"Bowl With Fruit and Flowers"
Francois Bonvin-attrib. (French, 1817-1887)
Canvas, Oil Paint
14 x 16-1/2 inches (21-3/4 x 24-1/2 w/frame)
Francois Bonvin is one of the most interesting painters of the 19th century. Bonvin was born in humble circumstances in Paris and had a very difficult childhood. He was the son of a police officer and a seamstress; when he was four years old his mother died of tuberculosis. Young Francois was left in the care of an old woman who underfed him. Soon his father married another seamstress and brought the child back into the household. Nine additional children were born (one of whom was his half-brother, the painter Leon Bonvin). The family's resources were severely strained, and to make matters worse, his stepmother took to abusing and under-nourishing him.
The young Bonvin started drawing at an early age. His potential was recognized by a friend of the family, who paid for him to attend a school for drawing instruction at age eleven. After having been there for two years, financial difficulties forced him to begin working. He found employment with the police force as a clerk, though he continued to draw and spent all his free time at the Parisian museums, in particular, the Louvre and the Academie Suisse.
His earliest known works date from the 1830s. Eventually he returned to his studies at the Ecole de Dessin a school primarily geared towards the decorative arts and in 1843 began attending life-drawing classes at the Academie Suisse. At the Salon of 1849 he was awarded a third-class medal even though Realist works by such friends and colleagues as Henri Fantin-Latour, Alphonse Legros, Theododule Ribot and James MacNeill Whistler were rejected. As a result, Bonvin invited these artists to exhibit their rejected works at his studio, known as the Atelier Flamand, an offer repeated after the Salon of 1863. In 1849 his wife left him and Bonvin found it difficult to concentrate on his paintings, preferring instead to make numerous drawings.
His subjects were still life and the everyday activities of common people, painted in a style that is reminiscent of Pieter de Hooch and Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin. It is the latter who is especially recalled by Bonvin's delicate luminosity.