Le Petit Ramoneur (Damvillers) is an 1883 painting by the French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage (1 November 1848 – 10 December 1884). The name of the painting means “the little chimney sweeper” in English. In the painting, a little chimney sweep shares his hard-earned food with two adorable cats (a cat and a kitten). A very touching scene.
Jules Bastien-Lepage was closely associated with the beginning of naturalism, an artistic style that emerged from the later phase of the Realist movement.
He was born on 1 November 1848 in Damvillers, Meuse, France, where he spent also his childhood. His father was an artist and also grew grapes in a vineyard to support the family. When Bastien took an early liking to
His grandfather also lived in the village; his garden had fruit trees of apple, pear, and peach up against the high walls.
Bastien’s parents fostered his creativity by buying prints of paintings for him to copy. His first formal training was at Verdun. Prompted by a love of art, he went to Paris in 1867, where he was admitted to the École des Beaux-arts (a fine arts grand school of PSL Research University in Paris), working under the famous French painter Alexandre Cabanel, Napoleon III’s preferred painter.
He was awarded first place for drawing, but spent most of his time working alone, only occasionally appearing in class. Nevertheless, he completed three years at the école.
After exhibiting works in the Salons of 1870 and 1872, which attracted no attention, in 1874 his Portrait of my Grandfather garnered critical acclaim and received a third-class medal.
His initial success was confirmed in 1875 by the First Communion, a picture of a little girl minutely worked up in a manner that was compared to Hans Holbein, and a Portrait of M. Hayern. In 1875, he took second place in the competition for the Prix de Rome with his Angels appearing to the Shepherds, exhibited again at the Exposition Universelle in 1878.
His next attempt to win the Prix de Rome in 1876 with Priam at the Feet of Achilles was again unsuccessful (it is in the Lille gallery), and the painter determined to return to country life.
To the Salon of 1877, he sent a full-length Portrait of Lady L. and My Parents and in 1878 a Portrait of M. Theuriet and Haymaking (Les Foins). The last picture, now in the Musée d’Orsay, was widely praised by critics and the public alike. It secured his status as one of the first painters in the Naturalist school.
After the success of Haymaking, Bastien-Lepage was recognized in France as the leader of the emerging Naturalist (Realist) school. Realism, sometimes called naturalism, in the arts is generally the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, or implausible, exotic, and supernatural elements.
Jules Bastien-Lepage died in Paris in 1884, at a very young age (36), when planning a new series of rural subjects.