This head study provides an unbelievably moving portrait of an androgynous sitter. Employing incredible technique, the artist has achieved the highly finished porcelain skin, thoughtful eyes and pink lips of the sitter with incredible softness.
The unfinished quality of the background make the composition of the work particularly satisfying to the modern eye. Loosely sketched dashes and brushy swoops outline the model’s head. The mix of finished and more expressive elements reveals the artist’s brilliant eye, technique and personality.
Artistically, Rousselin does not seem to be influenced by the friendships that he forged with the Impressionists but rather he has remained rather faithful to the academic technique of William Bouguereau, whose studio he also used to frequent.
This study is certainly comparable to the work by Bouguereau, specifically his graceful portraits of women. Bouguereau championed the traditional academic style and his methods were taught to him by a pupil of Ingres. Similar academic inspiration is apparent in this work, from the conscious posing of the subject to the evenly laid colours. Indeed, alike the work of Bouguereau this follows the same classical approach to composition, form and subject matter.
Born in Paris in 1841, Rousselin grew up to be a French painter and art collector. From a young age he studied in the workshops of Charles Gleyre and Thomas Couture, here he met the young impressionist generation. His studio peers included Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Édouard Manet, with whom he forged strong bonds of friendship. It was at his invitation that his two friends Renoir and Sisley exhibited at the Salon of the Society of Friends of the Arts in Pau, a region where Rousselin had family ties.
Manet invited him to his family home in Boulogne-sur-Mer where he had him pose in the summer of 1868 for ‘Le Déjeuner dans l’Atelie’. Rousselin can be seen in the background of the painting as the man with the cigar, wearing a grey hat. Rousselin is portrayed as one of those shown in the anonymous ‘The 43 Portraits of Painters in the Studio of Charle Gleyre’ (Petit Palais, Paris).
Despite his closeness to the Impressionist group, Rousselin nevertheless remained attached in his painting to a certain form of academicism, which led Degas to say in one his notebooks: “Bouguereau will end up raised in its basket. Like Rousselin, you will see”
More than a friend, Rousselin was also a patron of the Impressionists whose paintings he collected. He was also cousin of Renoir’s well-known patron Jules Le Coeur.
First a portraitist and genre painter, Rousselin was also a skilled equestrian painter. He produced a variety of distinguished works including many animals and biblical scenes. His works reveal a late realism, served by a sure design and a colourful range of great frankness. He made his debut of work at the Paris Salon in 1863 and exhibited there until at least 1885. Rousselin has works held in various collections including the musée de Grenoble, the musée de Pau and the musée des beaux-arts.