Menzies Art Brands



Portrait of the Artists Wife c1910 depicts Jeanne Morel, daughter of a French army colonel and an artists model, whom Rupert Bunny married in 1902. The pair met as art students in Paris in the 1890s, and Jeanne started appearing in Bunnys paintings soon after. Her beauty and Bunnys affections saw Jeanne appear in many of his figure compositions over the next ten years, as well as several major portraits, including Portrait of the Artists Wife 1902 in the National Gallery of Victoria.

The present work carries a prestigious provenance and exhibition history. The Trout Collection was one of the finest private art collections assembled in Australia at the time. Sir Leon and Lady Trout had a long association with the Queensland Art Gallery, donating more than seventy artworks by leading artists between 1952 and 1983, without detracting from the quality of their own fine collection.1 For over sixty years they assembled their collection in Brisbane, with a predilection for late nineteenth and early twentieth century works by Australian, British and French artists. Bunnys portrait made a fine addition to the collection. Although born and raised in Melbourne, he was, in the words of Lionel Lindsay (1874-1961), to all intents a Frenchman, claimed by Paris as one of her foremost artists.2

Portrait of the Artists Wife was included in an exhibition of portraits from the Trout Collection at the Queensland Art Gallery in 1979. The painting was next exhibited in Philip Bacon Galleries notable 1989 show, Aspects of the Trout Collection, following the death of Lady Trout the previous year. The catalogue describes the painting as, a tender and intimate study of repose. It shows Bunnys concern for tonal values and his adoption of a painterly approach, particularly apparent in the varied areas of white in the upper half of the canvas.3

The late art historian David Thomas offers an alternate title for this painting in his catalogue raisonn of Rupert Bunny: Head Study for Une Nuit de Canicule. Thomas attests that it is a portrait of Jeanne Morel and adds that it was most likely painted as a study for the reclining figure in Bunnys large Salon painting Une Nuit de Canicule c1910 (A Heatwave Night).4 When sold at auction in 1988 for a hammer price of $1,250,000, Une Nuit de Canicule set a new auction record for an Australian painting; however it has since been tragically destroyed in a warehouse fire in London. Title aside, Portrait of the Artists Wife represents a beautifully intimate moment between husband and wife, by one of our foremost painters at the turn of the century.


1. Rainbird, S., Aspects of the Trout Collection, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane, 1989, pp.9-10
2. Lindsay, L., quoted in Australian Artists Abroad 1830-1960 [exhibition catalogue], Savill Galleries, Sydney, 1990, n.p.
3. Rainbird, S., op. cit., p.12
4. Thomas, D., The Life and Art of Rupert Bunny: A Catalogue Raisonn, Thames & Hudson, Melbourne, 2017, vol.2, p.46

Asta Cameron



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