Crépuscule : An Ode to Dusk

Crepuscule, Gaston La Touche, (St. Cloud, France, 1854–1913, St. Cloud), c. 1890s, Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 in. x 23 3/4 in. (60.01 cm x 60.33 cm), Gift of Mrs. Arthur McKee, 1959.89

This painting by French artist Gaston La Touche is an ode to dusk (“crépuscule” in French) and its subtle beauty of color and light. Fallen leaves gather in lines to create a dancing pattern across the reflective surface of a pond as a still quiet envelops the surrounding woods.

La Touche displayed an early interest in art and began drawing classes at the age of ten. He spent much of his youth observing French artworks from the 17th and 18th centuries in the picture galleries of palaces in his hometown of Saint-Cloud and nearby Versailles. These experiences informed his later choices of subject matter, as many of his paintings include courtly figures, regal residences, and romantic settings such as the one seen here. This image of a fountain and pond in the dwindling light of sunset likely depicts a scene in the royal gardens of Versailles, one of the artist’s favorite subjects. In his own words: “I only have one Master, the Park of Versailles.”

What mood does this painting communicate? Do you think the artist completed this work outdoors and on location, or in a studio?

Although La Touche may not be well-known to contemporary audiences, he was a prominent member of French painting circles during the second half of the nineteenth century. Renowned artists Félix Bracquemond and Édouard Manet served as mentors to a young La Touche. Later, the painter frequented the same Paris cafés as many influential figures in the Impressionist movement, such as Émile Zola and Edgar Degas. While his work features some Impressionist characteristics, La Touche’s paintings differ in subject matter and brushwork.

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