"Soleil aux Courses", 1948
oil on masonite
signed lower right, titled by the artist en verso; accompanied with a letter of authenticity from Noe Willer.
28-5/8" x 23-1/2", framed 36" x 31"
Provenance: St. Germain-en-Laye (SGL) Encheres, April 6, 1997; Private collection, Texas.
Literature: This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonne on Domergue in preparation by Noe Willer.
Notes: Born in 1889 at the height of the French Belle Epoque - the golden age of art, technology and commercial prosperity, Domergue was greatly influenced by all the splendors the period produced. Paris was its epicenter. With its balls, parks, galleries and grand boulevards lined with impressive shops brimming with fashionable accessories in their window fronts, it was a veritable spectacle to be had, one that gave rise to the term flaneur/boulevardier - the urban explorer, who voyeuristically seeks artistic inspiration from people watching, particularly the "ladies of the evening". Often referred to as "grand courtesans", "demi-mondaines" or "coquettes", these attractive women were born of meager origins. Instead of becoming maids or washwomen, they sought vocations in the performing arts as actresses, singers, ballerinas and dancers, achieving not only fame and status in society through wealthy art patrons, but also independence - as working class women they were able to frequent public events, like the racetrack featured here, without chaperones. Emile Zola, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized this archetype, which left a lasting impression on the young Domergue. Following his studies at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts where he won the Second Prize of Rome in 1913, Domergue honed his artistic eye on "ladies of the evening", perfecting what he called the modern "pin-up" - women with swan-like necks, wide seductive eyes, and thin elongated bodies influenced by the Romantic odalisque - they invited viewers to look upon them with awe and longing. According to Domergue, they were to be imbibed with the same airiness and effervescent sparkle as champagne.
"Soleil aux Courses" exemplifies Domergue's style. The beautiful dame is poised coyly at the racetrack with her field binoculars - an invitation for all to see. The racetrack, which Domergue painted numerous times, presented another ideal opportunity for the flaneur to eye the spectacle of fillies and ladies alike.
References: "Jean-Gabriel Domergue: Biographie". Galerie de Souzy. Web. Accessed March 27, 2018; Soyer, Gerard-Louis. Jean-Gabriel Domergue, l'Art et la Mode. Paris: Editions Sous le Vent, 1984.