Private collection, United Kingdom
Despite being born in Belgium, it was in Paris that Stevens forged his artistic career. His work was first shown in the Paris Salon of 1851, when the artist was just 28 years old and then two years later he was awarded a third-class medal at the Salon. In 1855 Stevens was awarded a second class medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris and as a result he became an immensely popular artist with both collectors and fellow artists alike. He included Manet, Degas, Baudelaire, Morisot and Whistler as his close friends and he was a regular in the Café Guerbois in Paris.
Stevens started his art training with his first teacher Francois Navez in Brussels, where he quickly mastered the skill of painting portraits, landscapes and seascapes. He came from a prominent artistic family, his brother Joseph Edouard Stevens was a great painter of figures and animals as well as a watercolourist and capable engraver.
In 1844 Stevens went to Paris and worked under the instruction of Camille Roqueplan, a friend of his father’s; he also attended the classes at the École des Beaux-Arts, where Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was then professor.
His first picture is dated 1848, ‘A Soldier in Trouble’. His early works show a debt to the Realism of Gustave Courbet and the historical subjects of Henri Leys. After 1855 he turned to painting genre scenes depicting female subjects within middle-class Parisian interiors.