Chloe and The Grasshopper – Two of a Kind

Above Right: “The Grasshopper” (La Cigale) 1872 oil on canvas 186.7 x 123.8cm. This is considered one of Jules Lefebvre’s classic female nudes. It was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1872 and was accompanied at the Salon’s exhibition with the following quotation part, “When the cold north wind blows“, which is part of a fable by Jean de la Fontaine, about the ant and the grasshopper.

  • The Grasshopper” precedes the arrival of Melbourne’s famous “Chloe”, by three years.

Above left: “Chloe”  (oil on canvas 260 x 139cm)  is a life-sized nude painting which resides at Melbourne’s famous Young & Jackson’s Hotel (aka Y&J’s).  Chloe was first exhibited at the Paris Salon exhibition in 1875 and became the gold star winner. The model was a 19 year old Parisian named Marie who is believed to have taken her own life just two years after posing for the painting; heartbroken over unrequited love for Lefebvre.

Chloe” arrived in Australia in 1879 for the Sydney International Exhibition and the following year, travelled south to Melbourne for the 1880 International Exhibition where the painting was bought by Dr Thomas Fitzgerald.

  • The doctor put Chloe on public view but she raised the ire of the Ladies Branch of the Anglican Social Purity Movement.
  • She was transferred to the front room of the doctor’s home where she could clearly be seen from the street; but  this was short-lived and she ‘retired to a wall somewhere to the rear of the property.
  • Together with his New Zealand mining partner, Norman Jackson, Henry Young purchased a hotel on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Street, Melbourne, in 1875 and called it Young & Jackson’s. Still existing today, it is also affectionately known as “Y & J’s”.
  • In 1909, Henry Young bought “Chloe” and promptly hung her in a prominent position in the Pubic Bar area at Y & J’s.

About the artist: Jules Joseph Lefebvre was born in Tournan-en-Brie, Seine-et-Marne, on 14 March 1834. He entered the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 1852 and was a pupil of Léon Cogniet. He won the prestigious Prix de Rome prize in 1861.

Between 1855 and 1898, he exhibited 72 portraits at the Paris Salon. In 1891, he became a member of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts. Later on, he became professor at the Académie Julian in Paris.

  • Lefebvre died in Paris on 24 February, 1912.

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