This painting meets the description of the work entitled Une Fleure which Bukovac exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1887. It is illustrated in the book Le Nu Ancienne et Moderne, (Chef d'euvres de toutes les Ecoles du Monde entier) Paris, 1898, by E. Bernard.
This book is not easily accessible but Vera Kruzic Uchytil, the Bukovac scholar, describes the work: ‘A naked woman is reclining on an overhanging rock on the shore. She is lying on a thin, transparent veil leaning backwards. Her head is turned towards the viewer and she is looking at a flower in her left hand which she is holding towards her lips. With her right hand she is holding a cloth which covers the lower part of her body. She is surrounded by landscape greenery.’ We do not know for sure whether the painting illustrated is the present work or another version of it, but the whereabouts of the Salon picture has remained unknown for many years and the emergence of this painting on the market is therefore significant.
Vlaho Bukovac studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and worked in Paris where he earned a reputation as a painter of female nudes, and in the 1880s he formed a strong association with England which continued for much of his life. This began when the London dealers Vicars Brothers bought his Salon exhibit The White Slave in 1884 and showed it in London, describing it as ‘the picture which created so great a sensation in Paris last season’. They charged a shilling admission to see the painting in the red velvet splendor of their basement room in the gallery just off Piccadilly, and many were happy to pay.
Vicars subsequently sold The White Slave to the collector, philanthropist and industrial magnate Samson Fox of Harrogate (a forbear of the Fox acting family). He was to acquire many more works by Bukovac, and together with his friend and fellow industrialist Richard LeDoux of Liverpool, became one of Bukovac’s most significant patrons. The painter came often to England from Paris to stay with the two families, and was accepted into their social circle. Through them further commissions followed and in the closing years of the century he enjoyed considerable public success.
Their acquisitions were varied; Bukovac painted a number of large-scale biblical subjects and Fox is know to have bought the massive canvas Suffer the Little Children, a work which illustrates the extent to which Bukovac was influenced by the French academic tradition of Bouguereau and his circle. Photographs of the interiors of Fox’s and LeDoux’s homes show many works by Bukovac, and while some are accounted for today, the whereabouts of others remains unknown. In 1893 Bukovac left Paris for good and returned to his homeland before taking up residence in Prague where he taught, but he continued to visit England until shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.
Bukovac was the subject of an exhibition, Searching for Blaise, Vlaho Bukovac and his Northern Patrons, which took place at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 12 November 2005- 3 January 2006, the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate 14 January – 19 March 2006 and Bonhams, 23 – 29 March 2006.
Sold for £ 100,800 (€ 114,996) in 2006
clothnude femaleoil on canvas