Paul Albert Besnard (1849-1934) was one of the most popular French painters and a founding member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Jean Bremond and Alexandre Cabanel. He painted portraits, nudes, wall decorations and landscapes. His portrait work places him between academicism and impressionism. However, success was brought to him by his works in the colourism style, created under the influence of his travels to Algeria in 1892 and India in 1910.*
The description of the painting:
The woman supports her head with her right arm, framed by her abundant dark hair. She rests it on the blue fabric-covered table. In the background, the gleaming belly of a standing vase is visible. The strap of her white underwear falls down her shoulder, sharply outlining the arcs of her neck and exposed arm. The model’s face has a smile. Her eyes are turned to the right. The pose she has taken seems natural. It seems to be flirting with everyone who looks at her.
The blue curtain depicted in the title is a clear colouristic dominant of the painting. Against its background, the line of the model’s bent right arm stands out. In contrast to it, the white of her blouse and the delicate colour of her whole body are also emphasised. Her presence adds intensity to the painting, although in reality she is only one of the several elements of the still life presented on the table. The painter extracts from the background only the outlines of the objects necessary for the concept of the painting, the unimportant ones are transformed into a dark, uniforming colour spot. Into such a composition of the vase, fabric and table, outlined by the arrangement, the shining female figure bursts, focusing all the attention of the viewer on itself.
Before this painting by Albert Besnard ended up in the collection of Edward Alexander Raczynski in 1900, it belonged to the marchand Siegfried Bing.*