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Louis Paul Dessar

Born: 1867, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America
Died: 1952, Preston, Connecticut, United States of America

Peasant Woman and Haystacks, Giverny
1892

Oil on canvas
Image: 18 1/4 x 13 in. (46.4 x 33.0 cm)
Frame: 30 x 24 3/4 in. (76.2 x 62.9 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1993.9
Signed: Lower right: L P DessAR/Giverny 1892
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

In Louis Paul Dessar’s intimately scaled painting, a peasant woman in apron and wooden sabots (traditional shoes) rests a long-handled wooden rake on her shoulder as she turns away from the viewer to contemplate a line of tidy grainstacks straggling across a harvested field. The figure’s static pose and the scene beyond her evoke a narrative of hard labor and the weary satisfaction of contemplating its product. The high horizon, which elevates the observer in relation to the scene, subsumes the figure in the land to underscore her involuntary, immutable relation to the relentless cycle of agricultural life.

Working in France between 1886 and 1901, Dessar specialized in the then-widely popular images of European peasants in scenes of typical daily life. His image of the sturdy peasant woman in the fields was preceded by such renderings as Haymakers (TF 1989.9) by Winslow Homer and Childe Hassam's French Peasant Girl (TF 1989.21). Dessar painted his interpretation in the rural Normandy village of Giverny, where he spent several months in 1891–92. By that time, it had become a lively artists’ colony populated mostly by American artists drawn by its unspoiled rural character and by the presence of painter Claude Monet (1840–1926), a pioneer of the brilliant light effects, divided brushstrokes, and direct, on-site painting methods of the mode known as impressionism.

The grainstacks in Peasant Woman and Haystacks, Giverny recall the serial depictions of this popular motif by both Monet and his disciple, American “Givernyite” John Leslie Breck, as seen in the latter’s Studies of an Autumn Day (TF 1989.4.1–12) and Morning Fog and Sun (TF 1999.19). Dessar’s awareness of Monet’s technique is also apparent in the rendering of the ground as a variegated flat region of spots of unblended yellows and greens. Otherwise, his work eschews impressionist spontaneity and immediacy. Indeed, the main motif of the standing woman reflects art-historical precedent rather than local reality, for Dessar closely copied her from an etching (a form of reproductive print), published in 1877, by Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–84), a much-admired French painter of peasant subjects. In contrast to the loosely painted ground, this figure is rendered with careful attention to the illusion of three-dimensionality, according to the methods Dessar imbibed in both his American and his French academic training. The decorative composition, meanwhile, features the tipped-up perspective, high horizon, and asymmetrical juxtaposition of forms and voids typical of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, a powerful influence pervading late-nineteenth-century design in both Europe and America. A microcosm of the multifaceted lineage of the Giverny colony’s early artistic production, Dessar’s painting synthesizes some of the major influences on cosmopolitan American artists in the late nineteenth century.

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Provenance

The artist
Mr. Wilson Rogers, New York, New York
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Michael Baker, South Norwalk, Connecticut, December 1980
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, February 1993
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1993

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Exhibition History

Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865–1915 (Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865–1915), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 1993; April 1–October 30, 1994; April 1-October 31, 1995. [exh. cat.]

Giverny: une impression américaine (Giverny, An American Impression), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 1, 1998.

Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920 (The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–July 15, 1999; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 10, 1999–May 7, 2000 (in modified form). [exh. cat.]

Giverny au fil des saisons (Giverny in All Seasons), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 30, 2001.

D'une colonie à une collection: le Musée d'Art Américain Giverny fête ses dix ans (From a Colony to a Collection: Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 30–June 16, 2002.

The People Work: American Perspectives, 1840–1940 (Le Travail à l'oeuvre: les artistes américains 1840–1940), Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 15–May 25, 2003; Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, June 8–August 17, 2003. [exh. cat.]

En plein air: personnages dans un paysage (En Plein Air: Figures in a Landscape), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004.

Van Gogh's Sheaves of Wheat, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas (organizer). Venue: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, October 26, 2006–January 7, 2007. [exh. cat.]

Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885–1915, Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–July 1, 2007; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA, July 21-October 14, 2007. [exh. cat.]

Impressionist Giverny: The Americans, 1885-1915, Selections from the Terra Foundation for American Art, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Florence Griswold Museum of Art, Old Lyme, Connecticut, May 3–July 27, 2008; Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany, New York, August 23, 2008–January 4, 2009.

Monet and the Artists of Giverny: The Beginning of American Impressionism, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan with the Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venues: Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Kitakyushu, Japan, October 9–November 28, 2010; The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan, December 7, 2010–February 17, 2011; The Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, Okayama, Japan, February 25–April 10, 2011. [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Gerdts, William H. Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony. New York: Abbeville Press, 1993. Text pp. 79–80; pl. 72, p. 80 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy.The People Work: American Perspectives, 1840–1940. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2003. Text pp. 13, 18, 27 (checklist); ill. p. 14 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Le Travail à l'oeuvre: les artistes américains, 1840–1940. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2003. Text pp. 13, 19, 27 (checklist); ill. p. 14 (color).

Kosinski, Dorothy. Van Gogh's Sheaves of Wheat. (exh. cat., Dallas Museum of Art). Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2006. Text pp. 61, 105, 114 (checklist); ill. pp. 73, 105 (color). Bourguignon, Katherine M. et al. Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885–1915. (exh. cat. Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. Text p. 205 (checklist); cat. p. 113 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. "Impressionist Giverny: American Painters in France" American Art Review 20.3 (June 2008): 100-113. Ill. p.108 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M., Shunsuke Kijima and Sanjiro Minamikawa. Monet and the Artists of Giverny: The Beginning of American Impressionism. (exh. cat. Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, and The Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art). Fukuoka, Japan: The Nishinippon Shimbun, 2010. Text cat. no. 51, pp. 103 (in Japanese), 186 (in English); ill. p. 103 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. American Impressionism: A New Vision 1880-1900. (exh. cat., Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, National Galleries of Scotland, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza). Giverny, France: Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, 2014. (English, French and Spanish versions). Text p. 31; ill. fig. 8, p. 31 (color).

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