The Flower Arrangement by Franck-Antoine Bail - 36 1/4  x 28 3/4 inches Signed and dated 1918 french academic salon interior figures figurative genre women
Franck-Antoine Bail
(1858 - 1924)

The Flower Arrangement

Signed and dated 1918
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 28 3/4 inches

In this painting dated 1918, we see three young maids arranging peonies, which they are taking out of flower baskets and placing in vases. All three are wearing the same outfit: a white, short sleeve blouse with a light green bosom, and a long white apron over a dark skirt and a white bonnet with ruffled borders. The three young women—one standing and the other two seated—are situated in front of a window and a door that leads into other rooms in the background. On the left wall, next to the open door, is a copper water fountain where a bunch of flowers has been deposited. The scene is situated in a room of what we know to be a large, “maison de maître” La Commanderie, a farm estate at Balleroy in lower Normandy. On the walls of the wood paneled rooms we can see works of art most probably by the Bail brothers. The owner of the house had acquired many works by the Bails, artists they knew and admired, whom they met during summer vacations at Bois-Le-Roi, in the Seine-et-Marne, not far from Melun and at about fifty kilometers south of Paris. Bois-Le-Roi, after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 had become a place where artists, musicians, and writers would escape from life in the big city, and the Bail family joined other painters and sculptors there including Alfred Roll, Aimé Perret, Moreau de Tours, Hippolyte-Camille and Henry-Jacques Delpy, the sculptor Louis de Monard, and the writer Anatole France. Here they enjoyed their holidays together.

La Commanderie is the house where, in 1982, the author had a chance to view many works by the Bails, especially Joseph. He saw paintings, drawings and objects such as wooden containers for crayons, decorated by the artists. Several of the paintings seen in the house have, since then, appeared on the art market in France and in the United States.

Gabriel P. Weisberg
University of Minnesota

Private collection, France
Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City
Private collection