The Morning Meal by Pierre Edouard Frere - 22 x 18 1/2 inches Signed and dated '56 french interior peasant genre mother children realism
Pierre Edouard Frere
(1819 - 1886)

The Morning Meal

Signed and dated '56
Oil on panel
22 x 18 1/2 inches

M. Newman Ltd., London, c.1956
Private collection, purchased September 19, 1956
Private collection, by descent
Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City
Private collection

This work is accompanied by a letter from Professor Gabriel P. Weisberg:

Frère, as you know, was during the period of The Second Empire in France one of the foremost genre painters, demonstrating a special interest on family life and the ways in which young children were nurtured in the home. This type of painting became extremely popular with middle-class collectors who were upholding these values espoused by the government; Frère’s work also gained many adherents in England, where his work was highly regarded both at public exhibitions and, eventually, by the well-established art critic John Ruskin.

In France, Pierre-Edouard Frère, became the primary painter of childhood becoming the leader of the Ecole d’Ecouen (The School of Ecouen) so named for a small village outside of Paris where a number of other painters, along with Frère, continued to produce a large number of such paintings. Since the works were often small, completed on panel, they were easily transportable. Collectors were able to see Frère’s work both at the public Salon exhibitions and by going to Ecouen. The number of painters who produced genre paintings representing the life of children increased both in France and England; by the end of the Second Empire there was a veritable cult of appreciation for such works.

Your painting, dated 1856, corresponds to a work exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1857 under the title of Le Repas (The Meal). While we are establishing this link because of the date, and the title from the Salon catalogue, only by actually checking the Archives du Louvre (in Paris), where records of various Salon exhibitions are kept (under the name of an artist) can dimensions of your work be verified? But there is every reason to believe that your Frère and the work exhibited in 1857 are the same.

In addition, there are two other Pierre-Edouard Frère paintings in existence (in public collections) that are directly linked to your current work both by the date of their completion, their style and the treatment of the theme. The first is the painting Evening Prayer, a work on panel, in the permanent collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. This work from the handling of the theme, the intimacy of the figural grouping, and the date, is very close to what has been established in your composition. In addition, a later work, a composition, dated 1877, also on panel, creates a similar ambience between a mother and her children. This work is in the collection of the Glasgow Art Gallery, in Glasgow, Scotland.

There is no doubt in my mind that your work is a very significant example of Frère’s work done at the moment when he was a leader of Second Empire imagery of a humble sort that appealed to private collectors. The signature is genuine and I fully believe that you have a work of superb quality.

Gabe Weisberg