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The Victoria & Albert Museum
Would you guess that a fellow named François Bocion (1828-1890) was French? Well, he wasn’t. He was Swiss. So there. Bocion was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and trained as a painter under Christian Gottlieb Steinlen (1779-1847) and François Bonnet (1811-1894) .
Bocion would move to Paris in 1845 where he entered the atelier of Louis-Aimé Grosclaude (1784-1869) and later that of Charles Gleyre (1806-1874). There, he struck up a friendship with the famed Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and other painters of the Realist movement.
Around 1849, Bocion left Paris to return to his native Lausanne where he became a teacher at the “Ecole moyenne et industrielle.” He stayed there, teaching, until he died. During that period, however, he took a place as one of the era’s most prolific artists, and, also took some time out to travel to Paris, Vienna, Anvers and London. Still, he preferred Switzerland above all other places. There, he aided in founding the Swiss Society of Watercolourists in 1884.
If you ever wanted to see a perfect example of Bocion’s compositions, especially those post-Paris masterpieces he created after his return home—this is it. Bocion took his inspiration from all walks of life and reveled in capturing daily moments in a realistic way. Here, he shows us a fisherman, rendered in the palette of muddy, purple hues which Bocion favored in the 1850s.
The male figure in his working clothes sits, bare-footed, on a rock at the edge of a lake. The deep tones of the shadows are balanced by the white sails of a boat to the man’s left and the glow of the light on the water.
The painting was bequeathed to the V&A by the Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend in 1868.