Artwork by Paul Peel,  The Luxembourg Gardens, Paris II

Paul Peel
The Luxembourg Gardens, Paris II

oil on board
signed and dated “Paris 1890” lower left; a floral tree study painted on the reverse
10.5 x 13.75 ins ( 26.7 x 34.9 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $72,000.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Oliver, Coate & Co., Toronto, 1 October 1890, lot 5 or 51 (entitled “Luxembourg Gardens”)
R. Fraser or L. Thomson,1890
Warwick Gallery, Vancouver
Acquired by the present Private Collection, 1971
“Paul Peel: A Retrospective, 1860‒1892”, London Regional Art Gallery; travelling to Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; Concordia Art Gallery, Montreal; The Winnipeg Art Gallery; Vancouver Art Gallery, 6 September 1986‒18 July 1987, no. 59
“Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons 1880‒1930”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; travelling to Kunsthalle der Hypo‒Kulturstiftung, Munich; Fondation de l’Hermitage, Lausanne; Musée Fabre, Montpellier, 19 July 2019‒3 July 2021, no. 12
‘Canada’s Foremost Artist Got $2,000 for Pictures Now Worth $750,000’, “Toronto Evening Telegram”, 7 March 1923, page 12
Victoria Baker, “Paul Peel: A Retrospective, 1860‒1892”, London, 1986, no. 59, reproduced page 151
Katerina Atanassova, “Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons 1880‒1930”, Ottawa, 2019, no. 12, page 251, reproduced page 150
This on-the-spot oil sketch of a corner of Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, was painted by Paul Peel in April–May 1890 when the fruit trees bloom in Paris (on the back is an unfinished sketch of the apple orchard). It is one of eight known oil on panel sketches of the park scenes of varying degrees of finish produced by the artist: two dating to May 1889 and five to April - May 1890. Luxembourg Gardens, situated on the left bank of the Seine River, was a popular sketching ground offering a painterly blend of verdant natural elements and scenes of modern life. Paul Peel was then a married man living in Montparnasse with his Danish wife, Isaure Verdier, and two young children. The Peel family enjoyed the outdoor pleasures offered by Paris’ famous parks in the company. It was during such an outing that Peel captured this tender moment.

The little girl playing with toys in the right foreground may be the youngest Peel, two-year old Emilie Marguerite. The low viewpoint suggests the artist was observing from the watchful distance of a nearby bench positioned along the outside edge of the distinctive balustrated terrasse, looking eastward towards the central sunken garden and the Grand Bassin. Peel demonstrates his mastery of his medium acquired over nine years of academic studies and regular sketching rambles in rural France. In the manner of the academic pochade, or “pocket” sketch used in painting, it captures the colours and atmosphere of a scene. This stream in Peel’s production stands in marked contrast with his signature Salon paintings, such as “Before the Bath” exhibited to acclaim this same May. The modern appeal of his field studies lies in their spontaneous brushwork, brighter palette and non-perspectival means of evoking three-dimensional space. The eye is drawn sharply into the midground through the diagonal traced from the brightly illuminated little girl, along the balustrade to the echoing form of an older, similarly attired, girl on her knees, in mid-ground. The low viewpoint aids in tracking spatial recession as a series of vertically stacked layers, tied together by the horizontal form of the boxed palm tree. The progressive aspect of this work owes something to Peel’s absorption of modern painting as to photography, of which he was a practitioner.

A related sketch of the same corner of the garden terrasse, probably done in May 1890, is inscribed “A Pippe” (Private Collection). This gift to one of the artist’s Verdier in-laws, choses a close-up view, where pigeons replace the children and the tall palm tree anchors the composition. Painterly priority is given to the visual impact of sun and shade on varied surfaces: sand, wood, limestone, plants and grass. A more experimental interpretation of a Luxembourg garden subject is found in yet another period sketch formerly owned by fellow Canadian artist and friend, George Reid (Art Gallery of Ontario, 53/43), in which a hot, beating sun scrubs away much formal detail: the shaded-seeking figures of a bourgeois lady (Isaure Peel?), with red parasol aloft and child afoot, become mere space holders for a colourful explosion of irregular boughs and blooms.

For family reasons, Paul Peel returned alone to his hometown, London, Ontario, in July 1890. In October he placed a vast majority of his production up for sale in Toronto, including four Luxembourg Gardens studies, of which one may be the current study, purchased by R. Fraser or L.Thomson.

We extend our thanks to Victoria Baker, Canadian art historian and author of “Paul Peel: A Retrospective, 1860-1892” (London Regional Art Gallery, 1986) for contributing the preceding essay.

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Paul Peel
(1860 - 1892) RCA,OSA

Paul Peel was born in London, Ontario in 1860. His early art training was provided in London by his father, John Robert Peel, and William Lees Judson, then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia under Thomas Eakins. He later moved to Paris where he received art instruction at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Jean-Paul Gerome and at the Acadmie Julien under Benjamin Constant, Henri Doucet, and Jules Lefebvre. He then traveled widely in Canada and Europe exhibiting as a member of the Ontario Society of Artists and the Royal Canadian Academy. He also exhibited at international shows like the Paris Salon.

Peel's work was very popular in both his lifetime and today. It is executed mainly in oil and employs genre, landscape, marine and portrait subjects. His conservative style reflected the official one then taught in the French government academies but, at the time of his death, Peel appeared to be changing his style toward impressionism. He died in Paris in 1892.