Louise-Catherine Breslau - The Friends (Les amies), 1881- Acrylic on canvas.
part of: Louise Catherine Breslau, holding a dog (detail) (1891).
Born: December 6, 1856, Munich, Germany
Died: May 12, 1927, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
...for the enjoyment
and passion of words,
thoughts, visuals and disiplines. Updated July 12 2018
The Friends (Les amies)
by Louise-Catherine Breslau in 1881
- Oil on canvas
- 33 1/2 × 63 in. // 85.1 × 160 cm
Collection The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva, Switzerland
Her Les amies represented her roommates Schaeppi, the blonde woman in the center writing in a book, and Mariea Feller, in a meditative pose at left, along with herself, at right in profile at her easel, observing the other two. The most vibrant figure in the composition is the composition is the fluffy white dog who has pride of place, ruling the household by sitting on top of the breakfast table. This portrait won Breslau an honorable mention at the Salon of 1881; its "powerful coloring," "sincerity," and "fine observation earned her praise in Le Soleil that year.
- from "Overcoming All Obstacles: The Women of the Académie Julian" by Gabriel P. Weisberg, Jane R. Becker, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Dahesh Museum - page 93
About Louise-Catherine Breslau
Although Louise Catherine Breslau was one of the most sought-after portraitists in late 19th-century Paris, it has only been in recent years that art historians and dealers have revived interest in her work. She was born Maria Luise Katharina Breslau in Zurich and as a youth took drawing lessons with the local artist Eduard Pfyffer. Confident in her artistic abilities, Breslau entered the Académie Julian in Paris, and she became the Académie's only female student to debut at the Paris Salon of 1879, with her self-portrait with friends, Tout passé. Shortly afterwards, Breslau "Frenchified" her first name and opened an atelier in Paris. Positive reviews from critics, as well as continued Salon successes ensured that she received numerous portrait commissions from prominent clients. Her portraits illustrate her facility at rendering facial expressions and her sophisticated monochromatic palette and striated paint handling.
Notably, Breslau was the third woman to receive France's Légion d'honneur. During World War I, she painted humanistic portraits of French soldiers and nurses, underscoring her support of the country that had adopted her.
Suffering from asthma all her life.
In December 1866, Dr. Breslau died suddenly from a staph infection contracted while performing a post-mortem examination.
After her father's death, Breslau was sent to a convent near Lake Constance in hopes of alleviating her chronic asthma. It is believed that during her long stays at the convent her artistic talents were awoken. In the late 19th century young bourgeois ladies were expected to be educated in the domestic arts including drawing and playing the piano. These were admirable attributes for a respectable wife and mother. Pursuing a career was quite unusual and often prohibited. By 1874, after having taken drawing lessons from a local Swiss artist, Eduard Pfyffer (1836–1899), Breslau knew that she would have to leave Switzerland if she wanted to realize her dream of seriously studying art. One of the few places available for young women to study was at the Académie Julian in Paris.