Paul Emile Chabas (French, 1869 – 1937)


Oil on board

Signed ‘Paul Chabas’ (lower right)

11 x 14.1/2in. (27.8 x 36.8 cm.)

This is a typical subject for Paul Chabas who concentrated on painting beautiful maidens in dappled sunlight on the shore. This example focuses on the maiden’s gaze. One can see the influences of his mentor Bougereau. Chabas won the Prix Nationale at the 1889 Paris Salon and a gold medal at the Expositionale in 1900. A scandal followed him regarding his painting ‘September Morn’ when Anthony Comstock (head of the New York society for the suppression of Vice) protested against the painting, this sent Chabas into anonymity in the South of France. He refused to identify the model, only referring to her as Marthe. As late as 1935 rumours circulated that she was living in poverty and many Americans wanted to come to her aid. He did not intend to sell ‘September Morn’ in 1912, setting a prohibitive price of $10,000 on it, but the price was met by Leon Mantashev – the son of an oil magnate. Chabas died in Paris in 1937 after a long illness. How a widower, he died in a room where there was only one painting – a copy of ‘September Morn’ which he had painted from memory. ‘September Morn’ is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. There are very strong similarities between the subject in this painting and Marthe and this may well be her. There is a dedication on the back to an ‘M…. Vernet’ from Paul Chabas. This painting was a gift regarding time they spent together. Is it fanciful to suggest that this is Marthe herself and that M… Vernet was indeed Marthe Vernet?