For the first time since 1906, a series of dreamlike watercolours by French Symbolist painter, Gustave Moreau, illustrating the Fables of Jean de la Fontaine, are on display at Waddesdon Manor.
Unseen in public for over a century, the 34 exceptional works featured in this exhibition were created between 1879 and 1885 by Gustave Moreau, one of the most influential artists associated with the Symbolist movement.
The watercolours were part of a series commissioned by art collector, Antony Roux to illustrate the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine, a work considered one of the masterpieces of French literature.
De la Fontaine’s fables were written in the 17th century based on a variety of sources, mainly on Aesop’s Fables. Moreau’s depictions of the tales, which constitute some of the most important works he ever made, entered a private collection and many were lost during the Second World War. The surviving works haven’t been exhibited since 1906.
These watercolours reveal a rarely seen side of the French artist, who is mostly known for his depictions of biblical and mythological figures. In collaboration with Musée National Gustave Moreau, Paris, the display also includes preparatory drawings, as well as the splendid oil painting, The Unicorns, commissioned by Baron Edmond de Rothschild but which the artist refused to give him.