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Exhibit Catalog to the Morris County Historical Society's "Out of the Closet" Exhibition

Le Retour de la Peche

Paintings and Drawings
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Click picture to enlarge

Joseph Pierre Olivier Coomans (artist)
Pierre Cottin (engraver)
Retour de la Peche (Return From Fishing)
Circa 1879
Engraving on paper
26 3/4 x 21 1/2 in.
Gift from Mrs. George Emory Sr.

The Engraving


The engraving of Le Retour de la Peche (in English, The Return From Fishing) has been dated to approximately 1870. This genre scene (a scene that gives the viewer a peek at daily life) depicts a woman and five children gathering around a man - presumably the father of the family - emptying out a barrel full of crayfish. The children, who are all staring with amazement at a crayfish that has managed to crawl away, follow the cherubic style that Coomans would often instill in his painted children. The family's dress is that of antiquity, which makes sense considering the painting's date within Cooman's lifetime - at this point, he would be painting in a Pompeian style while he resided in Naples, Italy.


As a comparison, another painting entitled Retour de la Peche was painted in the 19th century by Joaquin Sorolla Bastida. In it, the painter chooses to portray another point in the fishing story - the moment when a pair of oxen are dragging the boat to shore. He captures a moment that makes clear the story at hand, while Coomans chooses to have the viewer guess the story by way of the painting's title and the crayfish spilling out of the barrel.



The Painter


Joseph Pierre Olivier Coomans, born in 1816 in Brussels, Belgium, was known as one of Belgium's greatest 19th century painters of genre and historical scenes, landscapes, and illustrations. He was especially known for including young cherubic children in his paintings.


Coomans studied in Ghent and Antwerp with three of the most celebrated painters of the historical genre: Nicaise De Keyser, Gustave Wappers and Pieter Van Hanselaere. With the Belgian army, he traveled to Algeria and then Crimea, where he was able to see the "Orient" for the first time - this led him to paint in an orientalizing fashion. From 1856 to 1860 he lived in Naples, where exposure to antique painting would influence and inspire his own Pompeian style. Coomans settled in Paris in 1860, where he exhibited regularly at the Paris Salons. He died in 1889 in Boulogne-on-Seine, France.



The Engraver


Pierre Cottin, born in 1823 in Paris, was a foremost etcher of landscapes and genre scenes. After studying with Paul-Leon Jazet in Paris, he became known for composing engravings after the paintings of contemporary artists. Around 1860, he began to create engravings based on his own work, and became recognized in the art world for these original etchings. He died in Paris in 1886.