Quiet Beauty: The Watercolors of Léon Bonvin

February 15, 2023–August 13, 2023

Charles Street, Level 3

In Quiet Beauty: The Watercolors of Léon Bonvin, visitors will experience an intimate, single-gallery display of 16 of the French artist’s watercolors. This rare opportunity to encounter these exquisite, fragile works coincides with new research on the artist. Léon Bonvin (1834-1866) was perceived by his peers as a neglected genius, working in almost complete isolation. The artist drew influence from a variety of sources, including Japanese prints, photography, and contemporary trends in French art. Tragically, Bonvin died by suicide in his early thirties. After this, William Walters (1819-1894), who began collecting works by Bonvin in 1862, continued to purchase Bonvin’s watercolors when they appeared on the art market. Over a nearly 30-year period, William created what is now the largest collection of Bonvin works in existence, which was bequeathed to the city of Baltimore by his son, Henry (1848-1931), making Baltimore the center for the preservation, study, and appreciation of Bonvin’s work.

In 2022, the Walters lent an unprecedented number of Bonvin’s works to the Fondation Custodia in Paris for a major exhibition. This brought forth the first complete catalogue of Bonvin’s work, Drawn to the Everyday, Léon Bonvin (1834–1866).