Leon Augustin Lhermitte was born in 1844, and was still executing works in the French rural tradition at his death in 1925, making him the last in an illustrious group of artists dedicated to this genre. Lhermitte showed artistic talent at a young age, and in 1863, left his home at Mont-Saint-Pere, Aisne for the Petite Ecole in Paris, where he studied with Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran. Lecoq was known for his program of training the visual memory of his students, and his theories had a profound effect on Lhermitte.
It was in his studio where Lhermitte formed a lifelong friendship with Cazin and also became acquainted with Legros, Fantin-Latour, and Rodin. At the age of 19, Lhermitte sent his initial entry to the Salon in 1864; he continued to exhibit charcoal drawings and paintings regularly, and pastels after 1885, winning his first medal in 1874, with La Moisson (Musee de Carcassonne). Lhermitte received many honors and prizes throughout his long career, including the Grand Prix at the Exhibition Universelle in 1889, the Diplome d’honneur at Dresden in 1890, and the Legion d’honneur. He was a founding member of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
Lavandieres en Provence features a group of rural French women attending to domestic chores. The washerwomen toil to complete their laundry in a landscape rich with yellows and browns. Lhermitte depicts these women of Provence both sympathetically and realistically. Although the facial features are vague due to their Impressionistic rendering in pastel, the humanity of the women is immediately evident.
Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin; Goteborg Art Gallery, Sweden; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA; Melton Park Gallery, Oklahoma City; Oklahoma City Art Museum, OK; Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, WI; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Musee d’Orsay, Paris; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia; Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery, PA; Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, NY; Museum of Fine Art, Saintes, France; Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio; Washington University Gallery of Art, St. Louis, MO;
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; Toledo Museum of Art, OH; Art Gallery, Ontario; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Museum of Fine Art, Boston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Denver Museum of Art, CO