.

Going to School may have been intended as an illustration to accompany a text by French writer André Theuriet. Bastien-Lepage had planned with Theuriet to produce a publication which would describe the cycle of country life. Theuriet eventually published La vie rustique in 1888, after the artist's death. In a chapter on village childhood, he describes the daily trek to and from school. With primary education now obligatory, children converge from all corners of the countryside: 'From 8 o'clock in the morning, winter and summer alike, one finds the children from the hamlets and outlying farms of the district on the roads leading to the market town. Clad in clogs and stout hobnailed boots, the boys and girls trudge along noisily, with their text books in folios under their arms.' Of their homecoming he wrote, 'The girls, so quiet and reserved, leave without making a great noise and cross themselves reverently as they pass the church [...]'

The picture was later exhibited as a portrait of Marie Baskirtscheff. See John Ernest Phythian, Fifty years of modern painting, Corot to Sargent (London, 1908): 'The friendship between [Bastien-Lepage] and his Russian pupil, Marie Baskirtscheff, and their death within a month of each other, from the same disease, consumption, form one of the most pathetic stories in the annals of art.'

Rights Owner Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Author Jennifer Melville



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