Unraveling a Mystery – Part II

Following the clue that the artist of the Portrait of Unknown Woman of Strong Character might be by Parisian-born Alfred Boisseau (1823-1901), we discovered two distinct styles in paintings attributed inter-changeably to Alfred Boisseau. (Sometimes the middle initial appears as “L”, sometimes as “W”, although there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to this discrepancy.)

Stylistically, we found the most striking differences in the genre works – paintings of everyday life. The following two scenes appear to be by the same artist.

Alfred Boisseau, Louisiana Indians Walking Along A Bayou, 1847, Oil on Canvas, 24 X 40 Inches, New Orleans Museum of Art, Gift of William E. Groves

Albert Boisseau, Des Cochers À Montréal Se Disputent Un Client, 1883, Oil on Canvas, 68,6 X 112,7 Cm (27 x 44 inches), Musée Des Beaux-Arts De Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

The first has been called the “grandest of all paintings of the Southern Indians.” Alfred Boisseau exhibited Louisiana Indians Walking along a Bayou and two other paintings at the 1848 Paris Salon. This is undoubtedly the same artist who was born in February 1823, studied under Paul Delaroche (1797-1856), was admitted to the School of Fine Arts in 1838, and whose work was selected for exhibition at the prestigious Salon when he was only 19. In the mid-1840s he traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, where his brother was secretary to the French consul. Alfred returned to France around 1848 about the time his father, a respected lithographer, died. After he exhibited in the 1848 Salon, he returned to the United States, probably with his French-born wife Adele, for in 1850, they lived in eastern Ohio with their infant daughter. Eventually the family moved to Cleveland where Alfred became an American citizen and where two sons were born. As the Civil War tore apart their adopted country, the Boisseaus retreated to Canada. In Montreal Alfred was a founder of the Society of Canadian Artists and the Canadian Institute. He exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts of Montreal and the Royal Canadian Academy. He often taught students at his studio, but by 1885, he was a professor of fine art. He died in Buffalo, New York.[1]

Both Louisiana Indians Walking along a Bayou and the later Montreal street scene typify the classical academic training Boisseau received from Delaroche with sculptural figures, tightly controlled perspective and atmospheric backgrounds.


(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2012
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[1] William H. Gerdts, Revealed masters: 19th century American art: [catalogue of] an exhibition organized by American Federation of Arts, New York (American Federation of Arts, 1974), 25. David Karel, “Boisseau, Alfred,” Dictionnaire des artistes de langue française en Amérique du Nord: peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs, graveurs, photographes, et orfèvres (Presses Université Laval, 1992). 95-96; Seventh Census of the United States: Lawrence, Tuscarawas, Ohio, October 30, 1950, Roll: M432_734; Page: 187B, Household of Alfred Boisseau, lines 34-36; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Index Cards to Naturalization Petitions for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Cleveland, 1855-1967; Microfilm Serial: M1893; Microfilm Roll: 3, Certificate 751; 1871 Census of Canada, Census Place: East Ward, Montreal Centre, Quebec; Roll: C-10040; Page: 5; Family No: 18; 1881 Census of Canada,: Centre Ward, Montreal City, Quebec; Roll: C_13217; Page: 14; Family No: 70; Buffalo City Directory, 19o1 (Buffalo, New York, Courier Publishing, 1901), 1435.


About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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