The artist Jules Bastien-Lepage came from a farming background.
Bastien-Lepage trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, whilst working as a postal clerk in Paris. In 1868 he entered the studio of Alexandre Cabanel. In 1870 he made his début at the Salon with Portrait of a Young Man (whereabouts unknown). He was wounded in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, following which he sought work as an illustrator. His entries into the Salon of 1874 brought him his first real critical attention: Song of Spring (Musée Princerie, Verdun) and Portrait of my Grandfather (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nice).
Bastien-Lepage was particularly known for his large-scale paintings of peasant and rustic themes influenced by the sixteenth and seventeenth century northern masters and by the low life subjects and earthy paintwork of Gustave Courbet, e.g. Hay Gatherers (1878; Musée d’Orsay, Paris). His paintings also showed the influence of JW and John Singer Sargent as well as the spontaneity of the Impressionists. However, paradoxically, aspects of his works were also painstakingly rendered, betraying his classical training, as well as his interest in photography. His portraits, e.g. Sarah Bernhardt (private collection), were often inspired by photographic techniques.
His works had considerable influence on British artists such as George Clausen and Henry Herbert La Thangue.
In 1880 Bastien-Lepage travelled to London, where he held a small retrospective of his work at the Grosvenor Gallery. By this time he was suffering from stomach cancer. He died in 1884. A large retrospective exhibition of his paintings and drawings was held in Paris in 1885.
Feldman, W., The Life and Work of Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884), dissertation, New York University, 1973; McConkey, Kenneth, ‘The Bouguereau of the Naturalists: Bastien-Lepage and British Art’, Art History, vol. 1, 1978, pp. 371–82; Weisberg, Gabriel P. (ed.), The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing, 1830–1900, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, 1980); Weisberg, G. P., ‘Jules Breton, Jules Bastien-Lepage and Camille Pissarro in the Context of Nineteenth-century Peasant Painting and the Salon’, Art Magazine, vol. 56, February 1982, pp. 115–19; Feldman, W., ‘Jules Bastien-Lepage: A New Perspective’, Art Bulletin Victoria, vol. 24, 1983, pp. 2–10; Weisberg, Gabriel P. 'Jules Bastien-Lepage', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 10 July 2002).