Gathering Water, 1890

by Emile Munier


MEDIUM: Oil on canvas
DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 29.8 x 16.8 ins/ 75.7 x 42.7 cm
(framed) 43 x 32 ins/ 109.2 x 81.3 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘E. Munier’ and dated (lower left)

Here we see a prime example of Munier’s oeuvre; it features a centralised female figure, glowing in the natural light of day. Her clothes are not extravagant, but are beautifully painted with careful consideration of light and form. She stands amongst the trees, retrieving water from a fountain. Though this is a simple scene, it is brought to life by a certain romanticism – a softening of the harder realities of life and labour. There is something very tender and tranquil to Munier’s touch of a paintbrush upon the canvas, due perhaps to his academic artistic training in drawing, painting, anatomy, and perspective. He also taught others formal painting techniques three nights a week after quitting his work at the Gobelins.


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Munier was born in Paris to Pierre François Munier, an upholstery artist for the Manufacture Nationale del Gobelins, and Marie Louise Carpentier, who was a polisher in a cashmere mill. Emile Munier and his two siblings entered the Gobelins, but Munier also attended formal art classes connected to wool dyeing and upholstery artistry. He met and married Henriette Lucas in this period, and would paint and draw in the Academic tradition with his father-in-law, Abel Lucas.


The 1860s represented a position progression for Munier, seeing him receive three medals from the Beaux-Arts. Unfortunately this success was dimmed. Having given birth to their son, Emile Henri, in 1867, Henriette died from severe rheumatism some 10 weeks later. It was four years on that Munier left the Gobelins behind and went to establish himself solely as an artist, also teaching classes several nights a week.


Munier remarried to a fellow artist and teacher named Sargines Angrand-Campenon in 1872. He then entered the studio of William Bouguereau and became a good friend with the artist, and went on to gain notoriety amongst American collectors through George A. Lucas – an American arts agent based in Paris. Also during this prosperous time, Sargines and Emile had a daughter named Marie Louise who, along with the young Henri, became a continuing inspiration for the artist’s works throughout his life. Exhibiting at the Salon over the years, Munier achieved recognition for his genre scenes of children. Through visiting Auvergne, his paintings of children playing turned to moments of young peasant life among farm animals.


His portfolio throughout his career ranged from this to subjects of mythological and religious significance – including cupids and goddesses – as well as animals. Many of his American collectors were significant patrons of French contemporary works, and Munier had much success exhibiting at the Salon throughout his career. The artist lived to see the birth of a grandson in 1895, and passed away shortly after. He is now buried at the Montparnasse cemetery.

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