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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

Saint John's Festival

Jules Breton

Saint John's Festival - Jules Breton

61cm x 34cm
oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Arts, United States
© Philadelphia Museum of Arts

View this work in the exhibition Fire

The work

Breton's interest in rural life led him to paint a number of village festivals, such as Saint John's bonfire. The deliberately rustic theme receives the same attention a major religious or historical painting would. The painting's acquisition by the great Philadelphia collector John G. Johnson (1841-1917), who assembled more than 1,200 European works over his lifetime, shows the Americans' early infatuation with Breton's work.

The artist

Jules Aimé Louis Breton was born in 1827 in a small village in northern France. After receiving initial art instruction locally, he enrolled in the Paris School of Fine Arts in 1847. He painted many historical pictures there, some of which were shown at the Salon starting in 1849. However, he turned away from this classical path, back to the world of his childhood. Calling himself a "peasant painter," he became interested in the rural landscapes and scenes of his childhood, returning to live in the village of his birth. Recording a rural world fated to disappear under the pressure of growing industrialization, Breton's work quickly met with great success. Jules Breton also pursued a career as a writer and poet.