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    Frederick Arthur Bridgman (American, 1847-1928)
    De quoi parlent les jeunes filles (Concerning what the young women are talking about), circa 1870
    Oil on canvas
    39 x 31 inches (99.1 x 78.7 cm)
    Signed and inscribed lower right: F.A. Bridgman / Paris

    Sotheby's, New York, n.d.;
    Private collection, New Jersey.

    Académie des Beaux-Arts, Salon de Paris, 1870.

    We would like to thank Dr. Ilene Susan Fort, Curator Emerita, American Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for kindly confirming the authenticity of this lot.

    Heritage Auctions is pleased to present for public sale this important early-career work by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, an artist who is best-known as a painter of Orientalist subjects. Emerging recently from many years in private collections, Bridgman's canvas De quoi parlent les jeunes filles was one of two pictures which represented the young artist in the Paris Salon of 1870-the other being his Un c irce en province. The two works document Bridgman's attraction to genre subjects he observed both in Paris where he trained for four years in the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme (and became a favorite student and protégé), as well as in Brittany, where he connected with the American artists' colony at Pont-Aven.

    De quoi parlent les jeunes filles presents a closely cropped view of two young women rowing a boat together, with their heads tilted at angles underscoring that they are sharing confidences. Their monumental presentation and the way the composition is sharply pruned so as to include only the central action is radically modern in effect-particularly for an artist steeped in the academicism of Gérôme. Indeed, these formal elements suggest Bridgman's awareness of more avant-garde concerns expressed in the work of artists such as Degas or Manet, who derived compositional inspiration from photography and Japanese print sources, and became associated with Impressionism.

    Although Bridgman's star was on the rise in the 1870s, he nonetheless occasionally found himself up against some pretentious detractors. One stuffy French art critic opined when viewing the American expatriate's De Quoi parlent les jeunes filles at the Salon: "A well-made canvas, where air is lacking. What a huge disappointment! Instead of young girls, two young women in canoes, rowing by hand. . . Change the title please! We are with tarts or boaters, your choice. Do not take young girls to Asnières" (J. Goujon, Salon de 1870, Propose en l'Air, Paris, 1870, no. 380, p. 21). It is fascinating that Monsieur Goujon was not only suffocated by the modern cropped composition, but offended by the supposed impropriety of girls who chose to get exercise by rowing their own boat! He concludes his remarks with a sharp elbow to the ribs of the northwestern Parisian suburb of Asnières, implying it was a dangerous, déclassé place for girls, at precisely the moment it was gaining in popularity as a fun place to go boating, swimming and sunbathing. Asnières is the site depicted in Georges Seurat's justly famous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (The Art Institute of Chicago).

    Continuing to reside and work in Paris, Bridgman became one of the best-known and most esteemed artists of the large American colony there. Medals were awarded to him from the Salon and elsewhere; he prospered; and his paintings commanded a ready market in the United States, for he sent many of his best things to the American exhibitions, notably to the National Academy and the Society of American Artists.

    Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000.

    Condition Report*: Unlined canvas. Fine craquelure throughout. Pinpoint-sized paint loss beneath signature. Discolored varnish. 2-inch horizontal line of inpaint in the blue neck bow to the left (visible in natural light). Vertical hairline crack in the left figure’s right hand, at the end of the oar, with corresponding patch on the reverse. Certain areas fluoresce differently and may be an older campaign of crack-fill inpaint, notably in the left figure’s hair bow, in the background between the faces of the two figures, and in the right figure’s lower face – though the opaque varnish makes it difficult to confirm whether this is inpaint.
    Framed Dimensions 46 X 38.5 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    29th Friday
    Post-Auction Buys Period Ends
    16 Days 3h 50m
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