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Work Interior of a Kitchen

Department of Paintings: French painting

Interior of a Kitchen

© 1998 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Paintings
French painting

Author(s):
Michèle Perny

This painting executed by Martin Drölling in 1815, whose theme recalls genre painting and the Northern schools of the 17th century, was a frank success at the Salon of 1817—indeed, it continued to be exhibited at the Palais du Luxembourg long after the artist’s death that same year. The atmosphere and limpid light of this Interior of a Kitchen inevitably evoke the moments of domestic tranquility that were so often painted by the Dutch and Flemish masters.

A genre scene

The scene takes place in a country kitchen. It is illuminated in the middle background by a high window opening onto foliage and a large patch of clear sky. A young girl sitting in front of the open window with her feet on a little chair has raised her head from her needlework, as though someone has just arrived. A woman holding a piece of red material sits on a chair with her back to the viewer, looking over her shoulder. A little girl sits on the flagstone floor, next to a basket at the woman’s feet; her doll lies forgotten as she dangles a string for her pet cat. A curtain plays with the light that shines diagonally across the room, backlighting the figures and the contours of the objects, some of which are discernible on a shelf in the half-light to the left of the kitchen. Every detail in this painting—the attitudes, poses, and clothes of the three figures, the brooms and pans, a pitcher holding a few flowers, an abandoned plate, a candlestick—is reminiscent of the peaceful atmosphere of Nordic scenes, the tranquil simplicity of the interiors of Pieter de Hooch.

The separation of companion pieces

This scene of daily life had a companion piece entitled Interior of a Dining Room, a similar composition set in a bourgeois home. These two interior scenes came together for the Salon of 1817, before being separated for good. The figures in this painting are surrounded by everyday domestic objects and rustic furniture, painted with realism and precision and with the suggestion of trompe-l’œil that was typical of this artist’s work. The open window at the back of the painting gives real depth to the scene; the gaze of the two women creates a sudden complicity with the viewer, as if inviting him into their little private world. But the intimist portrayal of the middle class, rarely depicted in early 19th-century France, soon exasperated the painters of the realist school. This painting, though perfectly characteristic of the painter and his period, was criticized for a certain coldness, a rather bland interpretation of the familiar domestic space.

Drölling and literature

Although Martin Drölling was little known by the general public of his time, writer Honoré de Balzac knew of his work, to which he referred in two novels of the Comédie Humaine: "La Femme de trente ans", and "Pierre Grassou". He was no doubt attracted by the artist’s painstaking depiction of interiors—a tendency he shared in his highly detailed literary descriptions. The contemporary trend in painting was for genre scenes, and in literature for the description of interiors; this painting by Drölling reflects the meeting of these two art forms.

Bibliography

- Exposition : Balzac et la peinture. Tours, Musée des Beaux-Arts, du  29 mai au 30 août 1999. Commissaire : Philippe Le Leyzour

Technical description

  • Martin DRÖLLINGOberhergheim (Upper Rhine), 1752 – Paris, 1817

    Interior of a Kitchen

    1815

  • Oil on canvas

    H. 65 cm; W. 80.8 cm

  • Acquired at the Salon of 1817

    INV. 4097

  • Paintings

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Additional information about the work

Signed and dated with paintbrush and brown paint, bottom left Drölling pt. 1815