ALFRED STEVENS (Brussels 1823 – Paris 1906)
Avant le Spectacle (Waiting for the Carriage)
signed A Stevens with the initials conjoined in the lower left
oil on canvas
26 ½ x 19 ¾ inches (67.3 x 50.2 cm.)
François Van der Donckt, Sainte Adresse, Belgium, circa 1876
J. S. Forbes, Esq., London, 1900
Le Roy et Cie, Paris, from whom acquired by
The Cottier Gallery, New York by 1908
Estate sale of James. S. Ingliss (of The Cottier Gallery), American Art Galleries, New York, March 9-10, 1910, lot 116, illustrated (measurements incorrect)
Walter P. Fearon, New York
Richard Bladworth Angus (1831–1922), Montreal, by 1912, and thus by descent in the family to
Frederic A. Wanklyn, thence by descent to the present owner
Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, Exposition de l’oeuvre d’Alfred Stevens, February 6 – 27, 1900, no. 55
New York, The Cottier Gallery, A Group of Twenty-Four Paintings of the French, Spanish, German, and American Schools, 1908 (measurements incorrect)
Montreal, The Art Association of Montreal (now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), Inaugural Loan Exhibition Held in Connection with the Opening of the New Building of the Art Association by T.R.H. The Governor General and Duchess of Connaught, December 9, 1912 – January 6, 1913, no. 164
Montreal, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada Collects: European Paintings, 1860–1960 = Le Canada Collectione: Peintre Européenne, 1860–1960, January 19 – February 21, 1960, no. 53
Archives Le Roy
Exposition de l’oeuvre d’Alfred Stevens, École des Beaux-Arts, Georges Petit, Paris, February 6 – 27, 1900, p. 17, no. 55 (loan from J. S. Forbes, Esq.)
Achille Segard, “Alfred Stevens,” in La Revue Illustrée, March 5, 1900, unpaginated, no. 7
A Group of Twenty-Four Paintings of the French, Spanish, German and American Schools, The Cottier Gallery, New York, 1908, unpaginated, illustrated (measurements incorrect)
“A Few Pictures of Special Interest Although of Minor Fame in the Ingliss Collection: Alfred Stevens not Fully Appreciated in this Country – Monticelli’s an Emotional Art” in The New York Times, March 6, 1910, p. 14, illustrated
Florence N. Levy, ed., “Alfred Stevens” in American Art Annual 1910–1911, vol. VIII, p. 381 (Waiting for the Carriage sold to Walter P. Fearon for $4,000, measurements incorrect)
Canada Collects: European Paintings, 1860–1960 = Le Canada Colletionne: Peinture Européenne, 1860–1960, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1960, no. 53
Janet M. Brooke, Discerning Tastes: Montreal Collectors 1880–1920, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1989, p. 230, no. 1151
Gloria Lesser, “The R. B. Angus Art Collection” in The Journal of Canadian Art History, Annales D’Histoire de l’Art Canadien, vol. XV/I, Canadian Magazine Publishers Association, Toronto, 1992, p. 120
This painting will be included in the forthcoming Alfred Stevens catalogue raisonné by the Comité Alfred Stevens at Galerie Brame et Lorenceau.
Alfred Émile Léopold Stevens was born in Brussels on May 11, 1823 but spent most of his life in Paris. From 1844 onwards, he mingled there with artists like Eugene Delacroix, Theodore Rousseau, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas, earning him the description “the Fleming who was more Parisian than most Parisians”. His focus at the beginning of his career was slightly historical with a hint of Romanticism. It soon evolved more towards Realism as the social issues of the time started to become more prominent. In Paris however, he became influenced by the Belle Epoque and all the luxury it entailed, shifting the focus of his paintings in an entirely new but still very realistic and humane direction.
Upper-class Parisian women of the Second Empire, followed later by the Third Republic, became his prominent subject: women who seemed to have nothing better to do than wait for something that might never happen. These paintings are suffused with an air of melancholy and despair, which clashes with their otherwise colorful and ingeniously detailed style.
Stevens was a keen observer of these women's inner and outer states. Not only does he accurately portray their feelings of loneliness and boredom, he also has a remarkable eye for gestures, facial expressions and habits. The lavish nineteenth century salons decorated with silk fabrics and lacquer in which these ladies spent their days were perceived as fundamentally shallow, contrasting the superficial beauty of the period with its inner anguish. Stevens did a spectacular job in creating tangible textures and fragrant flowers that produce a truly dramatic and decadent atmosphere, which successfully distracts the viewer from the hidden truth beneath the shiny surface. His paintings resemble snapshots of crucial moments in the lives of countless women. Stevens often incorporated books and letters in his oeuvre, which have the intriguing effect of inviting the spectator to make up stories about what could have happened or is going to happen. Turmoil, sorrow, bad news: all are recurring themes in Stevens’ work as he depicts women's response or anticipation to these consuming states.
Although the identity of the sitter in the present painting is unknown, like the other models in Stevens’s paintings, she is strong, but at the same time seems vulnerable. These rare instances when they get to be themselves, behind closed doors and away from prying eyes, are what seems to fascinate Stevens.
 The Belgian dealer and collector François van der Donckt knew Stevens since 1866 and acquired and commissioned numerous paintings by him throughout his life.
 Forbes, at the time of the 1900 Paris exhibition, also lent two other paintings, no. 54 Le Cadeau and no. 56 L’Avare.
 Angus, born in Bathgate, Scotland, was one of the founders of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.