Bennencourt is the renowned medieval village painted notably by Loiseau, Monet and Cezanne in the Ile-de-France and a few miles from Giverny (where Monet lived) and the Giverny Gardens and along the route Loiseau and other artists took between Paris and Fecamp as they travelled through Brittany and Normandy.
This work is painted looking from the north west side of the snow encrusted village in winter or early spring. In the centre of the composition is the Church of Saint-Ouen and its presbytery together with houses lining the Rue de Gommecourt, on the right the Rue de L’eau runs down to the Seine a few hundred yards away and in the foreground are the fields and gardens on each side of the Chemin des Grandes Plantes from where Loiseau painted this work.
Loiseau’s art is often described as pre-eminent among the second wave of artists that emerged after the first Impressionists. He is best remembered for his scenes of evocative landscapes and bustling streets in and around Paris and neighbouring towns and tributaries of the Seine. Yet, Loiseau’s art cannot be considered solely impressionistic as he verged towards Pointillism: the surfaces of his paintings contain intricate geometric webs of brushstrokes that abstract in close proximity. Nevertheless, essential to his practice were his forays out of the studio in order to capture the landscape as he saw it.
Loiseau was born on October 3, 1865 in Paris and attended the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.Seeking a location where he could concentrate on his love of landscape painting en plein air, Loiseau travelled to the village of Pont-Aven in Brittany, a well-known artist colony. There, he met Henry Moret, Maxime Maufra, and other artists of the Pont-Aven School. He also learned a great deal from Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903) who had returned to Pont-Aven in 1890 from his first trip to Tahiti; but his early work was mainly influenced by Camille Pissaro and Alfred Sisley. Loiseau took part in the 1890 Impressionists exhibition and from 1893 showed at the Salon des Indépendants. The leading art collector and primary patron of the Impressionists, Paul Durand-Ruel, put the artist under his contract in 1894. This success enabled Loiseau to travel extensively to discover different regions of France, spending summers in Normandy, Brittany, and occasionally, the Dordogne, and returning in winter to the Isle-de-France. His paintings are faithful witnesses of his travels.
His work is represented in major museum and personal collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, among many other world institutions.
In 2003 his work was represented posthumously in the collective thematic exhibition Between Heaven and Earth: Camille Pissarro and the Painters of the Oise Valley ( Entre ciel et terre, Camille Pissarro et les peintres de la vallée de l’Oise) at the Musée Tavet-Delacour in Pontoise.
Loiseau’s work was also shown in solo exhibitions: the Salon des Indépendants devoted a retrospective to 14 of his works in 1936; the Musée Pissarro in Pontoise held an exhibition dedicated to Loiseau’s works in 1981; and in 2001 the museum of Pont-Aven mounted the retrospective Gustave Loiseau and Brittany (Gustave Loiseau et la Bretagne).
Loiseau’s brushwork in this work is a sublime myriad of small brushstrokes in bold, fresh colours, enhanced by the snow creating a scene of unbelievable beauty framed by the foreground of trees and a golden path culminating in the village houses topped by the majesty of St Ouen, a medieval church with its spire pointing to the gentle blue heavens of early morning or evening.
Monet painted the same scene as Loiseau, albeit that it was much closer to the church. His colouration is similar, although his colours are rather softer, but he captures the same light and atmosphere.
Other painters also gravitated to Bennencourt including Charles Daubigny, the landscape painter, who often docked his boat there, while Cezanne painted here too. Emile Zola came to holiday for several consecutive seasons and wrote a novel and several short stories. Zola and Cézanne were in the company of several comrades from Aix-en-Provence like them, with whom they formed a bearded group of bohemians on vacation.
Selected public collections:
Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France
Musee Lambinet, Versailles, France
Collection Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain
Hecht Museum, Israel
Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, Japan
Musee de L’Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, USA
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Massachusetts, USA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, USA
Durand-Ruel was the pivotal figure who discovered Monet, Degas,Pissarro, Gauguin, Loiseau, Lepine, Moret and several notable others and he is credited with inventing Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Between 1891 and 1922, Paul Durand-Ruel purchased around 12,000 pictures, including more than 1,000 Monets, approximately 1,500 Renoirs, more than 400 by Degas and as many Sisleys and Boudins, about 800 Pissarros, close to 200 Manet, 150 Loiseaus and nearly 400 Mary Cassatts.
Loiseau’s works are being materially re-evaluated as the leading Post-Impressionist and his best works from the end of the 19th century and first few years of the 20th century now regularly make £200,000 to £400,000 at auction and substantially more in some cases.