Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 April 2010

Rupert Bunny

(1864 - 1947)

oil on canvas

81.0 x 65.0 cm

signed lower right: Rupert C. W. Bunny

$180,000 - 240,000

Luis-Alberto Acuna, Chile, c1909
Thence by descent to his daughter, Senora Lucia Acuna de Soler, Santiago, Chile
Thirty Victoria Street, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

Rupert Bunny's leisured paintings of beautiful women relaxing in interiors or enjoying the gentle sunlight in a secluded garden setting are rightly among his most popular works. Their inspiration was his wife, Jeanne-Heloise Morel, whom he married in London in 1902. She appears in most of these paintings either as herself in portrait or as the model, accompanied by a lady friend, as in Quiet Evening II (A Cosy Evening). In Paris, where Bunny and Jeanne lived, feminine charm and attraction was at its height in that decade known as la belle Epoque. Dresses were full and flouncy, and hats were outrageously stylish and large. In London, where Bunny also spent time, the decade was termed the 'Edwardian Age'. Style was everything, with portraits reaching dizzy heights of popularity as works of art in their own right. Bunny's finest was his majestic portrait of Dame Nellie Melba, captivating London in her appearances at Covent Garden with Enrico Caruso - a passage of splendour in the history of European music.

Enthralled by her violet eyes, raven black hair and the most beautiful lips he had ever seen, Bunny featured his wife in numerous paintings from a decade whose charm and transience was such that even today we still look back on it with dream-like nostalgia. It was the golden age of European femininity. All is captured in Quiet Evening II (A Cosy Evening) where Bunny elevates the domestic scene into a poem of light and colour. Red provides the note of passion in a field of neutral whites, the quiet glow of light playing on the textures of flesh and fabric. In 1908 Bunny began a series of paintings of two and later three women in domestic interiors - The Telegram in the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, La Coiffure in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Scandal in the Bendigo Art Gallery. Three women are present in this latter painting as also in A Quiet Evening, the companion piece to Quiet Evening II (A Cosy Evening). Similar in size but different in their horizontal or vertical formats, they present the same motif of the seated Mrs Bunny and her friend with effective changes in detail. A Quiet Evening takes the more distant broader view to include a third women, her back to the viewer, engrossed in the book she is reading. The closer focus on the figures in the present work provides that warmth and friendly, if not snug feeling intimated in the title. Moreover, the attention of the figures is kept within the picture, the viewer being given a sense of a privileged view into a moment of private contentment.