At the Riverbank, c.1902

by Gaston la Touche


DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 44.0 x 39.5 in./111.76 x 100.33 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed lower left
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

Catalogue No: 4424 Categories: ,

At the Riverbank was painted by the renowned artist Gaston La Touche in c.1902 and typifies the artist’s ingenious and unique style. It depicts a young girl in an elegant black hat, and an opulent yellow dress with fur cuffs and trim, sitting on the bank of a river with two spaniels at her side. The branches of a willow tree shade her from the sun, and a swan sits by her on the water. This is a completely idealised scene; the girl is dressed in a highly expensive and fashionable outfit for the time, and the entire surface of the painting is flecked with thick yellow brushstrokes. This gives the impression of bright afternoon sunlight and imbues the whole scene with warmth and glints off the water, the leaves above and the grass below. While the fairy-tale scene is reminiscent of the Rococo works of Fragonard and Watteau, the paintwork recalls both pointillism and impressionism, and is typical of La Touche’s late painting style.


Private Collection, United Kingdom

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Maclennan, Selina Baring., Gaston La Touche: A Painter of Belle Époque Dreams, Antique Collectors Club (2009);
Valmy-Baysse, Jean., ‘Gaston La Touche, sa vie, son œuvre,’ from the series Peintres d’Aujourd’hui, editions F. Juven, Paris, 1910. Online;
Frantz, Henri., ‘Gaston La Touche 1854 – 1913,’ editions Studio, Paris 1914, London 1915;
“IMPORTANT PAINTING BY LA TOUCHE.” Bulletin of the Detroit Museum of Art, Vol. 11 (7/8), April–May, 1917. Detroit Institute of Arts: 65–68.


Gaston La Touche, (also called Gaston de La Touche), was born on the 24th of October 1854, in Saint-Cloud, France, and his family were from Normandy. He was a well-known painter and illustrator, and was accomplished in pastel, aquarelle, engraving and sculpture. From early on he had a passion and talent for painting and drawing. As a boy he convinced his parents to pay for drawing lessons, but his artistic education was cut short in 1870, when his family had to move back to Normandy, to escape the Franco-Prussian War. Nevertheless, his lack of formal education did not hold him back, in 1875, La Touche had his first work exhibited; a portrait of François Jules Edmond Got, a Parisian actor. At the start of his career, La Touche was a staunch realist, and depicted grim scenes of the daily lives of miners and engineers, seeking to demonstrate the horrible truth of ordinary peoples’ lives in his work.


Between 1877 and 1879, La Touche met the artists Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet and Felix Bracquemond, from whom he would take great influence.  This group of painters met often at a Parisian cafe, ‘La Nouvelle Athènes’. Here, he also met the celebrated writer, Émile Zola, whom he greatly admired, and the friendship allowed La Touche to go on to illustrate several of his novels.


In the 1870s, La Touche’s painterly style was greatly altered by the influence of his associates. He moved from grim realism, to joyous idealism. It was largely Francois Braquemond who convinced La Touche to abandon his dull colour palette for the bright and striking colours now visible in his later work, displayed most clearly in At the Riverbank. La Touche then became influenced by the intimate scenes of the French 18th Century painters, such as Watteau and Fragonard. Using these themes of young girls in opulent clothing, in idyllic settings, he then developed his own brand of divisionism (visible, individual brushstrokes), to create the completely unique style that his work is known for. After this shift in style, La Touche consigned fifteen years’ worth of his old work to a bonfire, regretting the socialist opinions of his youth. His new technique met with immediate success and appreciation from the Paris Academy, and he exhibited many times at the Salon. La Touche painted many allegorical and some mythological paintings, and his technique makes work such as At the Riverbank seem ethereal and otherworldly. He also specialised in land and seascapes, and his beloved Versailles, of which he once said “I only have one Master, the Park of Versailles”.


In 1899 he exhibited some of his Versailles views in Paris, followed the same year by an exhibition of watercolours at the Fine Art Society in London and was the subject of a favourable article in The Studio magazine by Gabriel Mourey. The painter was awarded the Legion d’honneur in 1900 and received an official commission to paint a fête at Versailles for the Elysée Palace in 1906.


La Touche exhibited regularly at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and the Société des Peintres et Sculpteurs as well as at the Société de la Peinture à l’Eau which he had founded in 1906 and of which he was President. A large exhibition at the Galeries Georges Petit was held in 1908 and another at Boussod and Valadon in The Hague, some two months before his sudden death whilst working on a painting on 12th July 1913. His work is now held by the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; and the Walters Art Museum, Maryland, to name a few.

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