The two sisters, Ca. 1855-1858
Dark pen on verge paper, H. 305 mm; W. 430 mm
Bears lower right the stamp Fantin, ref. Lugt suppl. 919e.
Provenance: Lange collection, Berlin.
Private collection, Westphalia.
Introduced to drawing by his artist father, Henri Fantin-Latour entered the Petite École de dessin of Paris at the age of fourteen, where he worked under Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran. In 1854 he briefly studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and was bound with Alphonse Legros and Edgar Degas.
Here Fantin-Latour adapts Thomas Couture’s lessons, known by means of his friend Victor Müller, in his own ideas. Indeed Couture advised his pupils to observe the subject by closing half eyes, to see only the “big divisions of light and shadow”. By a point of view which admits the spectator to the intimacy of an only suggested inside, the artist stages two women seized in their daily activity, highlighted by an effect of more or less stressed twilight.
This drawing of a free and flexible vein belongs to a set of works executed in the years 1855-1858, representing one or several sewing women. The Cabinet des Dessins of the Louvre museum keeps a dozen sheets. The recurring motive for reading, embroidering or weaving women was inspired in him by his two younger sisters, Nathalie and Marie. Some of these drawings were transposed into engraving or into painting, such as the Two Sisters, kept to the City Art Museum in Saint-Louis (oil on canvas, H. 0,98 m ; W. 1,30 m, 1859).