Franck-Antoine Bail (1858 - 1924)
(1858 - 1924)
The Flower Arrangement
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 28 3/4 inches
46 1/2 x 39 inches
Signed and dated 1918
Private collection, France
Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City
In this painting dated 1918, we see three young maids arranging peonies, which they are taking out of flower baskets and placing in vases. All three are wearing the same outfit: a white, short sleeve blouse with a light green bosom, and a long white apron over a dark skirt and a white bonnet with ruffled borders. The three young women—one standing and the other two seated—are situated in front of a window and a door that leads into other rooms in the background. On the left wall, next to the open door, is a copper water fountain where a bunch of flowers has been deposited. The scene is situated in a room of what we know to be a large, “maison de maître” La Commanderie, a farm estate at Balleroy in lower Normandy. On the walls of the wood paneled rooms we can see works of art most probably by the Bail brothers. The owner of the house had acquired many works by the Bails, artists they knew and admired, whom they met during summer vacations at Bois-Le-Roi, in the Seine-et-Marne, not far from Melun and at about fifty kilometers south of Paris. Bois-Le-Roi, after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 had become a place where artists, musicians, and writers would escape from life in the big city, and the Bail family joined other painters and sculptors there including Alfred Roll, Aimé Perret, Moreau de Tours, Hippolyte-Camille and Henry-Jacques Delpy, the sculptor Louis de Monard, and the writer Anatole France. Here they enjoyed their holidays together.
La Commanderie is the house where, in 1982, the author had a chance to view many works by the Bails, especially Joseph. He saw paintings, drawings and objects such as wooden containers for crayons, decorated by the artists. Several of the paintings seen in the house have, since then, appeared on the art market in France and in the United States.
Gabriel P. Weisberg
University of Minnesota
The eldest son of Antoine-Jean Bail, a painter from Lyon, Franck-Antoine, like his father and his younger brother Joseph, painted genre scenes, still lifes, landscapes from the region around Fontainebleau. He also completed portraits for which he gained a solid reputation. He studied with his father Antoine-Jean Bail (1830-1918) and in the atelier of Jean-Léon Gérôme, and began exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1878. He received an honorable mention at the Salon in 1889, a third class medal in 1900, and a second medal in 1904. Perhaps not as well known as his brother Joseph, his reputation is nonetheless well established among the genre painters of the latter part of the nineteenth-century.
Similar to Théodule Ribot, his daughter Louise and son Germain, another family of 19th century realist painters, the Bails worked in Paris where they had studios on the Isle Saint Louis. The first, at 17-quai d’Anjou in the hotel Lauzun, had a spacious kitchen that served as a wonderful background for the Bails’ paintings of cooks, scullions, and copper ware cleaners. When not in Paris, the three artists moved to Bois-Le-Roi near Fontainebleau, where they spent their summers and found other subjects for their canvases, namely studies of the forest of Fontainebleau or genre scenes representing rural themes.