Auguste Toulmouche (1829 - 1890)
The Letter, 1867
Oil on canvas
21 x 15 inches
Signed and dated at lower left: A. Toulmouche 1867
Private collection, Massachusetts, thence by descent
Christies, New York
Private collection, Massachusetts
Born in Nantes, France, Auguste Toulmouche painted exquisitely detailed genre scenes of a specific type called costume painting. The term is an apt one, with a focus on the details of dress, fashion and accessories as much as on the heightened emotional tenor of the works. These paintings convey a decidedly romantic sensibility, and practically function as the entire chapter of a romance novel brought to life. Toulmouche was considered one of the finest artists in this style, and Emperor Napoleon III purchased one of his works, as did Empress Eugenie.
The Letter of 1867 depicts a lovely young lady seated at her ormolu-mounted desk, staring dreamily into the distance, the contents of the letter in her hand clearly in her thoughts. The viewer is invited to imagine just what those contents might be, though surely it is a love letter. In the tradition of costume painting, Toulmouche has brought to life the heavy silk of her fashionable dress, the gold mounts on her ladys desk, even the luster of the porcelain vase with lilies. It is a polished scene with deep romantic currents.
Toulmouche studied with the noted Academic artist Charles Gleyre (1806-1874), and exhibited regularly in the Paris Salons. In 1870, Toulmouche received the honor of Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur in 1870. His paintings are held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in Saint Louis and in a number of museums in France, including Nates, Beziers and Beaufort.