Marie Escudier Fontaine was the wife of a wealthy Parisian industrialist and art patron whose circle of friends included a number of writers, musicians, and artists, among them André Gide, Claude Debussy, and Vuillard, who twice painted her portrait. Redon executed this likeness, one of his finest and most finished pastels, when the Fontaines came to visit him and his wife at the seaside resort of Saint-Georges-de-Didonne on the southwest coast of France in September 1901.
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (upper left): fait à St..-Georges-de-Didonne / Septembre-1901– / ODILON REDON
the sitter, Mme Arthur Fontaine (née Marie Escudier), later Mme Abel Desjardins, Paris (1901–until 1946); her son, Jean-Arthur Fontaine, Paris (from 1946); private collection, Paris (by 1950; on consignment with Durand-Ruel, Paris; sold to MMA)
Paris. Durand-Ruel. "Pastels et peintres de Odilon Redon," March 12–26, 1903, no. 17 (as "Portrait de Mme A. F.").
Paris. Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. "Salon d'automne," October 15–November 15, 1904, no. 26.
Paris. Galerie Druet. "Peintures, pastels, dessins, lithographies par Odilon Redon," November 9–21, 1908, no. 23 (as "Portrait de Mme F.," possibly this picture).
Paris. Galerie Barbazanges. "Exposition rétrospective d'œuvres d'Odilon Redon," May 18–June 15, 1920, no. 98 (as "La brodeuse," lent by M. Desjardins).
Paris. Musée des Arts Décoratifs. "Odilon Redon: Exposition rétrospective de son œuvre," March 1926, no. 104 (as "Portrait de Mme Desjardins," lent by Dr. Desjardins).
Paris. Galerie Beaux-Arts. "Gauguin, ses amis: l'École de Pont-Aven et l'Académie Julian," February–March 1934, no. 84 (as "Portrait de Marie Desjardins," lent by Dr. Abel Desjardins).
Paris. Bernheim-Jeune. "Cent ans de portraits français (1800–1900)," October 15–November 12, 1934, no. 61 (as "Madame Desjardins").
Paris. Galerie Charpentier. "La vie familiale: Scènes et portraits," 1944, no. 112 (as "Mme Desjardins brodant").
Paris. Bernheim-Jeune. "Exposition de la femme, 1800–1930," April–June 1948, no. 70 (as "La brodeuse").
Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries. "Eugène Carrière et le symbolisme," December 1949–January 1950, no. 147 (as "Portrait de Mme Arthur Fontaine," lent by a private collection).
Paris. Musée des Arts Décoratifs. "Cinquante ans de peinture française dans les collections particulières, de Cézanne à Matisse," March–April 1952, no. 133 (lent anonymously) [see Sterling and Salinger 1967].
Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries. "Odilon Redon," October 25, 1956–January 25, 1957, no. 89 (lent by collection Jean Arthur Fontaine).
Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne. "De l'impressionnisme à nos jours: aquarelles, pastels, gouaches," June 27, 1958–?, no. 170 (as "La brodeuse," lent by a private collector).
New York. Wildenstein. "From Realism to Symbolism: Whistler and His World," March 4–April 3, 1971, no. 120 (as "Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde," February 28–June 3, 2012, not in catalogue.
Odilon Redon. Letter to Maurice Fabre. November 3, 1901 [published in Ref. Bacou 1987, p. 86], informs Fabre that he made a portrait of Madame Fontaine wearing a yellow dress and surrounded by exotic flowers.
Odilon Redon. Letter to Marie Fontaine. December 1, 1901 [published in Ref. Wildenstein 1992, p. 45], mentions that he needs to discuss the portrait with her.
Francis Jammes. Letter to Arthur Fontaine. January 1902 [published in Jean Labbé, "Correspondance 1898–1930, Francis Jammes–Arthur Fontaine," Paris, 1959, pp. 55–56], praises it.
E. Bernard. L'occident (April 1903) [reprinted in "Théories," 1920, p. 137; see Ref. Sterling and Salinger 1967], mentions this painting of "Mme A. F . . . " in discussing Redon's use of decoration to enhance a portrait.
François Daulte. Le Dessin français de Manet à Cézanne. Lausanne, 1954, pp. xx, 58, colorpl. 28 [see Ref. Sterling and Salinger 1967], considers it one of Redon's most finished portraits, observing that it, like the other pastels of this time, is distinguished by its rich color.
Roseline Bacou. Odilon Redon. Geneva, 1956, vol. 1, p. 153; vol. 2, p. 54, no. 76, ill., mentions that it was painted in the summer of 1901 at Saint-George-de-Didonne.
Klaus Berger. "The Pastels of Odilon Redon." College Art Journal 16 (Fall 1956), pp. 29–30, fig. 4, remarks that it is based on "the luminosity attached to the yellow golden garment" and that the sitter was a close friend of Redon's.
Ari Redon. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. December 14, 1961, explains that Marie Escudier divorced Arthur Fontaine and married Dr. Abel Desjardins in 1909.
Klaus Berger. Odilon Redon: Fantasy and Colour. New York, 1965, p. 211, no. 393, fig. 22, erroneously states that the sitter's maiden name was Marie Desjardins.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 7–8, ill.
Roseline Bacou. Odilon Redon Pastels. New York, 1987, pp. 16, 86–87, 98, 126, no. 23, ill. (color), reprints Ref. Redon 1901.
Alec Wildenstein. Odilon Redon: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint et dessiné. Vol. 1, Portraits et figures. Paris, 1992, p. 45, no. 84, ill., prints a letter Redon wrote to the sitter in 1901.
Richard Shone. The Janice H. Levin Collection of French Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2002, p. 100, fig. 47.
Isabelle Duvernois. "A Technical Study of Henry Lerolle's 'Organ Rehearsal'." Metropolitan Museum Journal 45 (2010), p. 217, fig. 3 (color), identifies the sitter as the singer in Henry Lerolle's "The Organ Rehearsal" of 1885 (MMA 87.8.12).
Marie Escudier divorced Arthur Fontaine in 1909 and later married Dr. Abel Desjardins. Madame Fontaine was painted twice by Vuillard and appears in one of Degas's portraits (see C. Roger-Marx, Vuillard, 1945, ill. opp. p. 105; and P. A. Lemoisne, Degas, Paris, vol. 1, 1946, ill. opp. p. 218, fig. a).