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He worked with desperate energy, and in the intervals of respite from his labours he overran all Paris in search of orders from business houses. It was an inglorious task, but at least it enabled him to live; thus it happened that about 1873 he produced a widely circulated advertisement for a perfumery house. Up to this time he had remained wholly unknown; and although he had already exhibited one painting, at the Salon of 1870, it was passed by unheeded both by the critics and the general public.
He had a spacious studio installed in the second story of the ancestral home; and there he worked, absolutely happy so long as he could see the old grandfather at his side, pipe in mouth, examining the work with a knowing air, and the father and mother in a sort of ecstasy, as they watched him fill in his canvas. —PORTRAIT OF M. HAYEM (Museum of the Luxembourg) A marvel of discernment and of rendering. The face, to be sure, has a strong originality; but there is no slight merit in having expressed with such striking truth the piercing intelligence of the eyes that twinkle behind the lenses of the spectacles, and the energy, tempered with satiric humour, of his whole odd physiognomy.
W. In 1883 came Love in a Village, one of his most popular canvases, in which he depicted with charming naturalness the uncomplicated and naïve courtship of rustic lovers. Here are a pair who are untroubled by curious glances; the nearer houses of the village are quite close by. Bending slightly towards his sweetheart, the man is murmuring his avowals in her ear, in a voice that, we suspect, is by no means steady. Strapping fellow that he is, he evidently lacks the habit of making pretty speeches; we can see that from the embarrassed air with which he twists his fingers.