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Oil painting - Girls at a Well
  • Girls at a Well
    Cornilliet, Jules, born 1830 - died 1886
  • Enlarge image

Girls at a Well

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    France (painted)

  • Date:

    1867 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cornilliet, Jules, born 1830 - died 1886 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Jules Cornilliet (1830-1886) was a pupil of the painters Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) and Horace Vernet (1789-1863) in Paris. He painted history scenes in the troubadour style and genre paintings sometimes inspired by Orientalist movement. He made his Salon debut in 1857.

This painting is a fine example of genre paintings which developed in the second half of the 19th-century, inspired by the Realist movement emerged in France in the 1840s, which aroused a new interest in rural subject. It shows a group of women at a well wearing typical dresses and headgears from Brittany. This luminous albeit sketchy manner achieved a great success with both French and British patrons.

Physical description

A group of five women gathering water in jugs at a well; some broken slabs in the foreground, trees in the middle distance and a glimpse of sea and beach in the right background.

Place of Origin

France (painted)


1867 (painted)


Cornilliet, Jules, born 1830 - died 1886 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'J. Cornilliet 1867'
Signed and dated by the artist, lower right


Height: 84.2 cm estimate, Width: 58.4 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Purchased, 1867

Historical significance: This painting is a fine example of Cornilliet's output. It shows a group of women at a well, dressed in the traditional Brittany costumes. This scene of everyday life combined with an interest in rural subject is typical of the French Realist movement emerged in the 1840s.
Comparable scenes include bathing at the Grenouillère, sold Martinet, Savignat, Antoine, Pontoise, 19 Jun 1994, lot 134.
Although peasant scenes had been elevated to the status of history paintings during the first half of the 19th century, this type of scenes aims at documenting the time and the popular culture without the social claim Courbet and the Realist painters put in their own compositions. This new Realism is generally called Naturalism and was praised by the Second Empire society as representations of hard workers whose humble life was a symbol of morality.

Historical context note

19th-century French art is marked by a succession of movements based on a more or less close relationship with nature. At the beginning of the century, Romantic artists were fascinated by nature they interpreted as a mirror of the mind. They investigated human nature and personality, the folk culture, the national and ethnic origins, the medieval era, the exotic, the remote, the mysterious and the occult. This movement was heralded in France by such painter as Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). In its opposition to academic art and its demand for a modern style Realism continued the aims of the Romantics. They assumed that reality could be perceived without distortion or idealization, and sought after a mean to combine the perception of the individual with objectivity. This reaction in French painting against the Grand Manner is well represented by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who wrote a 'Manifesto of Realism', entitled Le Réalisme published in Paris in 1855. These ideas were challenged by the group of the Barbizon painters, who formed a recognizable school from the early 1830s to the 1870s and developed a free, broad and rough technique. They were mainly concerned by landscape painting and the rendering of light. The works of Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (1807-1876), Jules Dupré (1811-1889), Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), Constant Troyon (1810-1865) and Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) anticipate somehow the plein-air landscapes of the Impressionists.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Girls at a Well', Jules Cornilliet, 1867

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 19, cat. no. 50.
Morris, E., 'Philip Henry Rathbone and the purchase of contemporary foreign paintings for the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1871-1914' in Annual Report and Bulletin of the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, 1975-76, vol IV, p.59.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Girls; Genre; Sea; Jugs; Beach; Well




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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