Auguste Bachelin (Swiss, 1830-1890) The Fugitives - Frontière de Suisse  37 x 56 1/2in (94 x 143.5cm)

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Lot 17W
Auguste Bachelin
(Swiss, 1830-1890)
The Fugitives - Frontière de Suisse 37 x 56 1/2in (94 x 143.5cm)

US$ 6,000 - 8,000
£ 4,700 - 6,200
Auguste Bachelin (Swiss, 1830-1890)
The Fugitives - Frontière de Suisse
signed 'A. BACHELIN.' (lower left); signed, inscribed and dated 'A. BACHELIN Fugitives - frontière de Suisse 1870-1871' (on the stretcher bar)
oil on canvas
37 x 56 1/2in (94 x 143.5cm)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Peter Fischbach, Switzerland, circa 1920s;
    By descent to his daughter and son-in-law, Jayne and Milo Nikolic, Switzerland and New York, late 1940s;
    Gifted to the present owners, 2002.

    Bachelin spent 24 years in Paris and was present during the long winter of 1870 when Paris was under siege by the Prussian army during the Franco-Prussian war. The Prussian army was vastly superior in organization and tactical strategy to the French army. It needed only one year to conquer France, capture large numbers of troupes, including Emperor Napoleon III, and lay waste to French towns on its march towards Paris. Strasbourg was one of the cities besieged and destroyed by the Prussians in 1870. In wake of its surrender, many inhabitants and soldiers fled to neighboring Switzerland.

    The present composition depicts an episode in the aftermath of this brutal conflict that displaced large numbers of French citizens. A group of women and children carrying their belongings have arrived at the Swiss border, where they collapse exhausted in front of the Swiss border guards. A young boy points toward the burning village visible in the distance, while the guards lean in compassionately. Bachelin's sympathy for his adopted second country, symbolized by the refugees, as well as for the Swiss army he so often painted during his career, is quite evident in this composition. Both groups are depicted in the same dignified manner, with the standing, central figure facing the men on equal footing, speaking on behalf of her family. The Swiss guards are politely engaging the group, symbolizing the safe haven offered by Switzerland to its French neighbors.

    Bachelin was born in the Swiss town Neuchâtel in 1830 but lived in Paris between 1850 and 1874, when he married and returned to his hometown, where he continued to exhibit and engage in the local literary scene. His studies with Charles Gleyre and Thomas Couture influenced his choice of history painting. He was a prolific writer of art historical articles with a marked emphasis on Swiss art and identity. As a painter, he is mostly known for his military scenes influenced by the numerous wars of the 19th century. The Franco-Prussian war featured prominently in his albums Aux frontières : neutralité, humanité, 1870-1871 : notes et croquis; and L'armée de l'Est en Suisse : notes et croquis.
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