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Straw hat with flowers and fruit

Simon Saint-Jean

(1808 - 1860) | D.834.1

Date : 1833 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Dated 1833, this painting is perhaps the oldest known work by Simon Saint-Jean, a painter from Lyon who specialised in flowers and fruit. He drew inspiration from 17th century Dutch painting at a time when French artists were also rediscovering the landscapes of this school. The profusion of flowers and fruit, where tulips, peonies, roses, grapes, apples and apricots mingle and the hint of virtuosity in the realistic rendering are particularly reminiscent of the great master Jan van Huysum. But should we only see in the work of Saint-Jean 'well executed' or 'dining room' pictures, in the words of Baudelaire at the 1845 Salon?

Saint-Jean enjoyed an international reputation that extended as far as Britain, Russia and Italy. The painter's technical competence was remarkable: here he was only twenty-five. In addition, he led a revival of the genre through a new approach: integrating the still life into the landscape through the light of the dying day, which unifies the colours, and above all through a new and original kind of composition using a hat and a basket (or, in another painting of 1838 at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, two bouquets: one in the arms of a young woman, the other on her head). Fifteen years later, a certain Gustave Courbet went even further by integrating his flowers and fruit back into their natural setting.