François Bocion’s painting depicts an everyday fishing scene, a common theme in his work from the 1860s on. A young fisherman just back from an outing on the lake has fallen asleep on the jetty in the warm summer sun. Two more fishermen are seen repairing their nets in the background. As a careful study of the painting shows, nineteenth-century fishing nets were still made of natural fibres and were hung out to dry on open-air stands so that the owners could spot any tears in need of repair. The man in the middle ground is busy repairing his net with a shuttle or needle.
While many naturalist artists recorded the daily lives of lake and sea fishermen at this time, from Jules Breton in Brittany to Peder Severin Krøyer in Denmark, François Bocion’s work stands out from that of other regional artists for its impressionist sensibility, seeking to capture a specific atmosphere rather than simply documenting working practices. The tight focus lends the shaded jetty considerable appeal, while the semi-transparent nets veil the deeper background of the lake, the mountains, and the sky. Tall trees frame the composition to the right and the upper edge, drawing the viewer’s focus in to the quayside, speckled with light filtering through the foliage.
Three variants on the same motif, now in the Musée d’art et d’histoire in Geneva, the Kunst Museum Winterthur/Reinhart am Stadtgarten, and the Musée Jenisch Vevey, date the scene and identify it as the French shore of Lake Geneva, probably somewhere near Tourronde, where Bocion was a regular visitor.
Béatrice Aubert-Lecoultre, Carinne Bertola et alii, François Bocion. Au seuil de l’impressionnisme, exh. cat. Vevey, Musée Jenisch, Milan, 5 Continents Éditions, 2006.
Béatrice Aubert-Lecoultre, François Bocion. Du Léman à Venise, exh. cat. Lausanne, Fondation de l’Hermitage, Lausanne, La Bibliothèques des Arts, 1990.
Michel Reymondin, Catalogue raisonné de François Bocion, Wormer, Inmerc, 1989: n. 472.