French painter Gaston La Touche [1854-1913] post-impressionist painter, draughtsman and pastellist was a leading colorist of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, who associated with all the important artists of the period. He was close friends with many of the Impressionists, but chose to follow an independent path in both technique and subject matter. His extraordinary imagination revealed itself in his wonderful depictions of monkeys, fetes, balls, theatrical subjects and interiors, all tinged with a wry sense of humor. His Versailles-inspired firework and fountain paintings are unique in quality and spectrum of color. Neglected for almost a century, with little or no research, La Touche's work is now being re-evaluated. In both commercial and art-historical circles, his paintings are now highly sought after.
In his youth, La Touche frequented the same Paris cafés as the Impressionists and is reputed to have received advice from Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. As a mature artist, he broke with his realist beginnings to paint in a harmonious decorative style that reflects the influence of the Rococo painters of the 18th century. For his wealthy clients, such scenes may have evoked nostalgia for the ancien régime of pre-Revolutionary France.
La Touche joined Pierre Puvis de Chavannes in breaking with the official salons to become a member of the rival Société nationale des Beaux-Arts. In this scene, reminiscent of 17th-century fêtes-galantes, several women in colorful dress are relaxing in a park, either at Versailles or St.-Cloud. Two women resting in chairs in the foreground ignore a monkey who torments a white parrot perched in the bars of a gold cage. One woman holds a fan and one has hung her straw hat on the back of her chair. Another women stands off to the right, leaning against the arbor.
There is a large, elaborate stone fountain in the background, with a nude sculpture at the top and putti figures encircling the base. It shoots several streams of water into the air. Thick vines and flowers grow over the arbor, and the grass is a lush green. The scene is bathed in a golden-orange light, which reflects on everything from the water in the fountain to the clothing of the women. La Touche's brilliant jewel tones and the relaxed poses of the women contribute to the airy and carefree atmosphere of this painting, recalling the Rococo scenes of the previous generation.