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"Kittens at Play" | Alfred Arthur Brunel de Neuville (French, 1851-1941)

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In oil on canvas mounted on artist panel | signed lower left "Brunel Neuville"
Item # 103LJT25O 

Four kittens crouch pensively watching a red ball of yarn, one with a strand of the yarn caught under her paw as a warm distant light bathes the scene. The tension of their curiosity is palpable. The background is loosely developed with folds of the window drapes pouring over one of the cats as the burgundy wall in the distance balances the red ball of yarn as a focal point. The work is signed in his typical clear script lower left "Brunel Neuville" and is housed in a recent giltwood frame. It is a truly exquisite image in a rather large but standard size canvas for Brunel de Neuville. A review of his sale results from the Benezit reveals a certain preference for this canvas size, which presents his fruits dramatically and allows the depth and complexity of color to be beautifully showcased.

Born in Paris in 1851, Alfred Brunel de Neuville studied painting under his father, an artist and tutor of landscape and still-life painting. He began exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Français in Paris starting in 1879 with Pommes et Raisin at the age of twenty-seven; he followed this up in 1880 with a well-received scene of kittens: Halte de Chasse. He continued to regularly exhibit there through 1909, being made an associate member in 1907.

His work was well-regarded and he saw success during his lifetime. However, while his still-life work was well-regarded, the bulk of his commercial success is owed to the incredible popularity of his paintings of cats. Most of these center around the heartwarming and playful lives of kittens in domestic settings. During the Industrial Revolution, as the work force became urbanized and more of the people began keeping dogs and cats as pets in their smaller homes, the demand for subjects of domesticated animals and pets became substantial and gave rise to this full genre of work. This was of great benefit to Brunel de Neuville and he became a master of the moods of these kittens as they played in the kitchen, drank bowls of milk, tumbled with yarn or otherwise interacted.

Alfred died in 1941 and was buried in Paris at the Montmarte Cemetery. His work is held in major museum collections around the world, including Still-Life at Béziers, Peaches, Grapes and Redcurrants on a Table at Brest, Still-Life at Château-Thierry and Oysters and Prawns at Louviers.

Artist Listings & Further Reading:

  • E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Vol. II, Gründ, 2006, p. 1376-77

Measurements: 27 1/2" H x 31 1/2" W x 1 3/4" D [frame]; 23 1/2" H x 27 1/2" W [panel]

Condition Report:
Housed in a contemporary frame in overall good condition with minor use indicators. Canvas has been laid down on artist panel late 20th century. Surface of the painting is vibrant and in excellent overall condition, appears to have been professionally cleaned and conserved in the last two decades. Under UV examination shows flaring above the leftmost cat's head, a horizontal line of touchup above the head of the third cat from the left. An exceedingly fine overall presentation.