Léon Richet Oil Painting, ca. 1875
My father bought it during the Depression in Patterson, New Jersey. He had a business there, and he had a government contract to make tanks, boiler tanks, and so he had money from the government contracts. And so he was known to buy different items that people would bring up to his office. And that's how he obtained this.
And so was it hanging in your house through your childhood, and…
Yes, it had been in the house ever since I can remember.
Do you know anything at all about the painting or the painter?
We did a little research on the name, Léon Richet, and found he sold one or two paintings in Japan. And that's basically all we know. We've just had it on the wall and enjoyed it.
The artist is Léon Richet. He's a French artist of the 19th century. In about the 1820s, there was a group of artists who left Paris to form a settlement in a town called Barbizon, which is outside of the forest of Fontainebleau, which is a large natural forest near Paris. And they moved there because they wanted to get away from the industrialization of Paris. They wanted to get back into nature. They wanted to paint nature as it really appeared and not in an idealized way. And Léon Richet was a late member of that group of painters. Your painting is a very, very typical Barbizon school painting. Some of the really well-known painters who were associated with that school were Corot, who's extremely well known; Millet, who painted peasant figures in these rural settings; there's an artist named Díaz de la Peña, who was an important member as well, and Richet was a student of his. It's an oil painting on canvas. It's a little bit dirty. It's a little bit discolored. You can see in the sky where it looks kind of gray in the areas that you might hope would be whiter and brighter. But it's a painting that dates from probably 1860 to 1870. And the fact that it's gotten a little grimy over years is not all that surprising. And in general, I think it's in quite good shape. There's been huge fluctuations of value in the Barbizon school in the art market. Americans collected Barbizon paintings in the late 19th century. Many of them came to this country then. And they were quite valuable relative to other works of art. In the 1980s the market for these paintings skyrocketed. And it was largely because the Japanese collectors who loved French paintings began to buy these. And in the 1980s, these pictures were impossible to even keep in stock. The bottom line is your painting today, I think, would sell at auction in the $5,000 and $8,000 range. Were this 1985, this painting would have sold in the $20,000 range. But there is always a cyclical nature to these markets. And I think eventually these will come back, just like everything else has.
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