La Blanchisseuse

1890
Frederic Porter Vinton (American, 1846–1911)


Dimensions

46.35 x 60.96 cm (18 1/4 x 24 in.)

Accession Number

13.554

Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Paintings

In June 1889, Vinton and his wife traveled to Europe for eighteen months, spending part of their sojourn in Grez-sur-Loing, a village on the southeastern edge of the forest of Fontainebleau, about two hours by train from Paris. Artists had been drawn to this rural village by the picturesque Loing River, stone bridge, and medieval church, and an international art colony arose there after 1875.
During this trip to France, Vinton visited the French Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley in nearby Moret, and the two artists walked along the Loing River [1993.44], which Sisley had so often portrayed. Further down that same river, Vinton executed this plein air painting of a woman washing clothes. Images of laundresses are abundant; they were popular especially with such French artists as Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard in the eighteenth century and Edgar Degas in the nineteenth century. Although washerwomen were sometimes represented as seductresses, Vinton’s hard-working blanchisseuse, with her tub and the wooden box in which she kneels to keep her own clothes dry, provided an interesting subject for his new-found skill in Impressionist effects. With fluid brushstrokes, Vinton rendered the foliage of the trees and the reflections in the river. Dazzling daubs of white paint indicate white laundry and the sun dappling the river’s edge. Vinton seems to have painted La Blanchisseuse for his own pleasure; it remained with him and was never exhibited until his death.

This text was adapted from Janet L. Comey’s entry in Impressionism Abroad: Boston and French Painting, by Erica E. Hirshler et al., exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005).

Provenance

1890, the artist; 1911, by descent to his wife, Mrs. Frederic Vinton, Boston. About 1913, Alexander Cochrane (1840-1919), Boston; 1913, gift of Alexander Cochrane to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 1, 1913)

Credit Line

Gift of Alexander Cochrane