Rodolphe Bresdin

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Rodolphe Bresdin
Port at Low Tide
Pen and black ink on paper.
6 7/8 x 4 3/8 inches (175 x 111 mm)
Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Arthur G. Cohen in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Morgan Library and the 50th anniversary of the Association of Fellows, and as the gift of Hamilton Robinson, Jr., and Mrs. John Hay Whitney.

Port at Low Tide features several motifs typical of Bresdin's drawings, especially following his 1860-61 stay in Bordeaux. With a very active pen, he delineates the jumble of activity along the shore, where boats are perched at odd angles due to the absence of water. Behind is a town with a central street lined with tall, peaked buildings ascending vertiginously. Smoke plumes drift upwards, melding with the clouds. This frontal scene positions the viewer along the shoreline. A partly finished sheet in the Art Institute of Chicago (Old Houses and Fishing Boats, 1931.283) is executed on tracing paper almost the exact size as the present drawing (17.2 x 11.6 cm; 6 13/16 x 4 5/8 in.). It replicates, with differences, the two boats and houses, leaving the sky, water, and shoreline blank. The existence of the present more carefully drawn sheet, enriched with details, suggests that Bresdin may have been planning a print devoted to the subject that he abandoned. That some of his projects during the 1860s did not come to fruition is unsurprising as his correspondence reveals his desire to travel to America and become a farmer, ideas that reflect his ongoing struggles.
The subject of boats at low tide along the shore of a town with half-timbered houses, peaked roofs with chimneys, and church spires that rings the steep banks is found in a more robust and elaborate drawing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That sheet is devoted to larger ships instead of humble fishing boats tilted haphazardly in the silty sands (ca. 1864; 51.504.13). A more highly finished version of the same scene is dated 1864 (Lafargue collection, Bordeaux; see Van Gelder, vol. 1, 92-93).
David Becker suggested a date of the mid-1860s for the Morgan's drawing, reflecting its similarity to the Metropolitan Museum and Bordeaux sheets, while Dirk van Gelder dated it decades later, circa 1882. The simpler composition might be in keeping with the later date, at the end of Bresdin's career.

Claude Roger-Marx (1888-1977), Paris; Ian Woodner (1903-1990), New York; Ian Woodner Family Collection, New York.
Associated names: 

Roger-Marx, Claude, 1888-1977, former owner.
Woodner, Ian, former owner.
Cohen, Arthur G., Mrs., donor.
Robinson, Hamilton, donor.
Whitney, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt, 1908-1998, donor.


Gelder, Dirk Van, and Bresdin, Rodolphe. "Rodolphe Bresdin / Dirk Van Gelder ; [traduit Du Néerlandais Par J. Amiel Et M. Stordiau]". La Haye: M. Nijhoff, 1976.

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