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"Cows at the Watering Hole" | Leon Barillot (French, 1844-1929)

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Cows at the Watering Hole

Oil on canvas | Signed lower left "L. Barillot"

Item # 106TPA17K 

A vivid composition with an unusual balance between subtle pastel-like tones in the waters and a high-chroma more vigorous palette in the sunlight, Barillot is most effective in creating a dual climate in the scene. The cool of the waters is emphasized as the cows in the forefront rest and relax from the heat of the day; their attention is only mildly distracted by the approaching farmer and fellow cattle. The use of light and shift of color is such a powerful tool for communicating depth and distance in this work, a skill Barillot used to great effect in all of his work. The influence of the Barbizon school is evident in the scene with a certain impressionism expressed throughout the background while the objects of greatest interest, his cows, remain rooted firmly in photographic realism.

The work is signed in his typical script "L. Barillot" lower left.

Born in Montigny-les-Metz on October 11th of 1844, Léon Barillot's first job was designing new patterns for his father's wallpaper factory in Metz. Wishing to study art, he went to Paris in 1869, the year in which he first took part in the Salon. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, he returned to Metz and was there during the siege. He returned to Paris after the Commune and worked particularly with Bonnat. He was awarded a gold medal at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, and several medals at exhibitions in various cities including London and Melbourne. Barillot was a member of the jury for painting at the Salon des Artistes Français and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur.

He often painted outdoor scenes, and from 1873 he painted landscapes with animals grazing on the banks of the Seine and the Sologne and in the Charolais region. He excelled at conveying the cattle's expression, at times angry, at times dreamy and pensive. He showed a well-observed understanding of their anatomy beneath their thick, silky and supple coats. His compositions are very large, showing the bright light of the sun flickering through the leaves of the trees. His works are well represented in museum collections throughout France and engravings of his work are held in the permanent collections of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum. (Source: Benezit)

Artist Listings & Bibliography:

  • E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Vol. I, Gründ, 2006, p. 1151

Measurements: 15 1/8" H x 22" W [canvas]; 24 1/4" H x 31 1/8" W x 3" D [frame]

Condition Report:
Very fine ready-to-place condition. Original stretchers and mostly original keys. Professionally conserved with a cleaned surface and fresh Damar varnish. A few scattered touchups visible under UV examination along the lower edge. Light surface craquelure, canvas remaining firm and stable. Frame is early and has extensive losses, including upper left and right corners (with associated gilding touchups), lower left corner somewhat rebuilt, numerous losses to flourishes throughout and touchups to gilding throughout.