The Brothers Le Nain

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Legion of Honor Museum
December 20, 2016

On View at the Legion of Honor: The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of 17th-Century France

The Brothers Le Nain exhibit has ended. Please visit the Legion of Honor for updated exhibit information.

The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of 17th-Century France is the first major exhibition in the United States devoted to the Le Nain brothers: Antoine (ca. 1598–1648), Louis (ca. 1600/1605–1648) and Mathieu (ca. 1607–1677). On view now at the Legion of Honor through Jan. 29, 2017, the presentation features more than 40 works to highlight the Le Nains’ full artistic production, and is organized in conjunction with the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Musée du Louvre-Lens in France.

About the Le Nain Brothers

Active in Paris during the 1630s and 1640s, the brothers are today best known for their startlingly realistic depictions of the poor. Painters of altarpieces, portraits and allegories, the brothers’ work was rediscovered in the 19th century and influenced many artists including Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet. The brothers became admired for their deeply sympathetic and affecting portrayals of hard-working men and women, including smiling field laborers, city beggars with deadpan expressions, mothers cradling infants with perfect intimacy, and children that dance and play music with a lack of pretension. Peasants before a House is one of the finest examples of this subject.

About the Exhibition

This comprehensive presentation and its almost 500-page catalogue offer new scholarship concerning the authorship, dating and meaning behind their art. As the works were not individually signed, assigning a specific painting to a specific brother has long been a matter for debate, and visitors will have the rare opportunity to compare these pieces side by side. The exhibition also includes a substantial technical study from painting conservators at the Fine Arts Museums and the Kimbell, detailing the brothers' materials and working methods.

The brothers were also celebrated as portraitists and painters of religious subjects. One of their most important devotional works, Nativity of the Virgin, an altarpiece from Notre-Dame Cathedral, is on display for the first time in the United States. The exhibition also includes loans from the Musée du Louvre, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

A portrait of le comte de Tréville, one of the inspirations for for Alexandre Dumas’s celebrated novel The Three Musketeers, is also on view for the first time in more than sixty years.

Buy Tickets

Tickets to this presentation include same-day general admission to the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park. Groups of 10 or more have access to priority booking, discounted tickets, and private tours. Learn more. Visit to learn more about the exhibition and purchase tickets.

Photo credit: Le Nain, The Resting Horseman, ca. 1640. Oil on canvas, 21 ½ x 26 ½ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, CAI.17. Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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